Research Topic

Youth, Young People and Sport from the 19th Century to Modern Day

About this Research Topic

This Research Topic is based on the 2019 CESH Congress organised by the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Sport Sciences and the Social and Political Sciences Faculty. The congress and this Research Topic will explore issues related to Youth, Young People and Sport across the 19th 20th and 21st Century, and is open to papers presented at this congress as well as to any interested researchers from outside the congress.

The theme for 2019 CESH Congress and this Research Topic was chosen in response to the fact that, even though sport is commonly associated with youth, few sports historians have focused on the issue of age. Indeed, research into the history of sport has tended to concentrate on aspects such as sportspeople’s/spectators’ national, social, gender or racial identities, rather than on age/age groups. Hence, the aim of this Research Topic is to encourage historians to embrace the issues of age and age groups and to adopt an intersectional approach (nation, class, social group, race, gender) in order to assess the role played by young people in the emergence, development, spread and consumption of sport and sporting cultures. Contributions may be bottom-up, examining young people as actors in the history of sport, top-down, exploring the effects on young people of policies drawn up for them by adults, or, better, both bottom-up and top-down.

Although the term “sport” is used here in its widest sense and to cover all forms of bodily exercise, researchers are encouraged to use and examine the actual terms the actors involved used to describe their activities. In addition, “youth” and “young people” are necessarily plural concepts, as definitions of age groups and the symbolic functions associated with them vary considerably between different societies and periods of history. Indeed, historians, sociologists, ethnologists and anthropologists have shown that the ages at which childhood and youth begin and end vary from one civilisation to another, from one social category to another, from one gender to another, and from one era to another. What is the case from a sports perspective?

This Research Topic is particularly interested in papers that explore the following themes:

• At what age do children start or stop doing sport in different societies? Does giving up sport signal entry to the adult world?
• Could doing sport be seen as a heuristic criterion for defining the transitional state of youth?
• Do boys leave the often-maternal world of childhood games by adopting masculine sports rituals? Do girls adopt new forms of exercise as they get older?
• Where there are age distinctions with respect to sports, how did they arise? Do these age categories reflect age categories in the rest of society, or are they sports specific?
• Is it possible to identify “youth sports groups”, that is, communities of young people whose identity is based on their young age and their sports activities? What becomes of these communities of young sportspeople when their members become adults?
• Do young sportspeople feel particular emotions that are specific to their age? Once they become adults, how much nostalgia do they retain for their sporting pasts?
• Do young sportspeople see themselves primarily as sportspeople or as young people? Is there a methodological risk in reducing them to that of “sportsperson”?
• What part do young people play in the institutions that run sport? Do young people take the initiative to create clubs, leagues or federations?
• In terms of other forms of power exercised by adults over sporting practices (political, medical, educational, military, religious, professional), what impact do they have on young people?


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

This Research Topic is based on the 2019 CESH Congress organised by the University of Lausanne’s Institute of Sport Sciences and the Social and Political Sciences Faculty. The congress and this Research Topic will explore issues related to Youth, Young People and Sport across the 19th 20th and 21st Century, and is open to papers presented at this congress as well as to any interested researchers from outside the congress.

The theme for 2019 CESH Congress and this Research Topic was chosen in response to the fact that, even though sport is commonly associated with youth, few sports historians have focused on the issue of age. Indeed, research into the history of sport has tended to concentrate on aspects such as sportspeople’s/spectators’ national, social, gender or racial identities, rather than on age/age groups. Hence, the aim of this Research Topic is to encourage historians to embrace the issues of age and age groups and to adopt an intersectional approach (nation, class, social group, race, gender) in order to assess the role played by young people in the emergence, development, spread and consumption of sport and sporting cultures. Contributions may be bottom-up, examining young people as actors in the history of sport, top-down, exploring the effects on young people of policies drawn up for them by adults, or, better, both bottom-up and top-down.

Although the term “sport” is used here in its widest sense and to cover all forms of bodily exercise, researchers are encouraged to use and examine the actual terms the actors involved used to describe their activities. In addition, “youth” and “young people” are necessarily plural concepts, as definitions of age groups and the symbolic functions associated with them vary considerably between different societies and periods of history. Indeed, historians, sociologists, ethnologists and anthropologists have shown that the ages at which childhood and youth begin and end vary from one civilisation to another, from one social category to another, from one gender to another, and from one era to another. What is the case from a sports perspective?

This Research Topic is particularly interested in papers that explore the following themes:

• At what age do children start or stop doing sport in different societies? Does giving up sport signal entry to the adult world?
• Could doing sport be seen as a heuristic criterion for defining the transitional state of youth?
• Do boys leave the often-maternal world of childhood games by adopting masculine sports rituals? Do girls adopt new forms of exercise as they get older?
• Where there are age distinctions with respect to sports, how did they arise? Do these age categories reflect age categories in the rest of society, or are they sports specific?
• Is it possible to identify “youth sports groups”, that is, communities of young people whose identity is based on their young age and their sports activities? What becomes of these communities of young sportspeople when their members become adults?
• Do young sportspeople feel particular emotions that are specific to their age? Once they become adults, how much nostalgia do they retain for their sporting pasts?
• Do young sportspeople see themselves primarily as sportspeople or as young people? Is there a methodological risk in reducing them to that of “sportsperson”?
• What part do young people play in the institutions that run sport? Do young people take the initiative to create clubs, leagues or federations?
• In terms of other forms of power exercised by adults over sporting practices (political, medical, educational, military, religious, professional), what impact do they have on young people?


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 April 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 April 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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