John SaundersInternational Sports Studies 39 No. 2 (2017)
https://doi.org/10.30819/iss.39-2.01 pp: 1-4 2017-12-28
What we must avoid is the tendency to categorise and rush to generalisations based upon those categories. We have received countless warnings about the dangers of stereotyping, yet so much of our research is based around a principle of reducing complexity into generalised categories. So, we read that baby boomers are workcentric; independent; goal-oriented; competitive and; self-actualising. Millennials on the other hand are: tech-savvy; family centric; achievement-oriented; team-oriented; crave attention and; prone to job-hopping (Kane, 2017). Such categorisations are readily grasped and promoted by young marketing professionals eager to advise managers how to handle this new ‘scientific’ knowledge. However, if we were to apply such generalising principles to variables such as race or gender, it would almost certainly promote controversy and reservation! Any attempt to use such categorisations must at the very least be modified by an understanding of the influences of context and environment.
For example, we are also often tempted to characterise decades, which are periods of time, in terms of human characteristics. For example, the ‘swinging sixties’ is characterised as a time of optimism, a growing sense of freedom and possibility and a time when boundaries were being pushed back. In contrast the 1980’s was a totally different decade. It began with turbulence and push back against the liberal revolution of previous decades. As observed by a participant (Cowley, 2009) “I found those years of the late 70s and early 80s extraordinarily exciting. England was being convulsed by a social, cultural and political counter-revolution” Then as the Thatcher years in the UK took hold, the decade appeared to be a time of calming and recovery a time when it was free market fundamentalism that provided a way forward. “The urge was no longer to change the world, even superficially in the old spirit of student idealism and adolescent rebellion, but rather to prosper in it”. As a result of this period, the stage was set for the next radical changes of the nineties an exciting new era ushered in by the collapse of the Berlin wall, together with the collapse of apartheid and the birth of the rainbow nation in southern Africa.
But of course, whether any era can be characterised as swinging, or calming for any individual will depend very much on the individual characteristics of that environment in which they were personally placed. The examples above relate to the UK environment, one with which I had some familiarity. However, if you were in Germany in the 1980s the period of progression towards the turbulence of becoming a reunified nation would have reflected a far different context to the experience you would have had in Yugoslavia in that same decade – where the progression was towards dis-unification and the establishment of separate national identities. Merely recognising that any personal experience must be interpreted in the context of the environment in which it occurs, adds to our appreciation of complexity and an awareness of the danger of too readily ‘pigeon holing’ both people and settings, in order to increase our understanding.
This line of thought has been stimulated by generalisations based on the observation of a number of western style democracies and exemplified by recent elections in my home state of Queensland. After wild swings in two previous elections, our previous parliament produced a minority government. This seems to have been a not unusual experience in many nations at the present time. Our system of compulsory preferential voting, has it seems produced one clear figure, namely that whoever eventually forms the government, almost 70% of the voters did not want them! So, this period of uncertainty seems certain to continue as my nation continues to be part of a larger group of nations that seems quite unclear as to what sort of society they wish to be and what sort of future they wish to create for themselves and their future generations. Indeed, whether your view of the future is optimistic or pessimistic, it seems only one thing will be certain – it will happen to us rather than we will, by our own strength and unity, create and fashion it.
In this unfolding scenario, to what extent our ability to categorise humans, their institutions and their experience will assist or hinder is uncertain to me. Indeed, it seems our current fetish for seeking to address perceived wrongs real and imagined has lead to a preoccupation with: identity categorised by gender, race, religion etc; a focus on the past, and; a passion for redress at the expense of true inclusivity and building a future for both the species and the planet. Our primary means of research, the core scientific model is serving only to reinforce such reductionist thinking. So, in sport science we identify the anatomical and physiological characteristics that will lead to becoming a champion athlete, but we still need to turn to culture and context to explain the success of Kenya’s Kalenjin tribe. In health-related physical activity research we can identify the groups of variables that will either support or hinder individuals longer term involvement with physical activity across the lifespan, but additional contextual information is needed to explain why Nauru and American Samoa have the most obese populations in the world with almost double the rates of that found in the US, the ‘leading’ developed nation with regard to this statistic.
In turning to the articles in this volume, I am pleased to note that they retain our now customary international variety with authors from Australia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the UK contributing. Apropos my introductory comments, our lead paper by Pot, van Hilvoorde, Afonso, Koekoek, & Almond makes a contribution to an ongoing debate about the value of Fundamental Movement Skills in enhancing not just the movement capability of children but providing a key component in the development of physical literacy across the lifespan. The concept of Fundamental Movement Skills has gained widespread support as an aid to addressing an internationally perceived decline in the motor ability of children. Specifically, Pot et al. have addressed the arguments of a group of 13 physical education scholars who have argued strongly for the value of the focus provided by this conceptualisation. They base their concerns around the importance of contextualising any attempts to categorise movement and particularly focus on the issue of identifying what is ‘fundamental’ to all members of our species not just a group, no matter how dominant that group might be in our thinking. Stynes, Pink and Aumand, report on a study of coaches of Special Olympics athletes, the stresses experienced by them in a major competition and, their strategies for coping. In line with the theme above, their concern reflects a realisation of the potentially unique specific stressors encountered at major events reflecting different needs of coaches in line with the contexts of differences in the athletes they work with.
It is pleasing to welcome to these pages, a group of sport management scholars from Turkey. Yüce, Yüce & Katırcı have addressed an issue that is deserving of much greater attention by sports academics around the world. The issue of sport betting, facilitated by the electronic media and the increased availability of widely shared sport content, is becoming of more significance the world over. Yüce et al. present some interesting data as to the extent of the young people surveyed’s involvement with sport betting and raise the issue as to whether the practice of betting should be seen as an intrinsic part of the sporting environment or more simply an off shoot of the gambling industry. Our last article is a most relevant contribution from one of our editorial committee, Peter Horton. It is an extract from a work comprising a significant collection of essays by leading international sports historians reviewing the contribution to sport history on a global level of the work of Professor ‘Tony’ Mangan. Horton’s contribution is included here because it reminds us of the important place of history in our understanding – both personal and professional. His argument that History undertaken with a critical gaze is a necessity for a powerful and informed life as it has always been, an essential fruit that must flourish in the garden of knowledge is a necessary counter to our modern preoccupation with numbers and classifications discussed above. Hopefully in addition to that it will whet your appetite for acquainting yourself further with the Mangan Oeuvre.
An historical perspective is of importance for us at the International Journal for Sport Studies, as next year we will be entering our 40th year. We will be treating this anniversary as a special time for backward reflection but only as a basis for more appropriate forward ambition. Consistent with the challenge posed by Horton we will be seeking to ensure that our history as a society and a discipline will, through the critical gaze, continue contributing to the development of international sport and physical education in the service of a better world.
Cowley, J. (2009). England was convulsed by a social and political revolution. The Observer (2009, April 19). Retrieved from www.theguardian.com/books/2009/apr/19/1980scultural-history
Kane, S. (2017). Baby Boomers in the Workplace: How Their Generational Traits and Characteristics Affect the Workplace. The Balance. Retrieved from www.thebalance.com/ baby-boomers-2164681
Kane, S. (2017). Common Characteristics of Generation Y Professionals: What Employers Should Know About Their Gen Y Employees. The Balance. Retrieved from www.thebalance.com/common-characteristics-of-generation-y-professionals-2164683
Peloquin, A. (2017). The 10 Most Obese Countries in the World. Fitday. Retrieved from www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/the-10-most-obese-countries-in-the-world.html 26th November 2017.
Rotich, W. K. (2016). Because we are us: stereotype, cultural and athletic identity in Kenya's Kalenjin distance running success. International Sports Studies, 38(2), 21–32.
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