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Gertrud Pfister

In Germany there is a huge discrepancy between positive attitudes toward physical activity and actual practice of sport. According to representative studies more than 80% of the population is convinced that for various reasons, especially those of health, it is very important to take up a sport (Kaschuba, 1989). However, only 21% of the male and no more than 14% of the female population (older than 14) were reported to practice a sport at least once a week (Opaschowski, 1995).

This article focuses on the question of how a relationship to sport develops in the course of the lives of girls and women. The empirical data derives from a project on “Sport in the Lives of Women” in which women active in football (soccer), gymnastics/aerobics and tennis were interviewed about their biographies and their experience with physical activities. The theoretical background is based on approaches towards life course and biography, gender and gender relations, and socialization. Typical patterns of sport involvement in the different stages of life, e.g. the important role of the parents in early childhood and the importance of peers at school were found.,.

In addition, different types of sport commitment could be identified. Certain patterns, for example, were dependent on the combination of the simultaneous practice of different types of sport and the alternation between practice and non-practice of sport. In this way it was possible to distinguish between all-round sportswomen and women who practice sport for reasons of health. In general, sport biographies develop through the close interaction of social factors and individual decisions.

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Kari Fasting, Gertrud Pfister, Sheila Scranton and Ana Bunuel

This paper is a description of the theoretical, methodological and practical challenges that have been encountered during the process of researching the experiences and meanings of sport in the lives of women in England, Germany, Norway and Spain. Based upon a review of previous literature and research on women and sport we found that there was little research in which the researchers took a qualitative approach focusing on both intrinsic factors (selfconcept, body awareness and the culture of the body) and extrinsic factors (relationship to lifestyle and life chances, social networks and future life plans). Cross-nationally, women’s experiences of sport and the meanings that they attach to their sporting participation, became therefore the centre for this project.

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Majid Al-Busafi

Edited by Tansin Benn, Gertrud Pfister and Haifaa Jawad