Race and Gender in Sports Influence of Family Dynamics and Getting a College Education Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1706 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Sports

Sports, Race, And Gender


Sports, race, gender and sociology

Sports, race, gender and sociology

"The 10,000-hour rule has become a cliche. This is the idea, first espoused by K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State University, that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice before any individual can become an expert. The corollary of this rule is that…differences in talent reflect differences in the amount and style of practice, and not differences in innate ability…The differences between expert performers and normal adults are not immutable, that is, due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance" (Lehrer 2010). However, in regards to sports, particularly in regards to minority performance in sports, immutable characteristics like race and gender are often assumed to be more influential upon the individual's final performance than effort. At first, African-Americans were presupposed to be inferior in sport, then superior. Women were thought to be inferior to the point that it was thought impossible for a woman to run a marathon or compete in sporting activities on a competitive, watchable level. Today even ordinary women run marathons and women shine in power-based sports such as tennis as well as more traditionally graceful sports such as figure skating. Still assumptions regarding race and gender linger on and continue to influence public perceptions of modern athletics.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Race and Gender in Sports Influence of Family Dynamics and Getting a College Education Assignment

The legacy of sports for black athletes has been paradoxical. "Sports, for some, represent the best in humanity, where talent and muscle can transcend difference and prejudice: Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson -- pioneers whose accomplishments beyond sports are legend" (Gettleman 2006). Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color barrier in baseball was seen as a seismic event in the history of American race relations. No longer were black players relegated to the Negro leagues, where they received poor pay and less recognition than their white colleagues. Jesse Owens' victories in the Berlin Games seemed to be unassailable physical, literal proof that Hitler's racial theories were in error. Yet black athletic success has not always translated into social equality, justice, or even economic empowerment, as argued in William C. Rhoden's starkly titled book Forty Million Dollar Slaves. Rhoden argues that far from being a boon to social equality, black success in sport has been used against African-Americans. According to Rhoden, African-American prowess is used as proof that society is a 'level playing field;' gives false hope to black, inner city youth of only ordinary athletic ability who would be better served channeling their talents elsewhere; and even the most successful black players do not redirect their wealth, energy, and influence back to inner city communities. "Judging by today's socially-unenlightened crop of sports icons, one might suspect that rich history of activism and advocating for the underclass to be more fairy tale than fact. For the once-widespread dedication to hard-fought, collective advancement has been all but abandoned by the current generation of superstars, The tone of today's ballplayer is perhaps typified by the NBA's Grant Hill who acknowledges that, 'When you're making $200,000 every two weeks, it's hard to get angry about anything'" (Williams 2006).

Inner city African-Americans are not the only demographic group within America seeking fame and fortune -- or even simply a college scholarship -- through athletic pursuits. For many Latinos of Dominican ancestry, baseball has been seen as a ticket to success and a way to live the American dream, because of the predominance of baseball within the Dominican Republic. Even amongst families of relatively middle-class means, the pressure to perform can be intense. One survey of 1,000 Ohio high school students revealed 40% of the students "said their parents pressured them to play, and 10% said their parents' behavior during games embarrassed them" (Youth sports, 2010, The Dispatch). Some parents had invested as much as $50,000 a year in youth sports, although one economics professor observed that from a logical point-of-view, "parents are making the wrong investment. Your kid is much better off studying and doing well academically than spending all the time on the soccer field" (Youth sports, 2010, The Dispatch). Specialization at too young an age has lead to an epidemic of sports injuries in children and adolescents, note pediatricians (Lehrer 2010).

Despite the conventional wisdom of the so-called 'Tiger Woods' effect that suggests that intense focus and early dedication leads to success at sport and the opportunity to pull one's self up by one's own bootstraps, most talented athletes actually hail from small towns: "Findings like the birthplace effect suggest that we need to rethink the idea that kids should receive year-round training in one sport early on. Although this early specialization certainly worked for Woods, for most kids, less sport-specific training seems to be the key to athletic success. Of course, this doesn't mean limiting practice overall. Indeed, smaller cities offer more opportunities for unstructured play than larger cities, which results in more opportunities to hone general coordination, power, and athletic skills. These longer hours of play also allow kids to experience successes (and failures) in different settings, which likely toughen their attitudes in general" (Lehrer 2010). A single-minded focus on professional athletics seldom yields to later success and can prove a diversion from focusing on more realistic goals, such as advancement through academic and vocational training.

Statistically, however, the negative effects of specialization in 'big money' sports such as football and basketball have been disproportionately suffered by African-Americans. Even African-Americans who do attend college on athletic scholarships are ill-served by the institutions that profit from their prowess. "A dozen [NCAA] teams graduated less than 40% of their [male] players. At the bottom of the list is the University of Maryland, which only graduated 8% of its student players. The next lowest was California with a 20% graduation rate," and the African-American graduation rate was substantially lower than that of whites: (Johnson 2010). Of the NCAA "tournament teams, 45 teams graduated more than 70% of their white players, while only 20 teams graduated more than 70% of African-American players -- creating a 48% gap, a significant increase from last year's study which found a 26% gap" (Johnson 2010). Rates of graduation were considerably lower for males than females, given the lower expectations of most females regarding their ability to make a career in professional sports.

Lower expectations along with the perception that success in sports is due to natural biological ability, rather than hard work, may have a negative psychological effect upon African-American players' mentalities. Even the hard work and dedication that it takes an individual to train is not honored, in many instances, if that individual is African-American, rather success is merely attributed to genetic gifts. This can be seen in the rhetoric surrounding the success of Kenyan runners in the sport of distance running. During the early 20th century Eastern Europeans dominated the longer distances in the sport and it was said that African runners were only suited for sprinting because of genetic reasons, Now that Kenyan and Ethiopian runners have proven this theory incontrovertibly wrong, the success of Kenyan runners is ascribed to genetics, rather than to the arduous training the African runners do to foster their worldwide dominance (Douglas 2005).

Women have faced different obstacles than racial and ethnic minorities in the field of athletics (and nonwhite women have often faced discrimination of both kinds). For many years, female fertility was portrayed as anathema to sport, and sporting activity was seen as threatening to femininity and childbearing. In the Olympics, women were not even permitted to run long distances, and there are tales of women in road races being physically restrained from competing. "In 1966, Roberta Gibb hid behind a bush at the start of the Boston Marathon, sneaking into the field and finishing the race in an unofficial time of 3:21:25. She was the first woman known to complete the arduous Boston course. Gibb had been inspired to run by the return of her race entry with a note saying that women were not physically capable of running a marathon" (Lovett 1997). Today, the Williams sisters astound spectators with their athleticism, and elite races run -- sometimes even while pregnant.

Women's struggles in college athletics have often revolved around securing the right to compete at all. Title IX "governs the overall equity of treatment and opportunity in athletics while giving schools the flexibility to choose sports based on student body interest, geographic influence, budget restraints, and gender ratio…there are three primary areas that determine if an institution is in compliance: athletic financial assistance, accommodation of athletic interests & abilities," and "other program areas" (About Title IX, 2010, University of Iowa).

Title IX has had a seismic impact in improving female participation in collegiate sports, and while not as lucrative as male sports, it has also fueled greater participation by women in the sports culture of America overall. The example of Title IX shows how sports do not exist outside of culture. The feminist movement mobilized women to demand more… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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