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Jay Coakley

This article is organized around the idea that a person can be a part of kinesiology without being in kinesiology. Trained as a sociologist and never having a faculty appointment outside of a sociology department, I am an outsider in kinesiology. However, my participation in kinesiology and relationships with scholars in kinesiology departments have fostered my professional growth and my appreciation of interdisciplinary approaches to studying sports, physical activities, and the moving human body. The knowledge produced by scholars in kinesiology subdisciplines has provided a framework for situating and assessing my research, teaching, and professional service as a sociologist. The latter half of this article focuses on changes in higher education and how they are likely to negatively impact the social sciences and humanities subdisciplines in kinesiology. The survival of these subdisciplines will depend, in part, on how leaders in the field respond to the question, Kinesiology for whom?

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Jay Coakley

This article tells the story of the sociology of sport over the last 4 decades. In the process, it identifies key developments and trends in the field, the questions and topics that have shaped research and the production of knowledge about sports as social phenomena, the challenges currently facing the sociology of sport, and what may happen to the field over the next 40 years.

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Jay Coakley

Most explanations of burnout among young athletes identify chronic, excessive stress as the cause. Strategies for preventing burnout emphasize techniques that help athletes control stress and adjust to the conditions of sport participation. However, informal interviews with 15 adolescent athletes identified as cases of burnout suggest that the roots of burnout are grounded in the social organization of high performance sport; these roots are tied to identity and control issues. The model developed in this paper conceptualizes burnout as a social problem grounded in forms of social organization that constrain identity development during adolescence and prevent young athletes from having meaningful control over their lives. This model is intended as an alternative to more widely used stress-based models of burnout. Recommendations for preventing burnout call for changes in the social organization of high performance sport, changes in the way sport experiences are integrated into the lives of young athletes, and changes in the structure and dynamics of relationships between athletes and their significant others.

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Jay Coakley and Anita White

This study explored the dynamics of how young people make decisions about their sport participation. In-depth semistructured interviews were conducted with 34 young men and 26 young women, ages 13–23 (only 3 were older than 18), from predominantly working-class families residing in an industrial area southeast of London. Interviews focused on descriptions of sport experiences, how young people defined and interpreted those experiences, how this influenced decisions about participation, and how participation was integrated into the rest of their lives. We found that young women and men shared concerns about their transition into adulthood and had common desires to develop and display personal competence and autonomy. However, these common concerns were significantly mediated by gender. Furthermore, gender differences were found in the ways sport experiences were defined and interpreted, in the ways that constraints related to money, parents, and opposite-sex friends operated, and in the ways that past experiences in physical education and school sports were incorporated into current decisionmaking about sport participation.

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Robert Hughes and Jay Coakley

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Robert Hughes and Jay Coakley

The purpose of this paper is to develop a working definition of positive deviance and use the definition in an analysis of behavior among athletes. It is argued that much deviance among athletes involves excessive overconformity to the norms and values embodied in sport itself. When athletes use the “sport ethic”—which emphasizes sacrifice for The Game, seeking distinction, taking risks, and challenging limits—as an exclusive guide for their behavior, sport and sport participation become especially vulnerable to corruption. Although the sport ethic emphasizes positive norms, the ethic itself becomes the vehicle for transforming behaviors that conform to these positive norms into deviant behaviors that are prohibited and negatively sanctioned within society and within sport organizations themselves. Living in conformity to the sport ethic is likely to set one apart as a “real athlete,” but it creates a clear-cut vulnerability to several kinds of deviant behavior. This presents unique problems of social control within sport. The use of performance enhancing drugs in sport is identified as a case in point, and an approach to controlling this form of positive deviance is discussed.

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Mojca Doupona Topič and Jay Coakley

Sociology of sport knowledge on national identity is grounded in research that focuses primarily on long established nation-states with widely known histories. The relationship between sport and national identity in postsocialist/Soviet/colonial nations that have gained independence or sovereignty since 1990 has seldom been studied. This paper examines the role of sports in the formation of national identity in postsocialist Slovenia, a nation-state that gained independence in 1990. Our analysis focuses on the recent context in which the current but fluid relationship between sport and Slovenian national identity exists. Using Slovenia as a case study we identify seven factors that may moderate the effectiveness of sports as sites for establishing and maintaining national identity and making successful global identity claims in the twenty-first century. We conclude that these factors should be taken into account to more fully understand the sport-national identity relationship today, especially in new and developing nations.