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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Masculinity In Sport

By Stephanie W.

The idea of masculinity is everywhere, and is even more prevalent in sport. Boys are taught from a young age to grow up to be big strong men and to show their dominance as these strong beings. As they get older, these ideas begin to unfold more and in some cases, such as sport, we see these ideas become harsher and more advanced than just wanting men to be masculine. This is why I would like to look at these masculine ideas that are related to this topic of men in sport. First, is hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is defined by Anderson in these four simple rules that men need to abide by in sport. 1. No sissy stuff, 2. Be a big wheel, 3. Be a sturdy oak, and 4. Give ’em hell. Second is hyper-masculinity. Hyper-masculinity is characterized by an exaggeration of traditionally masculine traits or behavior (Collins Dictionary, 2017). Both of these ideas show that men are to be very strong and fearless, and not to engage in activities or play in a way that would have you being perceived as sissy, or like a girl. This post will look at these ideas in the sport context and not only how they impact men, but how they also impact society and the ideas we attach to other groups of people.

We are able to see these ideas everywhere you look in sport. One example of this is the men on the cover of magazines, shirtless and showing off their muscles and toned bodies. They want to show their strength and masculinity to the rest of the world and prove the power they have in sport. However, what If you do not follow this idea of what it means to be a man in sport? As stated by Anderson (2005), “Hegemonic masculinity not only requires that a male maintain 100 percent heterosexual desires and behaviors, but that he must continually prove that he is heterosexual.” For men who are homosexuals in sport, they often are found to hide their true identity or to go along with the ideas of the team to make sure they fit in and are part of this masculine group. One male talked about his experience in football, he stated that “My coaches try to motivate us to hit harder, crunch more, or throw farther by calling us fags all the time. And if you can’t do something, or mess it up, you get called a fag,” (Anderson, 2005).  Due to the atmosphere around the sport and his team, he found himself dating women, and even using homophobic language when around his team members to make sure he would fit into the group. His time spent with the team was not him being who he wanted to be but was conforming to norms. He did this to make sure he was not the target of the jokes or even physical abuse by team members. He wanted to be part of the sport and he felt this is what he had to do to truly be part of it.

Within the article by Hickey (2001), the idea of violence and oppression of others who do not fit the norms of the group or their masculinity is presented. Males want to gain status within the group and this means not being different than the others in any way. Due to the hyper-masculinity in many male sports, there is this idea of creating norms within the group and sticking to them if you want to fit in. Even though this is looked at from a team perspective, Hickey also presents the idea that these attitudes can come back into the school since they tend to be school sports or teams. This idea of how men or boys should act and how they should behave is seen in cases such as gym class. It is even seen the classroom or at lunch break and makes many others the victims of these ideas that they have formed within their sporting atmosphere.

From a personal perspective, I have seen how these ideas have come into the school and affected someone who competes in an individual sport.  One of my friends competes in archery competitions. When he was in high school, people used to tease him and say that it was a “gay sport” and it was not manly if he was competing in it. Due to this, he always had it in the back of his mind that it was not a manly enough sport and that people were always judging him for it. Since he was part of this sport, he was able to and still does travels all over the world to compete. However, the idea of what is seen as masculine to some other males and the impact it can have on the participation of other males is very much a problem. He could have decided to listen to people at school, but instead he went on and because of that he was able to gain so much and see many parts of the world that he would have never been able to do on his own. For many others though, they sometimes change who they are and stop doing certain activities that they love due to the ideas of others.

In conclusion, the idea of masculinity and the consequences that come with it are everywhere not only in sport, but our everyday lives. This impacts not only males who do not want to conform to these ideas, but also women, homosexual men, and people who do not fit the stereotypical idea of a manly man. Even though there are many negative examples of this in sport, it does not always mean it is present, but most people have seen examples of this in their everyday lives at least once. These are ideas that need to be changed and help everyone to feel included in sport and that they are in a safe place when joining a team, or even in everyday society.

Sources:

Anderson, E. (2005). In the game: Gay athletes and the cult of masculinity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Hickey, C. (2008). Physical Education, Sport and Hyper-Masculinity in Schools. Sport, Education and Society, 13, 2, 147-161.

The Past, Present, and Future of Yoga

By Andrea J

Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and a distinct philosophy in numerous different styles and intensities. The most common style practiced in the United States is Hatha yoga: emphasizing postures, breathing, and meditation. The combination of these practices strengthens the mind-body connection. I had the opportunity to try a yoga class last year and thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and benefits it presented. For a few years, I have had friends and family who have gone to classes and liked them. I have never found a time that fit my schedule or knew what to expect. This term, there was a class offered at UREC and I decided to try it.

Yoga has been proven to build strength, increase flexibility, and improve balance, stability, sleep and relaxation. It is truly a full-body workout that focuses on the mind-body connection as one pushes further into a pose or a specific muscle or group of muscles. Practicing yoga in addition to other forms of exercise has been suggested by studies to reduce heart rate and blood pressure as well as anxiety and depression.

Over 20 million people practice yoga, of which only 18% are men (Freytag, 2014). Yoga is thought to have originated over 5000 years ago in India to be performed by men. In the North American culture, yoga evolved from its origins to suit the needs of Hollywood celebrities and middle-class women. The practice became a more meditative style that deviated from the original practice of developing the strong minds and bodies of men (Tilin, 2012). Due to stereotypes and the evolution of yoga in the 21st century, the practice is viewed as feminine and too touchy-feely for men (Tilin, 2012). These changes lead to the stereotypes that yoga was only for women and companies utilised this to their advantage through advertising and clothing. Today, many yoga studios are trying to defeat this stereotype and show that yoga can benefit everyone through creating men-only classes or more demanding classes that emphasize what men are typically looking for in exercise and bring the practice back to its roots (Tilin, 2012).

The increasing number of males showing up in yoga classes, in recent years, is due to the new studios and classes that focus on integration and mobility of the muscles that most men build in the gym through their focus on individual muscles (Tilin, 2012). These classes are structured more around the origins of yoga and less on how the Western world has interpreted it, with a focus on the more vigorous and no non-sense styles. The most common reason for men, or anyone, not practicing yoga is that they are not flexible. Just as one goes to a gym to build strength and endurance, one can go to yoga to improve their flexibility.

There have been several pro-athletes in recent years that have begun to practice yoga for various reasons and now speak to how it has helped them improve their game. Keith Mitchell is a former NFL linebacker who now is a certified yoga instructor. With one hit, he was down and suffered a spinal contusion. Yoga was suggested as a therapy to help him regain some function and may have been the reason he was able to get back in the game. I am including the link to a video down below about his story. Other pro-athletes such as LeBron James and Tim Thomas also practice yoga in addition to their playing.

What is an athlete? An athlete is someone who surrenders himself to a greater purpose by sacrificing day in and day out in order to attain a dream. Having role models in pro-athletes that speak of the benefits of establishing a mind-body connection to improve their athletic skill has played a part in increasing the number of people and especially men who have taken up yoga. I think this is a good way to increase participation rates and promotion of a sport without the use of sexualisation. It shows that two things that are so very different can work together to create an athlete and give more meaning to their lives. Men and women have very distinct gender roles in society that dictate how they move, work, eat, and connect with others. Yoga is one example of how these roles are blurring together so that anyone can benefit from participating.

References:

Keith Mitchell and Yoga
http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-films-presents/0ap2000000259627/NFL-Films-Presents-Yoga-and-football

Tilin, A. (2012). “The Man Factor” from the Yoga Journal. Retrieved from http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/man-factor/

Freytag, C. (2014). Why dudes should do yoga. Retrieved from http://greatist.com/fitness/men-
yoga-stereotypes