Social Class and Sports

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By: Alex Howell

Individuals amongst multiple cultures rely on sports to build personal relationships and develop means for organized competition. The involvement within these sports is highly dependent on an individuals social class. There are several factors that effect an individual’s decision when it comes to there in involvement in a specific sport. For a lot of people they find their sport niche through cultural realms, but more times than not, an individual’s sport of choice is based on the monetary aspect and where they fall within a class in society. Typically, a status hierarchy in which individuals and groups are classified on the basis of esteem and prestige are acquired mainly through economic success and the overall accumulation of wealth. This structure is commonly broken down into upper, middle, and lower classes. Even though class plays a huge role in an individual choosing their athletic nature, it is still not a simple concept to explore.

Social class is a set of concepts based of the social stratification in which individuals are classified within society. Social class is defined through two distinct categories: (1) association in which one acquires materialistic objects and (2) association of values, beliefs, and practices (which is the cultural aspect). These individuals are typically grouped into a certain set of hierarchical social structures. This structure is commonly broken down into upper, middle, and lower classes. Even though class plays a huge role in an individual choosing their athletic nature, it is still not a simple concept to explore.

A family’s social class is indicative of its members’ life chances or economic opportunity set. Families of higher social stature have a higher capacity for acquiring materialistic objects, which in turn increases their overall economic opportunities in life. A family’s social class is also associated with a particular life-style or social psychological opportunity set. Typically, upper social class families subscribe to certain values, beliefs, and practices that differ from those of lower social class families. Ultimately, individuals are pressured by their economic/ social capital, along with their role in society and the values they respect within their culture.

Basic research shows that there is a positive correlation between a person’s social class and their involvement in sports. However, people of higher social class are also less likely to participate in prole sports. Prole sports are sports that are usually avoided by the upper class and have therefore become associated with individuals within the working class. In some countries, your social status is easily defined because the class structure is simple and isn’t broken down in to several subclasses within the class structure. Unfortunately, America’s middle class can be difficult to define, as most Americans identify themselves within this social class, and this broad classification has numerous tiers. Given the fact that American culture has many subclasses amongst their social structure, it makes it easier for individuals from different social classes to participate in sports that many in other cultures can’t due to their strict social class structure. Since many Americans define themselves as middle class individuals, it poses an issue when they decide to get involved in more cost binding sports rather than cost effective sports. In fact, sport as an institution may serve as a distinguisher of social class, hinting at differences in social capital among different tiers within the middle class. It is very important to note that there are possibilities for success in sports not matter what class an athlete may fall in.

high class

Within a high-class society in America, individuals are able to participate in more expensive athletic adventures such as: skiing, equestrian, polo, sailing, and golf If you are an athlete within this realm tend to hold a hegemonic position over the athletes that fall in other classes. Eve though it’s not right to feel a sense of entitlement due to the funds you spend for a sport, individuals within the high-class sports society have to manage a larger budget to procure equipment, lessons, and the ability to compete. Typically, athletes in this class are more prone to advance at the professional level due to the financial support they receive from their families.

sandlot

As noted, the middle class amongst sports is seemingly the largest. Sports within this class structure include America’s most popular sports such as: soccer, baseball, football, and ice hockey. Athletes within this class structure differ from high-class sports because they aren’t as reliant on financial commitment. The typical middle class athlete is modest and they normally stray away from egotistical ideologies that come in to play when money is a factor. These athletes can easily be defined as hard workers, not only because of their social status, but more so because of the drive they have to improve their skills. These middle class athletes aren’t open to endless possibilities in the monetary aspect, so they typically rely solely on their ability to grow as an athlete and become better within their means. These athletes are seemingly striving to be great even though it can be a financial struggle at times. Since personal ambition is the driving factor in these athletes, they are often able to display their talent and become more successful than those within higher-class athletics.

soccer

The athletes within the lower class usually grow up in a relatively poor area and begin to discover sports through different means. Lower class athletes typically develop their skills and experiences on the schoolyard or in the streets near their residence. These athletes tend to develop skills in basketball, baseball, soccer and football. Surprisingly enough, several professional athletes are derived from this social class and go on to be quite successful within their sport. A lot of the time these individuals become excellent athletes and it takes someone witnessing their effectiveness on the streets to get them in organized play. You may see this process unravel greatly around the start of academics. This class of athletes typically is very self-motivated because they want to be a success story for the family and they feel that being successful in their sport can bring their family things that once were only a dream.

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Personally, I participated in several sports growing up. I find it interesting because the three sports I was actively involved in all fall into different categories as far as sports within social classes. Unfortunately for my parents, my go to sport was ice hockey. Ice hockey has been named one of the most expensive sports to play in the United States and there is no way I could have been an active participant without my parents’ unconditional love and support. Ice hockey was the only sport that I played religiously and it definitely was costly due to the high cost of protective equipment, ice slots, and travel expenses. Even though it was a huge financial commitment, my parents were very willing to help me accomplish my dreams within the sport. I had always dreamed of winning a National Championship, and my dream came true my senior year of high school. I played for Virginia best travel program and after a 75 game season, with eighty percent of my games being out of state, we were named the best U18AA travel ice hockey team in the United States after we took the gold in Ohio in 2011. Accomplishing this goal was so surreal and having collegiate programs looking at me throughout the season I was soon able to commit to play at the college level for Christopher Newport University. My dreams soon turned to accomplishment due to the financial and emotional support I received from my family. I did not choose the sport of ice hockey because it was so costly and fell in to a higher social class, but because of the true passion I assumed for the sport at such a young age. I know many individuals don’t have the opportunity to be involved with such a costly sport, which made me appreciate the support and good fortune I received from my family even more.

Though, athletes from higher income families are able to participate in a larger variety of sports it does not mean they hold a sense of entitlement over athletes in other classes. Athletes can be successful in any class if they become ambiguous individuals and strive for their own goal. Money is an important aspect to life in the sense that you can support your family’s necessities. With that being said, sports aren’t a necessity but they are a privilege than individuals amongst all financial incomes should be able to experience. If an athlete is truly an athlete they will find the means in which it takes to become successful and at the end of the day it comes down to their willingness to become one with the sport they are passionate about and be the best they can possibly be based of their personal drive not the size of their wallets.

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