Sports Participation and Cultural Identity in the Experience of Young People

by Vegneskumar Maniam (Author)
©2014 Thesis 154 Pages


This book focuses on inclusion and exclusion in sporting activities among young people in a multicultural society. Do young people who identiy with cultural groups other than the majority experience exclusion from sporting teams, or do they find themselves readily included? Does this vary across identities, and sports? In the context of Australia, where sport is an integral part of national life and one in four of the population were born overseas, and over 270 different ancestries are acknowledged, young people were asked to write about their cultural identity and their experiences playing sport. Using a humanistic sociological approach, the inductive analysis justaposed their sense of cultural identity with their participation or non-participation in sport, and with the particular sports played. This book is important for all those in culturally diverse society especially academics, teachers and sports administrators, who are interested in the issue of exclusion and inclusion of cultural minorities in sport.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction: Sport and Multiculturalism in the Global Context
  • The Nature of Sport
  • Multiculturalism around the World
  • Young People’s Participation in Sport across the Globe
  • Issues of Sports Participation in Culturally Diverse Nations
  • Investigating Young People’s Sports Participation in Multicultural Adelaide
  • Theorizing Cultural Identity and Sports Participation
  • Establishing the Theoretical Perspective
  • The Humanistic Sociological Approach
  • The Humanistic Co-efficient
  • Personal Identification with Cultural Groups
  • The Interplay of Group and Personal Cultural Systems
  • Ideological and Core Values in identifying Self and Others
  • Cultural Meanings of Playing Sport
  • Inclusion and Exclusion in Sporting Activities
  • Social Values and their Cultural Meanings in Sport
  • Factors Constraining Sports Participation
  • The Processes of Inclusion and Exclusion in Sport
  • Conceptual Framework
  • Personal Documents as Research Data
  • The Method of Personal Documents
  • Advantages and Limitations of Personal Data
  • The Researcher’s Role in Analysing Personal Documents
  • Humanistic Analysis of Personal Documents
  • Personal Statement Guidelines for Participating Young People
  • The Research Participants
  • Respondents’ Sense of Cultural Identity
  • Categorizing Cultural Identity in a Plural Society
  • Identity Categories among those Playing Sport
  • Monocultural Sense of Identity
  • Mainstream Australian
  • Aboriginal
  • European
  • Asian
  • American
  • Reasons for Not Feeling Australian
  • Bicultural Sense of Identity
  • European + Australian
  • Australian + European
  • Asian + Australian
  • Australian + Asian
  • Polycultural Sense of Identity
  • Australian + European
  • Australian + Asian
  • Other Forms of Identity
  • Overview
  • Identity Categories among those not Playing Sport
  • Monocultural Sense of Identity
  • Australian
  • Asian
  • European
  • Bicultural Sense of Identity
  • Australian + European
  • European + Australian
  • European + Asian
  • Polycultural Sense of Identity
  • Other Forms of Identity
  • Overview
  • Inclusion of the Culturally Diverse?
  • Reasons for Playing or Not Playing Sport
  • Reasons for Playing as Cultural Meanings
  • Sport as Enjoyment
  • Sport for Fitness and Health
  • Sport as Social Activity
  • Sport as Personal Development
  • Sport as Competition and Achievement
  • Overview of Reasons as Cultural Meanings
  • Constraining Factors as Reasons for Not Playing
  • Non-Predisposing Factors
  • Non-Enabling Factors
  • Non-Reinforcing and Non-Inclusive Factors
  • Overview of Constraining Factors
  • No Manifest Exclusion of the Culturally Diverse?
  • Participation of the Culturally Diverse in Particular Sports
  • Particular Sports Played
  • Soccer and Australian Rules Football
  • Soccer
  • Australian Rules Football
  • Tennis, Netball, Basketball and Volleyball
  • Tennis
  • Netball
  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Athletics, Swimming, Cricket and Indoor Soccer
  • Athletics
  • Swimming
  • Cricket
  • Indoor Soccer
  • Sports with Less than Five Participants
  • Inclusion and Exclusion of the Culturally Diverse?
  • Cultural Identity in Inclusive and Exclusive Experiences of Sport
  • Culturally Diverse Identities and Sports Participation
  • Inclusion or Exclusion?
  • Partial Inclusion, Partial Exclusion in Particular Sports
  • Individual Choice and the Social Functions of Sports in a Diverse Society
  • Conclusion: Implication for Inclusive Experience of Sport in Multicultural Context
  • Appendix
  • Personal Statement Document
  • Concrete Data Questionnaire
  • Cultural Data Questionnaire
  • Section A – For those playing sports
  • Section B – For those not playing sports
  • Section C – For everyone
  • References
  • Index

Introduction: Sport and Multiculturalism in the Global Context

No matter where they live on the globe, most young people involved with sport today find themselves confronted with cultural diversity. At the spectator level they watch live, or on television coverage, players from different countries, with differing cultural traditions, competing in international competitions, such as the Olympics, World Cup Soccer, the Wimbledon, French or American Tennis Championships, the Tour de France, or even the Adelaide Tour Down Under in cycling. Except in the case of the Olympics, the professional teams involved are assumed to be made up of the best players available, regardless of the culture and country they come from.

As a result, individuals from quite different cultural backgrounds who are outstanding performers in their particular sport attract much media attention. They become familiar figures to viewers around the world who see them continually on TV, playing in matches or appearing on sports shows. T. Marjoribanks and Farquharson (2012) have pointed out that such international stars often become role models for young people across the globe, inspiring them in their participation in sport. Figures as diverse as Mohammed Ali in boxing, the West Indian Vivian Richards in cricket, Michael Jordan in basketball, Tiger Woods in golf, Sarina Williams in tennis and David Beckham in football were named as some of the leading sporting models over the last fifty years, but many other less controversial performers could also be mentioned.

The global dimension of sport is also evident in the competitions organised within regional networks and groupings, such as the European Union, Southern America, South-East Asia, Southern and Eastern Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. Here, too, the teams involved may include players from culturally diverse backgrounds, sometimes evident in their visible features or the way they speak English. Regular matches among teams representing the culturally diverse countries of the region may lead, ← 9 | 10 → at best, to friendly intercultural exchange and dialogue among the players concerned in a way that enhances understanding of other cultures in the region. At worst, it can generate a bitter rivalry between certain teams and dramatically re-enforce the negative stereotypes which each set of players (and spectators) has of the other (Gasparini, 2010; T. Marjoribanks & Farquharson, 2012; Smith & Westerbeek, 2007).

At the grassroots level, where young people participate in amateur sporting activities in their local communities, there are other dimensions to the issue of cultural diversity and sport. In some plural societies, the maintenance of minority cultures is frowned upon and participation in sport encouraged as a means of integrating minorities into the dominant culture. In other societies, cultural differences at both individual and group level are able to exist as an integral and accepted part of national and community life. The issue for sport in these multicultural societies is whether or not players of different cultural backgrounds actually play alongside one another in the same team and against other similarly mixed teams. Alternatively the organization of a given sport could involve competition among teams which are each composed of players drawn from a single cultural background (Gasparini, 2010).

This book is concerned with the scenario of young people playing their chosen sports at the local community level. The issue is how far, in the context of a culturally plural society, participation in sport for young people of diverse cultural identities has proved to be an inclusive or exclusive experience. In order to investigate this topic, it is important to start by clarifying what is meant by the terms ‘sport’ and ‘multiculturalism’.

The Nature of Sport

Sport has been described as having three defining characteristics. In the first place, it involves some form of physical activity. Secondly, the activities of the various sports require certain skills from those playing the game. Finally, sporting activities usually involve one or more players ← 10 | 11 → competing against another or others to see who can achieve the best performance. The assumption is that the two opponents are actually striving to defeat each other. The contest is usually decided by skill or strength or luck, or a mixture of these (T. Marjoribanks & Farquharson, 2012).

The competition element in sport may involve individuals competing singly, or in small groups like relay teams in events such as athletics, swimming, diving, sailing, lifesaving or rowing. Alternatively, the competition may be between two teams of players using special equipment, playing court or field and a ball of a certain shape or size, which each team attempts to use for scoring more frequently than their opponent. A third possibility is a game or match between two individual players, such as tennis, squash, boxing, fencing and wrestling (Dunning, Goudsblom, & Mennell, 2000).

From a sociological perspective, the various sports and sporting competitions can be seen as the more formal and organized forms of the spontaneous play of young children and the informal games which older children agree to play among themselves (Elias & Dunning, 1986). The range of formal sporting activities available in different societies can vary greatly. In part, this depends on geographical and climate conditions, but it is also influenced by the cultural preferences and the sporting traditions of different groups in society (Krawczyk, 1980). Some sports have an international profile, in that they are played in many countries across the globe. Others are confined to a specific society, or even a particular region. For these reasons, sports need to be understood in relation to the political, economic and social structures of the societal contexts in which they are played (T. Marjoribanks & Farquharson, 2012).

Multiculturalism around the World

Although cultural diversity in one form or another is a feature of most nations today, the discussion that follows focuses on those that have used the term multiculturalism in public policy documents over the last ← 11 | 12 → forty years. It is acknowledged that other nations, especially in Asia and Africa, have tended to deal with cultural diversity in other ways. Post-apartheid South Africa, for example, has attempted to incorporate recognition of the reality of its cultural diversity into the very framework of its constitution (T. Marjoribanks & Farquharson, 2012).

The term multiculturalism was first used in Canada to refer to government policy in responding to families and communities of diverse cultural background. The policy went beyond the initial stage of support for newly arrived immigrants to recognize the benefits that various cultures could bring to the whole nation over the longer term. The Australian government was attracted to this model and formally adopted the multicultural approach in 1973. What this meant in terms of government policy in the Australian context was worked out over the next two decades (Jupp, 1996). Since then, Australia as a multicultural society has come to mean,

A society in which people of non-Anglo-Australian origin are given the opportunity, as individuals or groups, to choose to preserve and develop their culture, their languages, traditions and arts … while at the same time they enjoy effective and respected places within one Australian society, with equal access to the rights and opportunities that society provides and accepting responsibilities towards it (Jupp, 1996, p. 8).

On the basis of this model, society can be considered multicultural when a number of different ethnic groups, which maintain their own distinctive cultures in areas such as language, religion, food and family life, live together in one political and economic structure as one nation. When people from different ethnic cultural backgrounds are able to maintain their own cultural values while living in plural society and participating in the values shared by all its people, individuals from all cultural backgrounds have the opportunity to utilize cultural values from more than one source in their daily lives. Smolicz indicated that:

[t]he essence of the ideal for a multicultural society within a particular country, or indeed for a whole continent, be it Europe or Australia, rests on the recognition of the creative force of cultural interaction within a framework of shared beliefs (Smolicz, 1998, p. 287). ← 12 | 13 →

The term multiculturalism in this sense is therefore more than just a word to describe a society’s cultural diversity as revealed in its population demographics. At a deeper level it refers to a particular response to that diversity – to policies which support the different cultural communities within the political, legal and economic structures which overarch the whole society (Smolicz, 1998).


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (July)
multicultural society Sports Participation sports administrators
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 154 pp.

Biographical notes

Vegneskumar Maniam (Author)

Vegneskumar Maniam, PhD, is an academic in education at the University of Adelaide, Australia. His primary research focus is on Sociology of Education and Sport, especially in relation to issues of multiculturalism and sense of identity.


Title: Sports Participation and Cultural Identity in the Experience of Young People
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156 pages