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Sport as a social institution: what sports reveal about society

An account of how sports build the society, and what’s the importance of sports to maintain the social order and as a social institution.

Last updated: 16.04.2019
Sport as a social institution: what sports reveal about society | Sports Social Blog

The sociology of sports also referred to as sports sociology, is the study of the relationship between sports and society. It examines how culture and values influence sports and vice-versa. The relationship between sports and the media, politics,economics, religion, race, gender, youth, and etc.  it also emphasises on the link between sports and social inequality and social mobility.

As is seen sport is not only a social event, but also a social phenomenon and a social institution. A sport activity at a particular place and time is tangible and specific. It can be seen heard and perceived. Thus, it’s a social event. It is also intangible, as it arises from observation and experiences. It is base for ideas and research. Therefore it’s a social phenomenon too. Sport is one of the oldest and most essential social institutions. As a social institution with the ability to gather people even from the far ends of the earth around the same ideas, sports deserve to be studied at least as much as other fundamental institutions like education, religion, communication, law and healthcare.

Against the onslaught of time, sport based programs have shown to be central to promoting inclusion and creating opportunities for individuals as a means to develop mutual trust and establish healthier communities.

Most recently, the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de janeiro showed the world the power of sports diplomacy. Beyond the athletic competitions themselves, individuals of all age groups interacted and formed unlikely friendships. The incident which took place before the opening ceremonies, South Korean gymnast Lee Eun- Ju and North Korean’s Hong Un- Jong took a moment to take a selfie together, which as gone viral over social media.

Thus, the Olympics has served as an opportunity for international communities to come together in solidarity. In March 2016, the international Olympic committee declared the creation of the Olympic Refugee Team, in which 10 potent young athletes, along with United Nations – verified refugees, had competed in Rio. This team was created in response to the worldwide refugee crisis, and the team consists of individuals representing South Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Thus, the sports automatically brings solidarity which is essential for the core functionality at the national and international level. It provided the world a powerful moment of unity during a time of unrest. The 10 competing athletes not only represented their home countries, but the potential of sports for creating opportunities of leadership and perseverance. Seeing young people from around the world compete at the Olympics is a proof that sports can serve as a tool for social change.

How culture and values influence sports:

Gender inequality

A large area of study within the sociology of sports is gender, including gender inequality and the role that gender has played in sports throughout history. For example, in the 1800s, the participation of women in sports was discouraged or banned. It was not untill 1850 that physical education for women was introduced for women was introduced at colleges. However, by 1972, things began to change, specifically with the passage of United States Title IX, a federal law stated as “ No person in the united states shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity”

Today, women’s participation in sports is approaching men’s, though differences are still present.

Media Revealed Biases                                                                                                    

Those who study the sociology of sports also keep tabs on the role various media play in revealing biases. For Instance, viewership of certain sports definitely varies by gender. Men typically view basketball, football, hockey, baseball, pro wrestling, and boxing. While as women on other hand tend to watch gymnastics, skiing, diving, skating. Men’s sport are also covered more often than women’s sports both in print and television.

Influence of sports on cultural values, gender and society as a whole:                                                                               

Sports Empower Girls from Gender Inequality

Young girls, who may often face sexual harassment and gender inequality, have built- in safe spaces within the eealm of sports teams where they are able to build self confidence.

Sports Bridges Social Identities


The most effective way to teach conflict resolution is to inculcate qualities in an intangible way by placing conflicting identities on the same sports team and training them to work together. Two way exchange programs equip a new, more inclusive generation of athletes and sportsmanship with the skill and knowledge to utilize sports as a medium for building enhanced cooperation and respect for people belonging to different backgrounds and nationalities.

Sports Diplomacy Connects All Languages

Sports diplomacy programs is an important tool to not only advancing foreign policy goals, but a powerful tool to help non-English speakers and to build leadership, teamwork, healthy living and self-discipline.

Sports build friendships

Beyond the athletic competitions themselves, individuals of all ages interacted with one another and formed unlikely friendships. Sport programs are always handy to build friendships and cooperation beyond the differences and diversities.

Thus sports as an institution can be said to have Four Basic Functions in all societies:

●      Regulating individuals' behaviours and relations:

●      Preparing individuals for the society:

●      Determining the relations between individuals and institutions:

●      Thus, maintaining the social continuity.

The textbook- Sociology in the Balance also known as the Sociology of  Bulma

The book is written by the Dutch Sociologist, Johan Goudsblom,  what he attempted in the book was a kind of stocktalking regarding the development of sociology as a whole. More philosophically than empirically making the space for sociological perspective on sports and its facilities. Thus, unfolding a stocktaking exercise regarding the sociology of sport.

Sports and Economy:

Now a days beside entertainment sports is often organised, mechanized, marketed and administered as a business. Commercial Interests influence virtually every decision in sports.  Many small, medium and large enterprises are involved in the organisation of any event. From advertising agencies, printing companies, food and beverage suppliers, audiovisual professionals, sports goods suppliers, all the way the cleaning crews involved, sports and sport events are contributing the socio-economic wheel of the country.  What is good is that a lot of money invested is being recycled in the country.

Of course eventually a percentage of this money is exported outside the country, for various reasons such as purchase of raw material, or salary transfer of an expatriate to his family, yet regardless of that, the money paid out, is being given to local companies, which in turn are recycling it in the local business market.

Thus, we can say sports is a mixed bag of progress and development it is a social phenomenon that brings together people across nations under unity, patriotism and moral values.

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