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The Recreational Sport Profession

This is an excerpt from Recreational Sport by Robert J. Barcelona,Mary S. Wells & Skye Arthur-Banning.

The broader sport industry represents a continuum of sport opportunities, programs, services, and venues ranging from primarily participation focused on one end to primarily performance focused on the other (Coakley, 2004). Figure 1.2 depicts this relationship in connection with the sport development pyramid. Sport management can be defined as the professional career of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling sport events, programs, personnel, and facilities (Barcelona, 2010). Members of the recreational sport profession are sport managers who focus on designing and managing sport programs for the primary purpose of encouraging active participation. Sport management and marketing professionals in other areas of the sport industry focus on managing and marketing sport opportunities for elite athletes or staging events for spectators.


There is certainly some crossover between the two sides of the continuum. Recreational sport professionals may offer programs for elite athletes, such as travel-oriented youth sport clubs, and they may run events that attract spectators, such as road races or national championships. However, the general objective and philosophical orientation of recreational sport is to promote active participation in sport opportunities to the widest possible audience.


Personal and Professional Philosophy

Think back to the opening case study and the earlier discussion about the benefits of sport participation. The empirical evidence - that is, the factual evidence about things that can be measured - showed that participation in softball was declining while participation in kickball was increasing. How empirical evidence is filtered, interpreted, and acted upon, however, is based on a philosophical perspective. Philosophical questions revolve around the pursuit of truth (Lumpkin & Cuneen, 2001). A philosophy encompasses a system of knowledge and beliefs about things - their characteristics, value, relative goodness, and beauty. Philosophical thinking is not a passive, academic exercise disconnected from action or practice; instead, it is the platform for action. When you have developed a sound personal and professional philosophy, it is much easier to solve problems, make decisions, and take action.


It is probably safe to assume that you have already started to develop a philosophy of sport as you have gained knowledge and experience. If this is something that you have not thought about, consider the following questions:

  • Why do you participate in sport?
  • What do you like about sport? What do you dislike about it?
  • What do you believe to be true about sport? What do you value most about sport?
  • How have you come to know these things about sport? How certain are you in your beliefs?
  • How consistent are you in putting your values of sport into practice?

As a future recreational sport professional, it is important to start thinking about your answers to these questions as you develop your personal philosophy of sport. Remember that your personal philosophies often have an impact on others because philosophies are a foundation for action and decision making (Grecic & Collins, 2013).


Toward a Philosophy of Recreational Sport

The idea of sport for all holds that sport is a human right and should be available to everyone regardless of age, race, sex, economic status, disability, or any other potential barrier (International Olympic Committee [IOC], 2012). Think about it - if sport can yield positive benefits for individuals and society, then it stands to reason that these opportunities should be made available to the widest possible audience. This provides a challenge for recreational sport professionals to ensure that they are upholding this standard. Some questions to consider within the sport-for-all framework include the following:

  • Are programs accessible to as many people as possible?
  • Do existing policies promote or inhibit access to recreational sport programs?
  • Are facilities readily available in all neighborhoods and accessible to all participants?
  • Are there structural barriers such as money, lack of transportation, lack of child care, inability to speak a certain language, or other factors that limit participation?

It is true that organizations have their own service mandates, and not every organization is designed to meet the unique needs of all people. For example, for-profit recreational sport organizations (and even many nonprofits) primarily serve the needs of paying members. However, recreational sport professionals in these settings can still employ a sport-for-all philosophy by ensuring that programs and facilities are widely accessible to members and that they do their best to promote active participation in sport opportunities. For example, reputable commercial organizations actively comply with public accommodation laws so that patrons with physical disabilities are able to access facilities and be fully included in recreational sport programs. In addition, many private organizations offer scholarships or other forms of financial assistance to people who are not able to afford their services.

Learn more about Recreational Sport: Program Design, Delivery, and Management.