The Social Construction of an Athlete: African American Boy's Experience in Sport. - The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Social Construction of an Athlete: African American Boy's Experience in Sport.

By The Western Journal of Black Studies

  • Release Date - Published: 2009-06-22
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: The Western Journal of Black Studies
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A recent survey commissioned by the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles and ESPN found that 88% of children between the ages of eight and seventeen watch televised sports (Krulewitz, 2001). In addition, 97% of boys were found to consume sports media via video games, the internet, television, newspapers, magazines, or sports-themed movies and books. Fifty-five percent of boys said they watch sports on television at least once a week and 29% said they consult the newspaper regularly for sports information. Simply, a large portion of young males display a strong interest in sport and professional sport in particular (Messner, 1992). This connection for boys to professional sports and the general sports experience is more pronounced for African American males, as sport is commonly identified as an avenue out of poverty for many Blacks (Edwards, 2000; Messner, 1992). In fact, both white boys (Azzarito & Harrison, 2008) and African American boys (Miller, Melnick, Barnes, Farrell & Sabo, 2005) perceive African Americans as more athletic, and thus see the athletic identity as more important to them. Still, the chances, of any youth making it into professional sport are extremely low: 4 in 100,000 for a white male and 2 in 100,000 for an African American male (Messner, 1990; Humara, 1999). Even with such resounding statistics, young African American boys continue to be socialized into sport with a preoccupation on their future, which can have far reaching effects. Many of these problems are characterized within but not limited to what Edwards (1992) calls the Triple Tragedy, which identifies how the emphasis (by media and society) on sport for African Americans perpetuates stereotypes about African Americans, while simultaneously limiting the opportunities, both perceived and real for African American boys, all of which can influence the development of African American boys' identities. While concerns surrounding the Triple Tragedy have been acknowledged, "social scientists know little about the mechanisms and contextual processes that influence identity development among African American youths" (Murry, Brody, McNair, Luo, Gibbons, Gerrard & Wills, 2006: 628). In this study, through in depth interviews of African American boys and their guardians, we look beyond the existence of an athletic identity and instead attempt to more deeply understand the process of developing an athletic identity for African American boys and why this development carries such importance for the boys, and their families.

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