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SOA 317 Sociology of Sport

Instructor: Dr. Wib Leonard
Textbook: W.M. Leonard, II, A Sociological Perspective of Sport, 5th ed., Allyn & Bacon.


What is a Sociological Perspective of Sport?      

Sport is, intrinsically, a social phenomenon. Many sporting events take place in a social context involving opposing teams and/or players, spectators, officials, coaches, trainers, etc. Furthermore, the nature of a sporting event is socially defined, that is, its goals, objectives, and means (rules) are arrived at through consensus and often become formalized. Different sports frequently develop somewhat unique subcultures encompassing norms, values and language. Sports also display a pattern of social organization among participants (consider the different defensive alignments in baseball and football), officiating agents, and even fans (for example, contrast the “etiquette” among foot–ball and tennis spectators). Finally, participation in and spectatorship at different sporting activities is influenced by such sociological variables as ethnicity, race, sex, and social class. In summary, sport can be analyzed and comprehended in terms of a variety of sociological concepts. A sociological perspective of sport is certainly not the only vantage point for understanding the world of sport. It does, however, provide a somewhat distinct theoreti–cal and conceptual tool for examining one of the most perva–sive features of contemporary society.

I. Course Themes

To argue that analysts and observers of the social scene have neglected to focus on sport as a social phenomenon is not exactly true. However, much of this literature has been journalistic and anecdotal with little attempt to collect empirical data and test hypotheses. Furthermore, a consistent perspective or framework from which to study sport has been lacking.

The purpose of this course is to fill this void by invoking a sociological perspective and demonstrating its utility in understanding sport as a societal institution. Until recently, sport as a social institution had been neglected by academicians. The dearth (but growing) of existing sociology of sport texts and anthologies is further testimony to this assertion.

Several key themes pervade this course. Among them are: (1) sport is a social institution worthy of sociological examination like the more traditional institutions of marriage/family, polity, economy, religion, law, health/medicine, science, and education; (2) sport is a microcosm of the larger society, that is, it can neither be isolated nor insulated from broader social currents and it reflects and reinforces the dominant ideology; (3) there exists numerous institutional interconnections among the basic institutions of a society, and changes in one institutional sector of society reverberate into other institutional spheres; and (4) both the negative (i.e., I’ll play the muckraker role) and positive features (i. e., I’ll play the patriotic role) of sport in society will be exposed.

To understand sport sociologically, I have chosen several pivotal sociological concepts–culture, social organization, socialization, deviance, small groups, social stratification, prejudice, discrimination, minority groups, demography, collective behavior, mass media, and institutional inter-relationships (sport, education, politics, religion)–as the focal points for reading, lecture and discussion.

II. The Conduct of the Course      

The subject matter is taught by a series of lectures and a program of assigned readings. The lectures do not necessarily duplicate the content of the readings; instead, they supplement, integrate, and clarify the printed material. Class participation is encouraged, particularly when there is question or confusion regarding either the lectures or readings.

You are strongly advised to read assigned materials before attending the lecture in order to derive the maximum benefit from the class period.

Attendance is assumed and will be used for determining grades in borderline cases.

The “key” terms, concepts, etc. appear in bold print or italics in your textbook and are listed in the “Important Concepts Discussed In This Chapter” section at the end of each chapter. You should pay particular attention to them. Every discipline has standardized meanings for its basic conceptual terms and definitions special to the field of study; sport sociology is no exception. Make sure you know the meaning of these special definitions since some of them will be asked on the examinations.

III. Course Requirements: Grading and Examinations

A. Exams

  • General
    • Examinations will cover all course material including lectures, readings, motion pictures, classroom exercises, projects, and visual aids. All examinations will be held in the regularly scheduled classroom. Dates of examinations are included on the enclosed course outline (see last page of syllabus).
  • Type and Frequency of Examinations
    • There will be three examinations during the term. There will be no “pop quizzes” or other unscheduled examinations. All examinations will consist of 50-100 points. Each of these examinations will be made up by the instructor and may include essay, objective, short answer, and/or critical reasoning questions.
  • Grading Policy
    • Following each examination you will be told the letter grade to which your score corresponds. A modified curve, based on prior experience of the instructor, will be applied to the final totals to determine cutting points. Borderline cases will be decided by the instructor on the basis of demonstrated improvement, attendance, application, class participation, and interest. It is your responsibility to maintain a record of your grades on each examination.
  • Make-Up Examinations
    • You are responsible for being at all scheduled examina–tions. In exceptional cases make-up exams will be given once, at the mutual convenience of the student and instructor. The type of exam to be given is at the discretion of the instructor. To be eligible for a make-up exam, you must report your absence and the reason therefore to the instructor. Unless absolutely neces–sary, you are strongly discouraged from taking make-up exams since they are frequently more difficult and may be objective, essay, or oral in nature.

B. Special Projects

  • Each student will be required to complete several sociology of sport projects (research investigations, paper, etc.). Their combined point values will be equivalent to one exam.

(Fall 2023) ​SOA 317: Sociology of Sport

Reading Assignment and Exam Schedule

​Chapter Titles​Reading Assignments
Introduction to Sport Sociology​​​Chapter 1
Historical Overview of Sport in Society​​Chapter 2
Sport and Social Organization​​Chapter 3
​Sport and Culture & Sport and Religion​Chapters 4 and 13
EXAM I​-September 21​Chapters 1-4; 13
​Sport and SocializationChapter 5​
​Sport and Social DevianceChapter 6​
​Sport and Social StratificationChapter 7​
Sport and Race & Sport and Politics​Chapters 8 & 12​
​EXAM II-Nov. 2​Chapters 5-8; 12
Sport and Gender & Collegiate, Scholastic, and Youth Programs​​Chapters 9 and 10
​Sport and Economics​Chapter 11
​Sport and the Mass Media​Chapter 14
​Sport, Collective Behavior, Social Change & Summary​Chapters 15 and Epilogue
​​EXAM III-To Be AnnouncedChapters 9-11; 14-15



Acrobat Reader is required for the viewing of these readings.

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