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The Development of “Self” in a Youth Sport Context

February 11, 2019 0 Comment


A long-standing controversy in studies of human behavior is the nature vs. nurture debate. Do humans develop their individual and social traits as a result of genetic predisposition or is it a result of interaction with others in a small group context? Most sociologists (including myself ) do not deny that biological makeup provides the potential for the way in which humans develop. However, human interaction is responsible for the way in which that biological potential is shaped. Without human interaction in the small group setting, any potential provided by an individual’s biological makeup would not develop.

As we discussed in class, the “self” is the central sociological concept for S.I. thinkers. Don’t forget that the self is “that part of who we are that we can reflect upon and think about.” It is the way we think about who we are and, as a result, how we approach the world. Paper Option #1 allows you the opportunity to apply the “self” concepts of Cooley, Mead, and Goffman to the youth sport setting.

Your Challenge

Sports and recreation for kids is an extremely important and prevalent part of the American social fabric. What opportunity (ies) does this social context provide for childhood development of “self?” This being Spring, many sports are just getting underway for all age ranges including baseball, softball, soccer, and volleyball. I am calling on all of you to go out and become sociological observers, with a keen eye for application of S.I. “self” concepts.


1. Most neighborhood parks this time of year have weekend sports programs underway for children of all ages. Select one sport and observe the interactions between players, coaches, and parents for two successive weeks.

2. While observing, keep in mind the following concepts:

* Cooley’s “looking glass self”

* Mead’s “I & me”

* Mead’s “role taking”

* Goffman’s “multiple selves”

3. In your papers, I want you to analyze three different dyadic components:

a) player with player (peers)

b) player with parent(s)

c) player with coach(es)

What evidence can you provide concerning the applicability of S.I. “self” concepts? For each of the above three dyadic scenarios, demonstrate your sociological intelligence by sharing in detail your observations about interactions between members of the small group setting. For example, when observing player-to-player interactions, did you find evidence for some or all of the concepts? If so, which ones? Again, defend your arguments in as much detail as you possibly can. Go through the same sets of analyses for the player-parent and player-coach interactions. Apply only that concepts that fit well. Do not “force” concepts to apply if they, indeed, do not.

In sum, how is a child’s sense of “self” shaped in the youth sport setting? Is the Symbolic Interaction approach of value in this context? You tell me! Paper Option #1 is due no later than 11:55 p.m. on February 1 9 th in double-spaced readable font. Have fun, everyone !

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