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Advocating for ethical and humane sports and physical activity

This is an excerpt from Fundamentals of Sociology of Sport and Physical Activity by Katherine M. Jamieson & Maureen M. Smith.

Some of the most powerful people in everyday aspects of sport and physical activity are parents in youth program settings, volunteer coaches, and community members who use their social roles to advance preferred forms of sport for participants, teams, and neighborhoods (e.g., national movement for open streets). The required skills in this category of applied practice are not formally sanctioned, but any ethical advocacy for sport and physical activity that advances a preferred society would include at least the following:

  • Study of local policy, access, and leadership issues
  • Voluntary study of social movements and social science perspectives
  • Willingness to ask difficult questions about valued spaces for sport and physical activity
  • Willingness to partner with others in advancing sport and physical activity
  • Completion of specific program or organization training such as increasingly required training for parents of participants in community youth sport programs


Regardless of one’s relation to the allied professionals or academic professionals, the duties of advocates apply to all who care to fully engage their role as active members of their communities. Duties for this group are not sanctioned or governed by any overarching agency, but actually exist in more of a social contract, or a collective civil and civic engagement in one’s school, neighborhood, club, hometown, team, state, or country. We can consider the ongoing duty from three angles:

  • Application of a sociological lens to identify meaningful social issues and projects in relation to sport and physical activity
  • Willingness to organize a project for addressing social issues through sport and physical activity
  • Ability to support and promote projects that increase the capacity of communities to have accessible daily physical activity outlets for all members of society


As one example, a local bike shop owner organizes beginner rides and partners with a community group that develops bike lanes and aims to decrease the town’s reliance on automobiles. Yes, the bike shop owner wants to sell bicycles, but she also sees bicycles as part of a larger issue regarding community health and a national reliance on gasoline-fueled transportation. This citizen is going beyond selling bikes as she engages in creating a community where daily bicycling can be an easy, safe, and accessible choice for all members.


In contrast, consider the agitative politically focused bicycle activism of Critical Mass bike rides. Rather than bringing people together solely for a leisurely physical activity, Critical Mass bike rides intentionally take over major auto thoroughfares and draw attention to global reliance on oil and automobiles. In a Critical Mass bike ride, the bicycle and its riders become social activists, or community change agents. These divergent examples of bicycling show that everyday physical activity can have a significant effect on community members and social structures.

Learn more about Fundamentals of Sociology of Sport and Physical Activity.