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Session Overview
RN28_11b_P: Young Sportsmen and Women: Frail Identities, Trying to fit in
Friday, 01/Sep/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Oli Williams, University of Leicester, SAPPHIRE Group
Session Chair: Dino Numerato, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague
Location: PE.1.39
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: E, Level: 1.

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Out of Touch with Children’s Rights: Critical Reflections on the ‘No Touch’ Discourse in Youth Sport

Melanie Lang

Edge Hill University, United Kingdom

Children’s participation in sport is generally regarded as beneficial, a component of a healthy childhood and a long adulthood (UNICEF, 2004). However, research has also identified the existence of child maltreatment in sport (Alexander et al., 2011; Brackenridge, 2001; Vertommen et al., 2016). Consequently, many countries have expanded child protection regulations to encompass sport and physical activity settings (Lang & Hartill, 2015). However, critics of these developments in the UK, Sweden, Denmark and Australia have argued that the extension of child protection measures into sport amounts to over regulation and is fuelling a moral panic regarding the safety of children and the riskiness of adults (Furedi, 2013; Öhman & Grundberg-Sandell, 2015; Piper et al., 2013; Toftegaard-Støckel, 2015; Lyons, 2015). Such regulations are positioned as a “crude and prescriptive injunction” on adults’ practice (Piper, 2015, p. 12) and it is argued that “sound pedagogical values and caring physical interactions [are being] discarded" (Öhman, 2016, p. 12) so that coaching and PE teaching are becoming “impoverished and dehumanized” (Piper, 2015, p. 12). Somewhat surprisingly, alternatives to this negative, adult-centred perspective are, to date, rare. Drawing on ideas from the sociology of childhood and principles of children’s rights, this presentation critiques these constructions in an attempt to re-frame the debate around child protection regulations in sport. In doing so, it avoids (re)producing negative constructions and exacerbating current concerns about child sexual abuse in sport and encourages positive engagement with child protection regulations for the physical and mental wellbeing of all involved in sport.


Alejandra Villanueva

Western Sydney University, Australia

The present paper is a preliminary analysis of an ethnographic study with men who practice Crossfit in Sydney, Australia.

The role of sports has changed in the last decades due to socioeconomic and political transformations. The consolidation of a market ideology has had an impact in the ways people understand health and fitness, and more specifically, the ways men engage in different training regimes seeking to (re)produce specific body shapes that are regarded as highly valued. Bodies, as powerful symbols in social relations, are produced in both highly homogenous subcultural groups (Crossfitters) as well as in heterogeneous social fields; where different forms of capital such as status, knowledge or economic resources are exchanged. Accumulation of bodily capital through gym work is important in societies where athleticism, aesthetics and performance reflect the negotiations of value given to particular status symbols in specific fields and in particular historical times.

Sporting practices have a central place in wealthy first world societies of a post-scarcity era (Florida, 2002), and in Sydney the increase in consumption of fitness products (amongst them gyms) and the popularization of physical activity is arguably part of the city’s remarkable feature. Fitness holds a high value amongst diverse groups of people, thus different sporting practices and training regimes like Crossfit are useful to analyse the significance of physical activity in itself, but also to understand processes of male identity construction, socioeconomic inequalities and the social structures that shape the ways in which health and leisure are understood and displayed.

Trying to fit in – Young people’s negotiation processes between sports culture and modern youth culture

Stine Frydendal Nielsen, Lone Friis Thing

Copenhagen University, Denmark

Sport is often saluted for its inclusive character and its ability to unite different groupings and facilitate a feeling of togetherness (Bailey, 2005; Smith & Green, 2004). However, research has also pointed to the fact that sport holds an exclusionary character, which is to be problematized and critically discussed in order to expose underlying assumptions of sport as a mean for social inclusion (Kelly, 2011; Maxwell, Foley, Taylor, & Burton, 2013; Munk & Agergaard, 2015). In this paper we present results concerning how students in a Danish upper secondary school manage to combine sports culture with youth culture. Results from this study show that this can be rather difficult, because living a healthy and physically active life doesn’t fit very well with current norms of youth culture, which involve a dominating social arena characterized by parties and alcohol (Nielsen, Ottesen, & Thing, 2016; Thing & Ottesen, 2013). By applying the figurational sociology of Norbert Elias (Elias, 1978, 1994 (1939)), this paper demonstrates how the matter of inclusion or exclusion regarding sport among young people is not a question of either/or. It is rather a process of negotiation, where they try to fit into different contexts – both sport- and non-sport related – and being included in one context often means exclusion from others. The study is based on 19 focus group interviews N=136 conducted over four years in 1 school.

Masculinities in a youth football context: Exploring attitudes toward gay peers among adolescent boys in an English professional football (soccer) academy

Adi Adams

Bournemouth University, United Kingdom

Drawing on data generated from semi-structured, in-depth one-to-one interviews, this paper focuses on youth masculinities through an exploration of attitudes toward homosexuality among twelve (n=12) adolescent boys (14 and 15 years old) registered to the youth development program (Academy) of an English professional football (soccer) club. Findings highlight the presence of progressive yet unstable attitudes toward homosexuality espoused by boys at West-Side Academy (a pseudonym). More specifically, interview data points to contradictions between attitudes and subsequent behaviours surrounding homosexuality in this sample of young male athletes. Self-described attitudes of inclusivity, conflict with verbal accounts that demonstrate complicity in a range of homo-negative behaviours. The idea of a ‘hybridization’ of masculinities is utilised as a way of understanding the complex imbrication of inclusivity and complicity in boyhood masculinities in this setting. It is suggested that this is a critical time for promoting change in attitudes and subsequent behaviours toward homosexuality in youth football environments.

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