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The Ultimate alternative : a study of the institutionalization of an emerging sporting practice

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Title: The Ultimate alternative : a study of the institutionalization of an emerging sporting practice
Author: Firth, Michael Jonathan
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Human Kinetics
Copyright Date: 1998
Abstract: Studies on sports such as skateboarding (Beal, 1995) and snowboarding (Humphreys, 1997) have suggested that the transition from emergent counterculture practice to mainstream or commodified sport is problematic, particularly to the community of participants. The relationship of sport, as cultural practice, to its environment is the subject of much research and discussion (Brohm, 1978; Gruneau & Whitson, 1993; Guttmann, 1978; Hargreaves, 1982; Heron, 1991; Morgan, 1994). Ultimate (Frisbee) is an example of an emerging practice with interesting and unique characteristics that contest the paternalistic, authoritarian and market driven ideologies of mainstream team sports (Brohm, 1978; Calhoun, 1987; Gruneau & Whitson, 1993). For example, the sport is typically played at all levels without referees and only occasionally with coaches. Additionally, standardized rules, bureaucratic structures and external funding which characterize mainstream amateur and professional sport (Slack & Hinings, 1992) are noticeably absent at this developmental stage of Ultimate. Research, incorporating an institutional perspective (i.e., featuring the application of institutional theory or similar principles, of related work to the study of sociological phenomena), which examines the developmental process of a sport form from the perspectives of athletes and administrators is largely absent from the literature (Yiannakis et al., 1993). The purpose of this study was to identify the pressures and forms of resistance in the institutionalization of a nontraditional team sport, Ultimate and to understand the meanings and impact of these tensions on players and administrators as they relate to the future direction of the sport. The research methodology was qualitative in nature and relied on a number of ethnographic techniques: i) focus groups with competitive players from Vancouver competitive teams (n=12); ii) e-mail discussions with key decision-makers in North America (n=T0); and iii) analysis of relevant documents. Results of the study demonstrated that participants believed the sport is at a crossroads in terms of its development and future direction. The meanings and shared beliefs, values and norms of this subculture (Crosset & Beal, 1997; Yiannakis et al, 1993) are powerful mediators of any change in direction or mainstream identity. While growth, popularity and commercial market forces are pressing the sport for change, a number of resistances including the divided attitudes of players and the sport's image are impeding this development. Analysis of data suggested that there will likely be a distinct and problematic split and two different forms - recreational (grassroots) and competitive (commercialized) will exist. This study contributes to an understanding of the development of sport forms from an institutional perspective (Morrow, 1992; Slack, 1997; Slack & Hinings, 1992). The focus on Ultimate as an emergent, counterculture team sport provides additional insight into the relationship of participants of this practice with powerful forces which seek to influence their sport and community.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/7806
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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