"Walking the fine line?" : Young people, sporting risk, health and embodied identities
2012-12-13T11:28:44Z (GMT) by
sociological literature suggests that adult sports participation is occurring in a 'culture of risk' which glorifies pain, rationalises risk and promotes the practice of playing hurt (Messner, 1990; Nixon, 1992; Curry 1993; Pike, 2000; Roderick et aI, 2000, Safai, 2003; Howe, 2004; Young, 2004a; Liston et aI. 2006). Using this corpus of knowledge as a point of departure, this study directs attention towards young people's sporting risk encounters within the specific context of school sport. Guided by a process-sociological framework (Elias, 1978, 1991,2000 ), it offers an insight into the ways in which young people interpret, experience and manage sporting risk and episodes of sporting pain and injury whilst at school. The research draws on data generated by 1,651 young people aged between ten and sixteen years old using a three-phase data collection programme. The programme incorporated self-report questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and group-based creative tasks and was conducted in six secondary schools located in "Churchill", a major English conurbation. The findings suggest that school sport worlds (re )produce two entwined, yet competing sets of beliefs, attitudes and practices related to sporting pain and injury and are best described as webs of risks and precaution and protectionism. Rather than adopting a more cautious approach to pain and injury the data indicates that this cluster of young people frequently play hurt, normalise injury and engage in forms of 'injury talk' that discredit episodes of sporting pain. In so doing, they may be placing their short and long-term physical, psychological, social and moral health in jeopardy. However, it is argued that this collection of sporting practices are highly valued by young people and are integral to the ways in which they assign and perform a range of dissecting and fluid embodied identities. Notwithstanding the potential for sporting risk encounters to engender damaging, disrupting and debilitating outcomes, the data also emphasises the potential for these experiences to act as important spaces in which young people are able to probe their bodily limits, develop corporeal knowledge and experience pleasurable emotions (Maguire, 199Ia). This thesis draws attention to the duality of sport and calls for a more reality-congruent approach to the sport-health-risk-youth nexus in the development of future (school) sport worlds.