Sport and development in South African Women’s Football : the reciprocal effects of socialization

Date: September 15, 2014
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Socialisation is an interactive reciprocal process that shapes the way individuals think, act and make decisions. Through the sport socialisation process, over time individuals acquire beliefs and behaviours that affect other areas of their life, including education, family relations and peer interactions. Socialisation affects the lives of the participant’s significant others and socialising agents, who demonstrate changes in the way they view women’s football, interact with the player and assist with domestic duties. These processes occur in the public and private spheres and are closely associated with cultural perspectives of masculine and feminine gender identity construction. Four theories underpin the research, namely figurational theory, critical feminism, interactionism and cognitive development theory. This thesis examines the effects of female football participation in family dynamics, school and community relations, as well as individual identity formation and the challenges and benefits related to participation. For this comprehensive case study approach mixed methods were used (i.e. interviews, focus groups and questionnaires). The study focused on 21 cases of female football players in two South African locations, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Interviews were conducted with 21 players that played in leagues organised by the South African Football Association. In each location there was a senior team that played in the provincial leagues and an under-15 team that played in the regional leagues. Interviews were conducted with 48 significant others (individuals who influence the self-esteem, emotions and behaviour of a person, including mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents), four coaches, seven administrators, and eleven school representatives. Focus groups took place at four schools in each location in which 258 students participated. Questionnaires were conducted in the communities around each of the selected schools, incorporating the perspectives of 169 respondents. The data was analysed with the assistance of Atlas.ti 6.2 and SPSS 20. Football in South Africa occurs within a context of poverty with the legacy of apartheid remaining in terms of limited access to resources, poor provision of sports facilities, unemployment, fragmented families, and lack of educational opportunities. These factors continued to affect the prospects of sport participation. Understanding hegemonic masculinity as the dominant ideology in the townships provides a background to analyse how men control the limited physical resources and public sport spaces, requiring girls to gain access through a male proxy or gatekeeper. Once females acquire access they are able to gain acceptable and legitimacy through demonstrating their competencies and success in competitions. Socialisation through sport occurs as girls are occupied in safe, controlled spaces with adult supervision rather than become involved in deviant behaviours. In these settings female footballers acquired positive behaviours and improved attributes such as time management, discipline, respect and self-efficacy. Their participation resulted in a reduction of social distance between them and their teacher-coaches, which improved the learning climate fostering trusting relationships. As the girls were socialised into football, some adopted masculine behaviours and appearance. In some cases tomboy behaviour merged into homosexuality (lesbianism) with the rejection of feminine role identification of ‘mother’ and ‘wife’. The team in the Cape Town setting openly promoted heterosexuality compared to the team in Johannesburg, where coach and players were accepting and receptive towards players who expressed a variety of sexualities. This resulted in four individuals identifying as lesbian or bisexual within the research participants. The responses by their family members were complex and varied. Siblings encouraged the acceptability for other family members, whereas fathers were absent or oblivious and mothers were highly critical based on their religious and cultural traditions. Mothers experienced failure of not socialising their daughters into the social role that is perceived to encapsulate womanhood (as wife and mother). Perceptions regarding women’s football are changing in the public discourse to become more supportive. This is informed by a democratic South African consciousness and human justice framework that encourages greater acceptance of women’s roles in positions of power. Increased resource allocation through sponsorships and government programmes affords additional opportunities for female participation as well as encouragement for participants. Recommendations emerging from this thesis are useful to maintain the growth and support of women’s football. Structural adjustments are necessary within South African football in terms of increasing the amount of leagues and tournaments available for women and girls, leadership opportunities and long-term athlete development plans. Changes in practices that are vital to women’s football include equality of resource allocation, stakeholder engagement and media exposure. These changes require government and SAFA support to materialise, as well as continued alterations in individual, family and community attitudes, behaviours and practices. As women’s football in South African continues to grow and develop the opportunities for forthcoming research are plentiful. Utilising a mixed method comprehensive case study approach, becoming intimately involved in the research context, and providing opportunities for local voices to be heard can meaningfully inform future policies and practices.

Publisher: University of Johannesburg
Year of Publication: 2014
Download : 19479_ogunniyi_c_2014.pdf

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