Equity affects nearly all aspects of our lives none less than sports such as beach volleyball. Sport is an integral part of today’s society and as such, sport should be organised, participated in and distributed in an equitable manner. The aim of equity in sports is to encourage all people, regardless of age, gender, disability or ethnic origin to participate in and develop their potential within sport. Disputes over equity have been apparent in our society for hundreds of years, over such things as gender, religion or race.
A framework developed by Figueroa deals with equity. It consists of five levels that link together – individual, interpersonal, institutional, structural and cultural. The following paragraphs demonstrate the use of Figueroa Framework as a tool to analyse the barriers to my performance in beach volleyball and part of this involves a peer evaluation (Appendix A). Each of these levels interacts with equity issues in various ways. These numerous levels deal with social beliefs, values, social position, power, media coverage, resources and rewards (Kirk et al, 2004).
Each of the five levels mentioned above relates to the others in some way. Equity and Access Two concepts that are important to sociology are the closely linked ideas of equity and access. Equity is studied to determine whether resources are distributed fairly to all members of a society. Sociologists also study whether all individuals within a society have access to resources or whether barriers or obstacles are in place to prevent certain groups of people from accessing them.
In sport, studying equity and access helps us to understand why some people are less likely than others to participate in sport and physical activity. Different types of barriers—which can vary from the financial cost of sporting equipment to cultural attitudes about the types of activities that are appropriate for males and females—can restrict individuals’ access to some sports and physical activities. Many would argue that it is impossible to provide exactly the same opportunities and access to all members of society.
For example, is it realistic to expect that a teenager living on a remote cattle station will have the same access to surfing as another teenager living in a coastal town? While some barriers, such as distance, cannot easily be overcome, many barriers that relate to people’s beliefs and attitudes about sport and physical activity can be removed. The study of equity and access in sport is primarily about reducing and removing the unreasonable and irrelevant barriers to participation—such as discrimination, prejudices and stereotyping.
This may require a shift in current attitudes. For these reasons, the sociological study of access and equity in sport looks primarily at social attitudes and expectations that create barriers to participation—in particular, how such barriers are formed, how they are reinforced, how they influence individuals’ behaviour Cultural level History, cultural identity, socialisation, social construction of gender stereotypes, hegemonic masculinity, ethnic background Structural level Policies, funding, media, development programs, marketing, sponsorship Institutional level
Community, school, facilities, rules, religion Interpersonal level Peers, family, teachers, coaches, role models Interpersonal level Peers, family, teachers, coaches, role models Individual level Values, attitudes, personality, genes The cultural level The cultural level of Figueroa’s framework includes a society’s values, beliefs and attitudes, which are the product of factors that include the social group’s history, culture and ethnic background. Society’s values, beliefs and attitudes shape and infl uence equity in and access to sport.
For example, consider the cultural attitudes to masculinity, femininity and sport. Traditionally, sport has been seen as a male domain; women have been seen as supporters or as people without interest in sport. Sports that are appropriate for men and those that are appropriate for women have been clearly differentiated. As these cultural barriers are slowly removed, women are gaining greater access and opportunities in sport. A society’s history and culture also affect sporting culture in other ways.
Cultural factors can infl uence the type of sports that individuals within that society participate in. For example, consider the sports that are regularly watched or played in Queensland. Are they different from the sports preferred in Western Australia or somewhere further away, such as Canada? Such differences are the results of different sporting cultures. The structural level The structural level of Figueroa’s framework includes the infl uence of government, business and the media.
Applying this level of Figueroa’s framework to sport means investigating the relationship between the media and sports promotion, the allocation of government funding for sports programs, and how the corporate sector affects sport and sports participation through sponsorship and other funding. For example, the Australian government funds and operates several organisations—such as the Australian Sports Commission—that aim to improve sports participation, promote equity and access to sport for all Australians, and improve Australians’ sporting performance.
It is the structural level that provides many insights into how funding is allocated to sport. The institutional level The institutional level of Figueroa’s framework level examines the institutions within society that affect sport and physical activity. Institutions such as schools, community groups, sporting clubs, and religious groups are able to help shape positive attitudes to sport and physical activity. Schools feature prominently when discussing how people’s early attitudes towards sport are shaped. Some schools with strong sporting traditions reinforce participation in sport.
The sports that students are encouraged to participate in can depend on the school’s history and traditions, the facilities and equipment available, and the expertise of the teachers. The institutional level is not just about the influence of schools; it also looks at the availability of facilities and the structure of organised sport within a community. The rules of different sports are also considered as part of an analysis of the institutional level. Sporting rules, which are determined and standardised by sports’ governing organisations, can restrict access to certain groups and individuals.
The interpersonal level The interpersonal level of Figueroa’s framework is used to investigate the relationships that affect whether an individual will develop a lifelong association with sport. Most of us are influenced, directly or indirectly, by the people around us. Whose role is the most crucial? Parents? Peers? Siblings? Teachers? Coaches? Sporting role models? The individual level The individual level of Figueroa’s framework examines why individuals choose to participate in physical activity. The reasons vary from person to person.
For many people, the word ‘exercise’ is associated with images of unpleasant, vigorous activity that just makes them dirty, sweaty and uncomfortable. Others see exercise as something they must do to improve fitness or as a normal part of their daily life. For others, exercise is something that they do for enjoyment. While each of the other levels has some bearing, decisions about sport and physical activity are ultimately made by the individual. Genes, values, attitudes and personalities are specific to each individual. This is reflected in differences between family members.