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Exploring the validity of 'sport' as a sociological concept

Susan Lagaert (UGent) and Henk Roose (UGent)
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Abstract
In this contribution we raise a number of critical issues about how ‘sport’ is used as a sociological concept in the current quantitative literature on sports participation. We argue that if ‘sport’ wants to be an adequate and valid concept in sociology, and in the sociology of culture in particular, two related threats need to be considered and overcome: (1) the adequacy of a conceptual definition should be evaluated also in terms of sport activities as being culturally distinguishing practices, and (2) the validity of its measurement in surveys should be evaluated. Often, definitions of ‘sport’ one-sidedly focus on physical exertion or competitiveness, which neglects the socially distinguishing nature of specific forms of sports as part of a lifestyle. The phrasing in questionnaires often reflects a specific definition of ‘sport’, limiting possibilities for analysis. Moreover, it is assumed that ‘sport’ has an obviously similar meaning to respondents in questionnaires, cf. the wording in the Eurobarometer (2010): ‘How often do you exercise or play sport?’ Yet, different types of respondents may interpret ‘sport’ in different ways, undermining the validity of its measurement and hence, its suitability for sound sociological analysis. Using data from the survey ‘Cultural participation in Flanders 2009’ we focus on some of the undesirable consequences of both threats in sociological research. By applying Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA), we show that people with different sociodemographic backgrounds differ in their understanding of ‘sport’, implying that the measurement, as it is used now, lacks validity. Suggestions on how to collect valid data on sport participation are presented.

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MLA
Lagaert, Susan, and Henk Roose. “Exploring the Validity of ‘Sport’ as a Sociological Concept.” 11th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts. 2013. Print.
APA
Lagaert, S., & Roose, H. (2013). Exploring the validity of “sport” as a sociological concept. 11th conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts. Presented at the 11th conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA - 2013).
Chicago author-date
Lagaert, Susan, and Henk Roose. 2013. “Exploring the Validity of ‘Sport’ as a Sociological Concept.” In 11th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Lagaert, Susan, and Henk Roose. 2013. “Exploring the Validity of ‘Sport’ as a Sociological Concept.” In 11th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts.
Vancouver
1.
Lagaert S, Roose H. Exploring the validity of “sport” as a sociological concept. 11th conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts. 2013.
IEEE
[1]
S. Lagaert and H. Roose, “Exploring the validity of ‘sport’ as a sociological concept,” in 11th conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts, Turin, Italy, 2013.
@inproceedings{4128654,
  abstract     = {In this contribution we raise a number of critical issues about how ‘sport’ is used as a sociological concept in the current quantitative literature on sports participation. We argue that if ‘sport’ wants to be an adequate and valid concept in sociology, and in the sociology of culture in particular, two related threats need to be considered and overcome: (1) the adequacy of a conceptual definition should be evaluated also in terms of sport activities as being culturally distinguishing practices, and (2) the validity of its measurement in surveys should be evaluated. Often, definitions of ‘sport’ one-sidedly focus on physical exertion or competitiveness, which neglects the socially distinguishing nature of specific forms of sports as part of a lifestyle. The phrasing in questionnaires often reflects a specific definition of ‘sport’, limiting possibilities for analysis. Moreover, it is assumed that ‘sport’ has an obviously similar meaning to respondents in questionnaires, cf. the wording in the Eurobarometer (2010): ‘How often do you exercise or play sport?’ Yet, different types of respondents may interpret ‘sport’ in different ways, undermining the validity of its measurement and hence, its suitability for sound sociological analysis.
Using data from the survey ‘Cultural participation in Flanders 2009’ we focus on some of the undesirable consequences of both threats in sociological research. By applying Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA), we show that people with different sociodemographic backgrounds differ in their understanding of ‘sport’, implying that the measurement, as it is used now, lacks validity. Suggestions on how to collect valid data on sport participation are presented.},
  author       = {Lagaert, Susan and Roose, Henk},
  booktitle    = {11th conference of the European Sociological Association, Abstracts},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Turin, Italy},
  title        = {Exploring the validity of 'sport' as a sociological concept},
  year         = {2013},
}