Fatherhood and Sport: Providing an Opportunity to Redefine Fatherhood

By Kirstin D.

To offer some diversity to the new blog posts being made, I am going to discuss fatherhood and sport. As a female, this will be done by looking at the evidence in articles since I do not have a direct experience of being a father or male. My reflection is influenced by knowledge and my indirect experience of the males in my life. The first male role model who participated in influenced my participation in sport, was my father. To provide background knowledge I grew up with three older sisters and both of my parents worked outside the home and had sport interests. The new generation of fathers are reacting to the changes in the household. Mothers are choosing to work or stay at home, and more pressure is being put on fathers to reach beyond the traditional fatherhood model. Contemporary fathers are looking for ways to connect with their children. Leisure is a tool some have used to do so, but they are not free from the pressure from the traditional fatherhood ideologies.

Now, we might think a stereotype of fatherhood is a father who coaches his child’s sports team. What if we thought of it instead as a means to be more than the breadwinner, as a way to redefine fatherhood. Kay (2007) discussed that since sports are familiar to men, which makes sport a secure and comfortable site that men can gain competence in engaging with their children. As we know men are socialized differently than women. From a young age girls are given toy babies and boys are given Tonka Trunks. The nuclear family and traditional fatherhood roles could leave new fathers feeling incompetent. Similar to sport participation, confidence and competence helps improve participation rates. Fathers who want to be more than the provider, could be using sport (a familiar role) as way to get closer with their children. Sport is a setting that is deemed appropriate for men in society. Therefore, sport provides them the opportunity to redefine fatherhood.

My experience with my father reflects this idea. Sport was a topic he could relate to and was a topic that he enjoyed. It was a way for him to be connected to us, when he felt like he was unable to otherwise. Although my father and my mother both worked and were invested in our sporting pursuits, it was different with my father. Not only is this a way for fathers to be able to connect with their children, but it is also a way for children to connect with their fathers. My oldest sister was the only one who decided to play hockey, and one of her primary reasons for doing so was to become closer with my father.

I do disagree with Kay (2007) when they write that fatherhood is universal and we all have been fathered. Perhaps this shows that the article is dated and that even in academic articles there are heteronormative assumptions made. It is true that all new born babies have biological fathers. It is, however, not true that we have all been fathered. Fathers come in various shapes and sizes, some are involved and others are not. Some of us may not have had a father and some people might have two. Although we cannot say that using sport as a means to redefine fatherhood is universal, I do believe that this is an important perspective.

If you would like to contribute to this blog post, I am interested in hearing your thoughts about fatherhood and sport – which does not have to be specifically fathers who are coaches, it could be broader leisure pursuits. My father never coached any of my sports teams, but he still had an influence and an impact on them. I still remember being on the pitch and hearing him whistle and holler as a dedicated spectator.

References

Kay, T. (2007). Fathering through Sport. World Leisure Journal, 49(2), 69-82.

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12 responses

  1. Great post Kristin! I agree completely that fatherhood is evolving and moving to place where fathers are wanting to become closer with their children. This effort for closeness comes in many forms, but as you have discuss a major approach is through leisure activities.

    This raises the question of how fathers influence their children’s leisure activities. Fathers tend to feel more entitled to participation in sport and leisure activities then mother do. Mothers tend to stop participation once they become a mother. This allows for children to see their father in a sport context but not their mother. From this daughters are socialized to believe that mothers give up sport participation once they become a mother. They are exposed to activities from their mothers but are much more influenced to be involved in sport from their fathers. It’s important that fathers recognize this responsible for sport involvement and use it wisely. Fathers should use this influence to encourage their daughters to participate in sport and leisure, but need to be careful in supporting the activity of their daughter choices rather than their choice. If daughters are enjoying and activity but not pleasing their father, they may stop participation. It’s essential that fathers recognize their daughters happiness and put their feeling about activity choice aside.This influence is an important responsibility for fathers and it should be used carefully!

    Meghan O

    • Great post Kristin, I specifically enjoyed this article and how you presented it because it gave me some insight into what that side of the spectrum looks like. I grew up playing many sports and my father always tried to be as involved as he could, but due to his own lack of knowledge into sports since he never had the opportunity to participate growing up I got to experience his involvement in my life through other avenues. Which I grew to really appreciate.

      My mother on the other hand was heavily involved in sports growing up and loved attending any event I had regardless of where and when it was. I was also well aware of her participation in sports growing up as she tried to stay as involved leisurely as she could. I believe this is responsible for why we tend to be as close as we are today. So although I agree with much of this article I can also relate to the other side of it.

      James M

    • Thanks for your reply and addition to the conversation. I couldn’t agree more that fathers need to take this responsibility seriously, and if a mother does take a part of this responsibility she shouldn’t be outcasted! Family situations take many forms.

  2. Kirstin,
    Me being a boy with an active father, I can add my two cents worth into experience rather then research. If I were given a point where I could accurately say my life changed for the better, it would be when I joined football at the age of 13. I did not live close enough to my school to participate regularly with other kids my age in Hampton. You know personally that I lived closer to Belleisle and was more so a black sheep so to speak. My father, being the man that he is, tried to bring me up in the most stereotypical way possible. Playing catch, riding bikes, climbing trees, etc. and really tried to force the idea of physicality in my life. Needless to say, it did the opposite, I hated the idea as it pushed me out of my comfort zone and I was forced to participate with a foreign concept known only to my peers whom I was equally uncomfortable with. Until the day my father physically picked me up, and jogged with me on his back for an hour and a half to Hampton to football practice.
    Seeing this happen, listening to my father pant and grunt, to hear the sound he made when he finished, it was a sense of satisfaction, since then I have aimed for that. That is what I push myself for when playing sports. It’s not about the circumstances of your birth that define you, but what you do with the gift of life that changes those around you.
    -Ben LeBlanc

    • Having someone who sparks and interest that motivates someone into participating in sport is so important! Thank you for your comment, it was awesome to see how your family influenced you! Families come in all shapes and sizes.

  3. Great post Kristin! I think this is a very interesting topic because so many can relate to it in either a positive or negative way.

    In my life, both of my parents worked outside of the home, and both of them were very involved in my sports. However, my father really took a greater interest in my sports than my mother did. My mom always came to every game and cheered but my Dad was always one step more involved. For a few years he coached my team, but as I got into higher grades he decided to stop coaching since he thought he wasn’t able to watch my playing as much and felt as though he was missing out on my sporting experience. We would talk about games before and after, he was video tape me playing, and he was also interested in what we were doing in practices and how I thought I was improving or needed to improve during the year. So for me, my father made a huge impact on my sports and made that his “thing” that we could always talk about and bond.

    For one of my friends, her father was not always around and when he did, he did not see the importance of sport. He often saw it as a waste of time, so she didn’t have that same connection to sport and her father that I did. They had other things that they bonded over, but that huge part of her life, he didn’t want anything to do with which was hard for her at times seeing other Dads at games. This may have been different as well due to her family dynamic and not having both her parents in the same home. Due to this, they might not have had that extra time to be invested in sport since they had other obligations and limited time with her as well.

    Due to both these experiences, I think sport and fathers have a connection between the two of them. From having that connection, to wishing you were is an interesting concept and links to what we have talked about in class and the expectations of fathers that not only society can have, but also their family members as well.

    Stephanie W.

    • Thank you for your contribution to the discussion! Families are not all the same, so thank you for bringing to experiences to the discussion. It is interesting to see how parents take different roles based on their beliefs and interests!

  4. Awesome post Kirstin!

    I would like to point out that if my father wasn’t a soccer coach, then I probably wouldn’t be on this life changing experience, getting an education and playing soccer at a decent level in a new country.

    That being said, my dad was all for outside physical activity. It just so happens that our generation grew up around the same time technology started to blow up. So we were constantly interested in the new changes and designs that kept occurring, especially when our friends had the latest gear. My parents never liked the idea of my siblings and I being left out of things, but they really valued outdoor play. My dad used to take us to the park as kids, at least 3-4 times a week, when my mum was taking care of her volunteer work. We would take the dog, usually a frisbee, tennis ball and a soccer ball (can be used as a basketball). needless to say I used to love it, until I began to specialize in soccer. He encouraged us to get dirty, not be afraid to jump or slide in the mud, or be scared of getting our hair wet.

    I grew up loving playing sports in the rain, because it was fun, plain and simple. I think that my dad’s influence on getting us outside in all types of weather, as opposed to sitting in and playing video games, really enhanced my childhood enjoyment with my friends. It actually rubbed off on my friends, as they would often come out in all kinds of weather and we would be doing some form of sports/physical activity.

    I definitely feel that fatherhood and sport have a very sting connection, but I also think that the child and father relationship, depends on the fathers openness to new activities, and even learning new things themselves. I’ve seen some great videos circulating social media of dad’s joining in their daughter’s gymnastics and dance classes. This is a great way of socializing through other sports and recreational activities that do not involve some form of ball.

    • Thanks for your contribution, I have also seen those videos and it is amazing that fathers are breaking gender stereotypes to be able to participate with their daughters. It is crucial that someone important to you shows you and instills that interests in sport, and I am glad you father got you playing soccer so you could have such an amazing experience!

  5. Really enjoyed reading your post Kirsten!

    I grew up with a Father who was very eager to coach the sports teams that I would be playing on. My father was mainly interested in soccer, and basketball so from ages 5-10 I played these sports due to the fact that he was the coach. At the time I knew that I enjoyed being active, I knew I liked being around my dad and I knew I had fun every time I went to play the sports that he had chosen to coach but due to my dad coaching all the teams that I played on throughout my first five years of sport I had little opportunity to be exposed to any other sports regardless of my interest in them. Around the age of eight all of my friends started playing hockey so I began asking to play hockey each year instead of basketball (the seasons conflicted with one another) and my parents would always reply with “you can’t stop playing basketball your dad is the coach”. This continued to happen each year for two or three years before finally my parents gave in and let me start playing hockey. After realizing that I really wanted to play something else my dad was okay with it but I believe that this is a good example of how a fathers over-involvement in their child’s sports can often have a negative effect on their development of interests and could lead to some potential unhappiness or lack of interest in sports as a whole. If my father would not have stopped being stubborn and let me play the sport that I wanted to play I would have probably been a lot less active as a child and would not have developed some of the skills and relationships that are still relevant in my life today.

    Carson M.

  6. Interesting post Kirstin! I found your blog post offered a perspective I hadn’t considered before on fatherhood being enhanced through sport, but that we all are not specifically fathered as Kay’s (2007) research suggested. I hadn’t heard of the concept of universal fatherhood before, but I agree that it seems like an outdated concept for today’s contemporary society.

    Your blog post helped to make sense of some of the concepts we have discussed in relation to leisure and family that we have learned in the class material, such as fathers further developing their relationships with their children by engaging in leisure activities. I agree that fathers have a significant role to play in the development of their children’s leisure pursuits, and as someone whose father was heavily involved in their recreation activities, I know my experience would have looked much different if I had not had such a close ambassador of physical activity. My father’s interest and willingness to engage in whatever leisure activity my sisters and I were involved with at the moment, really did show that he cared and that we were worth his time.

    Tamsin, F.

  7. Interesting blog post Kristin! I agree that fathers are typically the parent who takes on a role that influences their child’s participation in sport. Personally, I grew up with a step father who was extremely passionate about football and whenever we played sports or games in our recreation time it would be the two of us to do so. My mother is not very athletic but always pushed for me to continue participating in sports in the hopes that it would help keep me out of trouble. I have never had a father figure be my coach but the some of the coaches I have had have been fathers to athletes on my team. If we support that sport is a unifying activity, it seems like a good way for youth to bond with their fathers.

    I agree with your argument against Kay (2007), that fatherhood is not universal. Once my parents divorced, my step dad no longer took part in anything to do with my life whether it be sport related or not. His brief time in my childhood was positive because he promoted outdoor sporting activities, yet my continuation in competitive sport was purely for my own intrinsic value as I grew up without a father figure throughout adolescence. My participation in sport was not hindered without a father figure; I adopted wrestling as a part of my life that I would support whether my mother could help me or not.

    I would not deny that my father figure had an influence on my participation in sport; However, he was never in a coaching position for me so I could have a clear distinction between father and coach. My step father may have had a negative impact on my perception of sports (football specifically), because his hyper-competitive attitude was hard to endure during playoff seasons. I can enjoy watching football now because Superbowl celebrations in my residence have allowed me to enjoy the game without negative connotations, yet before university I could not stand to watch football whatsoever. The relationship between sport and fatherhood is more intertwined then I originally perceived, this was an interesting concept to think about.

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