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Sociological Reasons for Sports Participation: A Bourdieusian Approach

Info: 24515 words (98 pages) Dissertation
Published: 15th Dec 2021

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Tagged: SociologySports


This study will draw on the work of Pierre Bourdieu and will explore the sociological factors that influence young people’s participation in physical activity. While acknowledging inequalities in access, money and opportunities, this study seeks to extend beyond this focus and examine the deeper and more subtle mechanisms that can influence participation. This research will then discuss how these subtle influences can enhance participation and the likelihood of reaching elite performance and success.

To achieve this research project; ten fourteen-year-old adolescents from different educational institutions and socioeconomic backgrounds were interviewed. This offered an accurate representation of the institutions and illuminated differing experiences and perceptions regarding physical activity involvement.

The study proposes (demonstrates) that participation in physical activity correlates with social class, and dominant classes experience of subtle mechanisms enhances their participation and chances of achieving elite success. Alongside this, young people’s economic, social and physical capitals also had significant influences on their participation rates.

Key words: social class – physical activity – Bourdieu – education – capitals

Chapter 1: Introduction

Current class inequalities are more prevalent than ever before and continue to indoctrinate and shape all aspects of life, including the prevailing inequalities that influence physical activity involvement (Green and Smith, 2016; Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005). In the contemporary moment, physical activity is deemed to be an essential factor to living a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle (Enström, 2008; Duncan et al., 2004), and an individual’s social class is an extremely powerful factor that determines actions, behaviours and life choices regarding sports participation (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Macdonald et al., 2004). Wright, Macdonald and Groom (2003) proposes that participation in physical activity is ‘context-dependent’ and is closely correlated with wider notions of one’s socioeconomic status and position in society. It is commonly stated that middle-classes have far greater levels of participation than lower-classes (Wright, Macdonald and Groom, 2003; Wheeler and Green, 2012). Correspondingly, recent research stated that those with the lowest levels of income and time scarcity experience a 22% increase in inactivity (Venn and Strazdins, 2017). Therefore, gaining knowledge and understanding of the factors that affect physical activity habits of young people are of immense importance (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Department of Health, 2004).

An additional feature of social class and physical activity involvement is the relationship with education, and this has sparked particular interest in recent debates about athlete’s profiles during major sporting events, such as the Olympics (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). Past literature such as Hoolihan et al. (2000) has suggested independent schools have better access, opportunities and facilities than the state sector (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Wechsler et al., 2000; Davidson and Lawson, 2006), and there is a strong relationship between independent sectors and sports participation. In the build-up to London 2012, various prominent figures expressed the unequal opportunities for participation in different educational sectors, and Lord Moynihan, the chair of the British Olympic Association, asserted it is a shocking statistic in British sport (BBC News, 2012). It is regarded that an independent education leads to a superior experience of physical education (Giles-Corti and Donovan, 2002) and as a result, it has been argued that this has resulted in the underrepresentation of state-educated, lower-class individuals in mega sporting events (Sutton Trust, 2012; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013).

The issues surrounding the underrepresentation of state-educated individuals competing at an elite level has been identified as a leading problem and has directed a plethora of initiatives. However, a recent report from the Sutton Trust proposes a new generation of state-educated Olympic medallists – such as Laura Trott and Mo Farah – is defying the traditional dominance of independent schools in elite sports (Sutton Trust, 2016). As a result, this contradictory statement has created a multifaceted and perplexing debate. The economic backgrounds of elite athletes only demonstrate a part of the explanation (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013), and this research project is adopting a nuanced sociological analysis, attempting to explore deeper than just access, money and opportunities and focusing on the impact that subtle and symbolic mechanisms can have on the likelihood of reaching elite performances. To achieve this, this study is going to draw on the work of leading sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and his theory on capitals.

Scholars have drawn on a number of Bourdieu’s concepts while discussing inequalities. Within Bourdieu’s theoretical framework, he identifies that inequalities and social structure are reproduced through relations of power. Bourdieu highlights how these relations of power are influenced by cultural practices that operate to differentiate social groups and ultimately impact habitual dispositions and tastes. In the next section of this introduction, a theoretical underpinning of Bourdieu’s concepts is going to be presented. Subsequently, this will lead to the literature review whereby Bourdieu’s concepts and other studies will be analysed.

1:1 Economic capital

Bourdieu’s proposes that economic capital is the foundation that influences all other forms of capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Horne et al., 2011; Redelius and Hay, 2009), all leading to the production and reproduction of class hierarchies. According to Bourdieu, economic capital is the financial resources, assets and monetary income that an individual possesses (Anheier et al., 1995; Bourdieu, 1986).

1:2 Cultural capital

While economic capital forms the centre of social class, cultural capitals also acts as a grease that reinforces hierarchy in society, influencing and producing class based inequalities (Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005; Coalter, 2007). In a broad sense, common aspects of cultural capital include forms of knowledge, skills and understanding, as well as educational attainment that is ingrained in the family habitus. (Coalter, 2007). Based on this foundation, cultural capital is typologized into three states of mind; embodied, objectified and institutionalized (Bourdieu, 1986; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014).

Many of the properties of cultural capital can be understood from the fact that, in its central state, it is related to the body and assumes embodiment. Embodied cultural capital comprises of the long-lasting dispositions of the mind and the body, forming an integral part of the individual and its habitus (Edgerton and Roberts, 2014). Bourdieu suggests that this type of cultural capital can be acquired and passively inherited through socialisation with family and traditions (Bourdieu, 1986). Secondly, cultural capital in the objectified state refers to cultural material objects and media, for example, writings, paintings and monuments (Bourdieu, 1986; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014). Thus cultural objectified goods can be transmissible in its materiality, and can, therefore, be assumed both materially – which awards economic gain – and symbolically – supposing ownership of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986). Finally, the third state is the institutionalized state. This refers to credentials and qualifications possessed by an individual such as a degree or title that act as a certificate of cultural competence and symbolises authority (Bourdieu, 1986; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014).

1:3 Social capital

Bourdieu (1986) continues to link social class divide to the concept of social capital. Social capital relates to a durable network of relationships and social ties that can be beneficial to an individual (Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005). Typically, the relationships attained between, for example, schools, families, friends and peers (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). The volume of social capital owned by an individual depends on the extent of networks of connections they can effectively mobilise. Through the exposure to different social environments, an individual will gain connections that will enable themselves to mobilise within different settings, undergoing continuous processes of affirmation and reaffirmation, and thus leading to the enhancement of other forms of capital (Bourdieu, 1986).

Bourdieu proposes that these relationships may occur for practical purposes, in material and/or symbolic exchanges that help to retain them (Bourdieu, 1986). The continuation of networks and ties is a product of ongoing effort aimed at creating new or reproducing current social ties that are usable in the short or long term (Bourdieu, 1986; DeFilippis, 2001). Predictably, a middle-class individual will have a larger scope of social networks and ties, deliberately forming such relationships and networks for their personal benefits, and designed to secure their relative position in society (Field, 2003; cited in Coalter, 2007).

1:4 Physical capital

Moreover, another form of capital in Bourdieu’s work is physical capital. The production of physical capital refers to the development of bodies in ways which are identified as possessing value and status in the social fields (Shilling, 2004). These values tend to focus on the physical attributes and abilities (the size, shape and look of the body) and are embodied in certain practices and environments. As with all forms of capital, the possession and influence of physical capital is unequal as it is reliant on one’s position in social class (Holoryd, 2002).

According to Bourdieu, the development of physical capital is through interrelationships that exist between “social location, the ‘habitus’ and taste” (Shilling, 1991, p. 654). Shilling articulates Bourdieu’s work and proposes that working-classes develop their taste through contexts in which individuals have limited time free from necessity, and they foster an instrumental orientation to the body (Shilling, 1991). Consequently, the body is viewed as a means to an end and this influences activity choices and tastes. On the other hand, the taste of dominant classes tends to be positioned by enhanced distance from necessity (Shilling, 1991; Bourdieu, 1985). Accordingly, they view the body as an end in itself, positioned as a long-term project that value health, appearances and physique. Bourdieu’s view on taste, however, is not static. He denotes that taste and orientations with the body can be re-formed through variations in cultural and economic capital and these will continue to impact after the original tastes have been moulded (Holoryd, 2002).

Therefore, theorists maintain that an individual’s position in society heavily influences their orientations with their body, and predicts their behaviours and actions (Shilling, 1991; Bourdieu, 1985; Storr and Spaaij, 2017; Duncan et al., 2004).

Consequently, class divisions and the possession of forms of capital continue to intensify class inequalities, increasing the attainment gap that dominates society.

1:5 Sporting capital

Sporting capital is a newer form of capital, with Bourdieu and Shilling perceiving it to be closely related to physical capital (Rowe, 2015; Evans and Penney, 2008), and is equally impacted by class inequalities. For instance, Rowe (2015) states that sporting capital is centrally about the foundations and causes that influence participation in sport. As mentioned in the physical capital section, the class-based relationship and orientations an individual has with their body predicts participation rates and involvement in certain sports (Shilling, 1991). Based on this foundation, an individual’s sporting capital is influenced and shaped by physical capital attributes and the tastes and orientation an individual has with their body (Shilling, 1991).

Similarly to physical capital, sporting capital is formed through one’s education, values and experience and is also predisposed by fundamental socio-cultural aspects set by “parents, family, peers, teachers, coaches, leaders” (Rowe, 2015, p. 45; Ferry and Lund, 2016). Due to an individual’s physical capital, middle-classes – that tend to view their body as a project – have greater sporting capital and greater chances of participation. Thus, continuing to reinforce and enrich their possession physical capital. Consequently, due to the socio-cultural context that influences sporting capital, this would imply that this form of capital, similarly to all other forms of capital, is not equally distributed and through a process of socialisation, class differences and inequalities are created (Rowe, 2015).

1:6 Habitus

Alongside forms of capital, Bourdieu also proposes the habitus, and this is considered a central factor that adds to the development the body (Bourdieu, 1984). The habitus can be portrayed as an embodied form of capital, a system of dispositions and beliefs that are imprinted on the body and senses, shaping how the individual acts, behaves and understands their environment (Bourdieu, 1990; Holt, 1998; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014; Engström, 2008). Each individual has their own independently formulated habitus that is moulded through a process of socialization during childhood (Stuij, 2015; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). This occurs through surroundings and interactions with family members and other social groups, for example, schools, friends and communities (Edgerton and Roberts, 2014). This means that when individuals have comparable living surroundings, practices and experiences, the habitus, although independently formulated, will also be identifiable at class or social group level (Engström, 2008).

1:7 Conversions

The outline of this theoretical underpinning demonstrates how Bourdieu’s theories will apply to the sociological influences on participation in physical activity and the likelihood of reaching elite success.

This research acknowledges the interplay and interactions between Bourdieu’s theories, a term he referred to as ‘conversions’ (Bourdieu,1986; Bourdieu, 1978; Storr and Spaaij, 2017; Alder & Kwon, 2002). Bourdieu expresses the ownership of any form of capital can strengthen the power of one or the capability to develop another (Storr and Spaaij, 2017; Alder and Kwon, 2002; Shilling, 2004; Holrody, 2002; Douglas & Isherwood, 1979). Similarly to the findings from Reay (2004) and Edgerton & Roberts, (2014), the interviews from this study highlights conversions. For example, the parent’s rich in economic capital had the resources to increase their children’s cultural, social and physical capital, while also aligning with forming a stronger habitus.

Notably, an individual’s possession of capital, as well as their habitus, predicts everything an individual may choose to do; influencing the choice, frequency and motivation to participate in physical activity. In other words, the link between exercise and social position is a significant issue (Enström, 2008) and providing a nuanced sociological approach, extending beyond simply the influence of facilities, access and opportunities are imperative to show deeper class-based inequalities that dominate sport and physical activity.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Drawing on the theoretical underpinnings of Bourdieu’s work, this literature review is going to explore existing research that has investigated sociological reasons that impact participation rates, and will also explore other factors such as opportunities and facilities. According to Bourdieu (1984), dispositions that impel an individual towards physical activity ascends from a complex interaction of various economic, cultural, social and physical factors. It is these various interactions that form one’s habits, identity and coherences them towards physical activity, all of which are features of one’s social class (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007).

2:1 Facilities and opportunities

An explanation for the inequalities in sports participation has been continually linked to facilities and schools (Stidder, 2015; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). Research has pointed to the pivotal role that facilities play in contributing to privileged individuals having greater levels of participation and success at a top level (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). For example, an independent institution’s superb facilities, infrastructure and resources result in the production and reproduction of class inequalities, and further fuel middle-class individual’s superiority in elite involvement and achievement (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). Recent research from Eime et al. (2017) and Evans and Bairner (2012) explored the correlation between facilities, opportunities and success in sport. Evans and Bairner’s research analysed a private school in Wellington that has sixteen rugby pitches, two floodlit AstroTurfs and four hundred acres of playing fields, and compared this to the local state school with one field and set of courts. Both studies reported a strong correlation between participation rates and provisions of facilities (Eime et al., 2017; Evans and Bairner, 2012).

Alongside high-class facilities, research also suggests that opportunities to participate in a breadth of sports also lead to inequalities. Importantly, Enstrom (2008) stated that experiencing vast breadth in sport at a young age resulted in double the exercise habits thirty-eight years later. Consequently, as a result of the current research findings, Evans and Bairner (2012) question whether middle-class individuals are naturally more gifted in sport, or, are they simply better equipped in terms of resources, facilities and opportunities? Henceforth, there is little surprise that participation rates of dominant classes are far greater and elite success is far more comprehensible when engrossed in top-quality facilities and the resources to maintain it (Evans and Bairner, 2012; Stidder, 2015; Sutton Trust, 2016).

Furthermore, research has further explored the link between inequalities and facilities and the impact this has on participation in recreational environments.

Sallis et al. (2001) proposed that during break times, schools with access to better facilities and equipment resulted in greater engagement and levels of participation.

In fact, Wechsler et al. (2000) reported that a lack of facilities hinders participation in sport and physical activity. Consequently, as a result of this research Sallis et al. (2001) suggests that schools need to improve and increase their facilities to enhance participation rates, as well as making all facilities free and accessible during and after the school day. However, opportunities for funding requirements for school facilities are liable to act as a hurdle for increased participation (Greenfield et al. (2016). Although the current report from Sutton Trust (2016) reports that the rise in state-educated Olympians is due to enhanced investment in school sport, simply looking to the process of schools to promote participation, whilst overlooking wider social inequalities, is liable to have little influence on the persistence of inequalities in sports involvement (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). Therefore, my research project is assuming a nuanced sociological perspective, offering a deeper understanding than just access, money and opportunities and focusing on the impact that subtle mechanisms can have on the likelihood of participation and reaching an elite standard.

2:2 Economic capital

The literature review is now going to discuss sociological factors that influence participation, exploring current research studies that have drawn on Bourdieu’s concepts.

Bourdieu proposed that economic capital underpins all other forms of capital (Horne et al., 2011). It is commonly predicted that individuals with strong economic capital have the greatest levels of participation in sport and physical activity (Scheerder et al., 2005; Wilson, 2002; Duncan et al., 2004; Stiddler, 2015; Pampel, Krueger and Denney, 2010; Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005). Significantly, it has been suggested that reasons for this could be because middle-class choices in sport are less likely to be impacted by lack of resources, income, work commitments and time than those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (Stiddler, 2015; Wilson, 2002). Participation in sport and physical activity often demand both money and time, and dominant classes have more of both (Bourdieu, 1978; Coakley, 1998).

Based on this foundation, it is suggested that access to participation is profoundly influenced by the possession of economic capital (Evans and Davies, 2010) and research from Wilson (2002) and Eime et al. (2015) both reported that any or regular physical activity involvement increased through one’s socioeconomic status. In fact, Wilson stated that women in the lowest income group are less than half as probable to be involved in sports than the top income group (34.4% vs. 69.7%). Similarly, for men, participation rates also vary considerably, with 73.7% sports involvement from high income and education groups against 45.0% for men in the lowest income bracket (Wilson, 2002).

The assumption that economic capital enhances participation in sport and physical activity is commonly supported by multiple theorists and has led to a multitude of initiatives (Sport England, 2017; Green and Hardman, 2005; Stuji, 2015). The evidence presented in these research studies emphasises that current UK government approaches intended to ‘support and guide everyone to participation’ may not be sufficient to changing low-income groups behaviours (Withall, Jago and Fox, 2011; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). As a result, the possession of economic capital creates vast inequalities in physical activity and can be seen as a leading factor in the likelihood of participation. Although current initiatives have targeted economic inequalities in sport – seen through offering cheap or free physical activity – merely looking to this as a quick-fix for deeply rooted inequalities is likely to have little impact on participation rates (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Wheeler and Green, 2012). Therefore, a contemporary and deeper understanding of class inequalities is required, extending beyond economic status and exploring the potential subtle sociological disparities between classes and further investigating social inequalities in sports participation.

2:3 Cultural Capital

It is widely acknowledged that forming cultural capital during childhood increases the likelihood of exercise habits in later life (Shilling, 1993; Engström, 2008; Warde, 2006). In support of this statement, longitudinal research from Engström’s (2008) proposed that those rich in cultural capital at fifteen-years-old have a five times greater chance of continued participation in physical activity at the age of fifty-three. While individuals with a low level of cultural capital at fifteen, only 19% still engaged in physical activity.

Corresponding research has identified a school site as an environment for cultural capital to be reproduced. Horne et al. (2011) completed research on Scottish independent school and the impact this has on cultural capital. This study analysed three independent schools and reported that all three forms of cultural capital (embodied, institutionalized and objectified) were enhanced in the independent sector. The independent schools developed students embodied capital through their curricular and extra-curricular activities, installing habits and dispositions that are deemed essential for positive futures (Horne et al., 2011), for example, embodied values of hard work, hard play and commitment. Additionally, Horne et al. (2011) reported cultural capital was objectified in these schools through the buildings, grounds and architecture, as well as the objects inside them. Horne et al. (2011) proposed that paintings and presentations of head teachers and former influential members of staff acted to remind students of the schools past, history and heritages. Finally, institutionalized cultural capital was apparent in independent schools through the importance placed on academic success and achievement. In these organisations, the vast array of subject choices, support and performance in examinations were viewed with pride and superiority.

More specifically, research from Dagkas and Stathi (2007) particularly explored the impact of influential figures – specifically teachers and parents – and reported that they appeared to pass on values to adolescents that positively impacted their desires to participate in sport. Dagkas and Stathi reported that teachers passed on and installed cultural values such as ‘motivation’, ‘determination’ and ‘commitment’ to their pupils, driving participation rates through offering guidance and expertise. Unsurprisingly, Dagkas and Stathi (2007) proposed that these values, alongside superior facilities and opportunities, led to greater participation rates in independently educated students. However, in their comparison study, they reported that state-educated individuals did not propose that their teachers encouraged or motivated them to partake in physical activity or school sports to the same extent as the independently educated students stated. As a result, the development of these values was not equally reciprocated to state-educated individuals (Dagkas and Stathi’s, 2007; Horne et al., 2011). In further investigation of this movement, this questions whether teachers in the independent sector continue to instil subtle cultural values (Haegele et al., 2016), or, is it state-educated student’s mindset and social environments that hinder the positive and encouraging environment that shapes independent school’s ethos?

Alongside schools exacerbating cultural inequalities, parents of middle-classes also appeared to pass on and reinforce similar cultural values and life-skills to their offspring. Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu (2016) conducted recent research in Norway and reported that middle-class parents believed sport to be activity that is good, healthy and beneficial, and were more likely to encourage in their children the skills, competencies and attitudes that are deemed valuable throughout life. This theme relates to ‘concerted cultivation’ that Larea (2011) proposed for middle-class parenting. In this study, concerted cultivation appeared through middle-class parents ensuring their offspring develop optimal values and skills that are considered to lead to success in the future (Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu, 2016). Henceforth, the emphasising on these values assisted in installing and creating mindsets that are aspirational, determined and committed (Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu, 2016).

Importantly, this research, therefore, contends that strong parental involvement results in middle-class adolescents forming certain attitudes, dispositions and desires for future success (Horne et al., 2011; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). Based on these foundations, it can be argued that children that don’t experience similar parental support have reduced dispositions for the future. During Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu’s study, lower-class parents took a more relaxed approach to sport and didn’t drive and embolden participation in their children. As a result, lower-class parents didn’t reinforce similar skills and values in their children, forming different attitudes, desires and aspirations for their offspring (Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu’s, 2016; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). However, opposing arguments from Wheeler and Green (2012) contend that this occurs through a reproduction process of ‘family culture’ and habitus, and this can help explain Larea’s (2011) theory on parental practice and working-class families lack of regard for support and encouragement in organized activities.

There is little reservation that in the Western World participation in sport and physical activity is a social marker and a life that centres exercise illuminate’s possession of cultural capital; and is considered to have greater value (Shilling, 1993). From this research, it is apparent that middle-class adolescents are reinforced with greater cultural capital, particularly embodied cultural values passed on through teachers and parents. Consequently, this impacts their attitudes, desires, determination and commitment to participate (Warde, 2006; Horne et al., 2011; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu’s, 2016). Although this research has highlighted essential sociological factors that influence participation, my study will demonstrate more contemporary research, situated in the UK, giving more recent accounts of subtle cultural mechanism that can reproduce class inequalities within and outside educational institutions.

2:4 Social Capital

The term social capital is most commonly associated with relationship ties and networks of connections (Bourdieu, 1987; Crosnoe, 2004). The ability to access social capital when needed is particularly useful in sporting contexts (Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005).

While sport has been acknowledged to have many benefits, researchers have documented the contribution it makes to strengthening social networks and relationship ties (Delaney and Keaney, 2005). In support of this, research from Tacon (2013) and Perks (2007) discovered that early sporting involvement fostered and enriched social capital. Tacon (2013) reported that individuals stated a range of resources gained through involvement in sports and one participant stated to gain “concrete benefits through social ties” in sports (Tacon, 2013, p. 122). Henceforth, based on these research findings, and other corresponding research results, memberships and involvement in sports leads to greater experiences of network-mediated benefits, enhancing social capital (Tacon, 2013; Houlihan, 2007; Perks, 2007; Coalter, 2007).

More specifically, research from Dagkas and Stathi (2007) explored varying social networks between middle and lower-class adolescents, particularly focusing on networks of friends. Middle-class students appeared to have a broad network of social ties that was formed through various sporting commitments and practices. As a result, they didn’t state their friends as the utmost influential group for increasing involvement in physical activity, nonetheless, did enjoy participating with friends and this created a positive environment (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007).

Whereas, lower-class students reported that their friends were named as very strong influential figures and predicted the likelihood of sports participation. Similar research findings from Salvy et al. (2009) and Morrissey et al. (2015) also demonstrated and argued that friends were key motivators and encouraged involvement in physical activity for working-class individuals.

However, Dagkas and Stathi’s reported these networks and relationships could be problematic, and regularly hindered participation in lower-class children. For instance, lower-classes that experience analogous social environments gain connections with similar social groups (Delaney and Keaney, 2005). In these findings, due to a lack of parental support, lower-class adolescences spent vast amounts of their free time “hanging around with friends” (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007, p. 377), and not participating in physical activity because their friends – building their social networks – had low sporting involvement and desires. Consequently, Delaney and Keaney (2005) states that individuals that can invest in their social capital can increase connections with individuals that have similar targets, desire and ambitions (Collins, 2003; Roberts, 2001). Thus, leading to the onset of class-based inequalities in sport and physical activity.

Interestingly, conforming research has pointed to schools as a site for social capital inequalities to exacerbate. Independent institutions are continuing to provide greater opportunities for their pupils to enhance their social capital networks. Research from Horne et al. (2011) discovered independent institutions provided opportunities for external personnel to discuss student’s ambitions and trajectories and enabled opportunities for exchanges with successful individuals. This instigated the forming of networks and contacts for pupils that might help them in the future (Horne et al., 2011; Crosnoe, 2004). Additionally, independent institutions that deliver numerous variations of sporting competitions, as well as vast specialists coaching staff, provided further opportunities for intensive bonding and networking, increasing social capital ties (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Horne et al., 2011). However, these social capital enhancing activities are not replicated to the same extent in the state sectors, and as a result, state-educated individuals lack the opportunities to build networks and connections, reducing the prospects of improving their social capital (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013).

The vast majority of this literature points to middle-class individuals having greater opportunities to enhance their social capital and network ties. However, although this research offers valuable reflections of children in the UK, my research will demonstrate a more contemporary account of the impact of social capital relationships and highlight present correlations it may have with physical activity involvement and social classes.

2:5 Physical Capital

Theorists maintain that one’s position in society heavily influences individual’s orientations with their body, and predicts their sporting behaviours and actions (Shilling, 1991; Bourdieu, 1985; Storr and Spaaij, 2017; Duncan et al., 2004). Warde (2006), Featherstone (1985) and Dagkas and Stahi (2007) articulate a link between physical capital and indicators of sports involvement.

Following observations, independent institutions foster a specific attitude towards exercise and sport. As a result, they regard their body as an end in itself, viewing it as a long-term project and a duty to take care of their body (Warde, 2006; Featherstone, 1987; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). Accordingly, although somewhat dated, these studies reported that dominant classes performed fitness and health enhancing activities to maintain and further raise their possession of physical capital (Shilling, 1993; Wilson, 2000; Warde, 2006). Whereas, it is argued that lower-class students appear to have an instrumental orientation to their body, viewing it as a means to an end (Shilling, 1993). Consequently, for these groups, participation in sport occurred in an inadvertent environment and was not deemed essential to the future (Warde, 2006; Featherstone, 1987).

Although this research points towards middle-class individuals embracing a specific attitude towards exercise and sport, scholarly research exploring this area provides outdated accounts and cannot be generalizable to the contemporary moment. As a result, my research study will present current influences of physical capital and the impact this has on participation and likelihood of involvement in physical enhancing activities.

2:6 Habitus

Aforementioned in the theoretical underpinning, preferences and dispositions for particular sports for a male or female in a specific context (historical or contextual), can be socially deduced (Engström, 2008). It is stated that middle-classes have a stronger habitus and set of dispositions that drive their actions and behaviours to participate in physical activity and sport, resulting in greater levels of involvement (Stuij, 2015; Overdevest, 2014; Nielsen et al., 2012).

In support of this, Engström (2008) conducted a longitudinal research project in Sweden and proposed that young children with high levels of habitus have greater chances of participation when reaching adulthood. In fact, when aged 53; 65% of individuals with high levels of habitus were still active, compared to 19% with low levels of habitus (Engström, 2008). Significantly, the distinction Bourdieu forms between an individual and their class habitus (Ferry and Lund, 2016) indicates that young people with analogous social backgrounds and experiences could be presumed to have embodied similar dispositions (Haycock and Smith, 2014), and this could, therefore, explain why young people from higher educated families have greater sports participation and involvement than others do (Ferry and Lund, 2016).

Surprisingly, in the scholarly world, there appears to be a lack of contemporary research examples exploring the influence of habitus and participation in physical activity and sport. Although Engström’s study demonstrates the impact of habitus on future participation, accordingly, the lack of contemporary research examples based in the UK highlights the need for new research.

Once acquired the habitus is difficult to alter and change because new experiences are “perceived through categories already constructed by prior experiences” (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992, p.133). This is not to suggest, however, that an individual’s involvement in sport and physical activity continues unchanged from childhood onwards (Engström, 2008; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014). Indeed, other life events and alterations can have contributing impacts on increasing or decreasing levels of participation. Although, Wheeler (2011) argues that an increase or decrease in physical activity involvement is likely to depend on predispositions that have been moulded during childhood, and one’s ‘standard predisposition’ in a sociodemographic group can be used to illuminate this change.

This literature review has provided examples of sociological reasons that can influence participation, as well as exploring the impact of facilities, opportunities and access. From each section of this literature review, it can be suggested that the exercise habits of adolescents can be linked with social standing (Enström, 2008), and those from dominant classes have different experiences, beliefs and routines which mold their values, identities and disposition impelling them towards participation in sport and physical activity (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Macdonald et al., 2004; Wright et al. 2003).

2.7: The Purpose of my research

In searching for alternative explanations, this research is maintaining a Bourdieusian understanding of sociological reasons that influence young people’s involvement in sport and physical activity. The literature review has provided examples of other studies that have drawn on the work of Bourdieu and has offered further understandings of the sociological influences on sports participation. While my research is grounded in a Bourdieusian framework, it seeks to provide new sociological understandings and interpretations of subtle mechanisms experienced by pupils within and outside educational institutions in the UK. This will be achieved through interviews enabling student to voice their experiences, perceptions and opportunities in physical activity.

This research topic is in line with Smith, Haycock and Hulme’s (2013) contrasting argument stating that – despite governmental investment in sport – socioeconomic factors only demonstrate a part of the explanation, and doesn’t take into account the deeper sociological influences of participation; therefore a nuanced and richer analyse is required. This is important because not only does it highlight inequalities in access, money and opportunities, but also centralises more subtle and symbolic mechanisms that influence the likelihood of reaching elite performances.

This paper will, therefore, draw on Bourdieu’s concepts and seek to understand the sociological influences within and outside the school site.

Chapter 3: Methodology

To complete this research project, this study will adopt a qualitative approach and be situated within the humanistic paradigm. The project will use an interview methodology that will be analysed through key themes in a thematic analysis. Each of these sections will be discussed below.

3:1 Paradigm

Demonstrating methodological awareness is vital when conducting a research study (Denscombe, 2010). Maykut and Morehouse (1994) draw on this and propose understanding quantitative and qualitative approaches, as well as philosophical foundations, are essential for worthy research. Previously, societal values have emphasised the significance of quantitative approaches to collect data (Sparkes, 2013). In line with the current neoliberal society, research has been predisposed by the desire to produce certifiable, ‘gold standard’ and evidence-based data (Silk, Bush and Andrews, 2010; Mills, 2015; Denzin, 2009; Sparkes, 2013). Thus, research projects that adopt objective science research methods are likely to receive greater funding, increasing the motivation for quantitative research (Sparkes, 2013). Consequently, this research project is going to challenge this methodological fundamentalism, and adopt a qualitative approach (House, 2006). Hence, this research will discard the natural science model, and focus on developing an understanding of the social world through exploring behaviours and interactions that can be understood through ‘real world’ settings (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003; Silverman, 2006). Therefore, as a study exploring social injustice and inequalities, a qualitative approach is appropriate (Sparkes and Smith, 2014).

Social science research encompasses multiple paradigmatic approaches, and researchers select paradigms that are most suitable for the project, rather than selecting the ‘greatest’ in the entire field of social research (Markula and Silk, 2011). Denzin and Lincoln (2011) suggest that one’s paradigmatic approach underlines the whole research project, for example: from the data collection process to the judgement of the data (Markula and Silk, 2011). A paradigm follows a group of core beliefs, values and techniques that guide the researcher through the project (Sparkes and Smith, 2014). Therefore, the paradigmatic approach determines how researchers “understand reality and the nature of truth, how they understand what is knowledge, how they act and the role they undertake, how they understand participants, and how they disseminate knowledge” (Markula and Silk, 2011, p. 45). Engaging in a suitable paradigm is important because it creates boundaries that direct the project, impacting each stage of the research, and most importantly enabling the correct methodological practice that will gain the data required to complete the research project (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003; Markula and Silk, 2011).

By critically exploring social inequalities in schools and the impact this has on sport and physical activity, this project will assume a humanistic logic but will be mainly framed by the critical paradigm (Markula and Silk, 2011; Denzin and Lincoln, 2011). However, by gaining an understanding of current dominant social forces in schools, and how cultural exchanges are not static, sensibilities of the interpretive paradigm will also be recognised throughout. The critical paradigm facilitates the researcher to explore social phenomenon’s, recognising the causes and effects of the social world (Denscombe, 2010). Importantly, researchers in the critical paradigm would propose individual behaviours are linked and influenced by relations of dominance and subordination, supporting and maintaining unequal class relations that symbolise the world we live in (Markula and Silk, 2011). Hence, this paradigmatic orientation will encourage a holistic but critical reflection upon social injustice in schools and how middle-classes are more likely to reach elite success through subtle symbolic mechanisms passed on from influential figures. [JB1]


Due to the idiosyncratic nature of the phenomena being studied, the researcher in this topic must acknowledge their subjective role in the research, and how their individual background, values and ideologies will shape the research study (Willis, 2012; Denzin and Lincoln, 2011).

3:2 Methods

According to Gay et al. (2013), previous research investigating the impact of social class and participation uses survey methodologies. However, by studying human behaviour and the impact of power, a multifaceted phenomenon, the method needs to recognise complexities (Markula and Silk, 2011). While the purpose and paradigm should inform the research’s methodology, gaining rich and comprehensive knowledge in the most appropriate and accurate manner must be negotiated (O’Leary, 2004). Accordingly, an interview method was used for this project which is regarded a greater method to gain rich, in-depth data when researching individual’s experiences and multiple subjective matters (Markula and Silk, 2011; Denscombe, 2010; O’Leary, 2004).

Within this research project, two schools were used to collect the data. The two schools offered opportunities to explore this research question in depth and highlight social injustice and inequalities that are currently infiltrated in education. The two schools used in this study were located in the South West of England. The first school (school A) is an independent school situated in an urban context in central Bath. The school aims to focus on excellent education, tailored to the 21st century needs and treating each student as an individual, thus enabling them to flourish in every area. In sport, school A is driven by three factors; pride, passion and performance with an overall goal of motivating girls to excel at sports. Alongside this, it also adopts a ‘sport for all approach’ that encompasses and supports all abilities from beginners to elite performers. To do so, the school offer structured PE lessons, but also provides vast extra-curricular sporting activities for all girls to take part in. This independent school possess excellent sports facilities, with a floodlit Astroturf, outdoor swimming pool, netball courts, sports hall, gymnasium, and grass area that encompass a range of sports and pitches. Plus, as well as the existing tennis facilities on site, it also has access to the local tennis and squash courts to further progress their students sporting opportunities. Furthermore, the school is about to undergo a significant five-million-pound regeneration of all its sports facilities during the 2017/2018 academic year. The school fees for this independent school are approximately thirteen thousand pounds a year for a day pupil. Hence, the type of person to attend school A is a student from an upper to a middle-class family, situated higher up the societal hierarchy ladder, richer in resources and socio-economic status.

The second school (school B) is a state funded, secondary school located in a rural context in Somerset. The aims of this school are to provide a happy and caring environment in which all students can flourish. School B proposes to offer a rich and varied mixed gender curriculum that encompasses a wealth of extra-curricular activities in sport. This state funded school has a set of netball courts that change into tennis courts during the summer term. The school also has an indoor sports hall and is attached to a community leisure centre and can utilise their facilities. Due to this school not possessing all-weather Astroturf pitches, the school use grass for the majority of sports. Hence, the type of person that would attend this state funded school would be a student of a lower-class family, situated further down the ladder of socio-economic status.

Within this research; the participants were accessed through prior work experience connections and were representative of the general population, and therefore were a purposeful and appropriate sample (O’Leary, 2004; Silverman, 2000). For this project, the teachers randomly selected five pupils per institution to take part in the study. The interviewees were required to answer questions regarding their personal experiences in physical activity both inside and outside the school environment. The interviews took place within the school, providing a suitable, comfortable and private setting to get the most useful data (Gratton and Jones, 2004; McNamee, Olivier and Wainwright, 2007).

Aligning with humanist assumptions, the interviews used a semi-structured and informal approach (O’Leary, 2004). The interviews were one-to-one based, producing in-depth and insightful information on individual’s opinions and experiences (Denscombe, 2010; Silverman, 2006). The interviews were channelled by a series of pre-planned and open-ended questions which are designed to help retain relevance in the interview discussion while ensuring openness for the participants to direct the conversation (Rubin and Rubin, 2005; Jamshed, 2014; Denscombe, 2010). By adopting a flexible semi-structured approach, the participants provided detailed personal experiences and opportunities they have had in sport, delivering a greater reflection of their realities (Denscombe, 2010). The interviews were electronically recorded, and although this can bring apprehension, it was a realistic way of recording the interview for further analysis, as well as enhancing the connection and flow with the participants (Saratakos 2005; Silverman, 2000). By acknowledging that merely the presence of a researcher can influence data; it was essential for the researcher to remain reflexive throughout the interview process and acknowledge that reality is established through a process of co-construction between the participant and researcher (Markula and Silk, 2011).

Notably, in critical research, semi-structured informal approaches offer multiple chances to encourage participant involvement (Keats, 2000). This planned style of interview helps interviewees clearly express and develop the points raised, hence improving critical discussions and considerations (Denscombe, 2010). Moreover, taking into account the potential for researcher dominance in interviews (Charmaz, 2006), planned questioning helped nullify researcher presence and conversation dominance.

3:3 Analysis

Firstly, the participant’s interview conversations were informally ‘recalled’, reflecting upon their perceptions into the research phenomena (Markula and Silk, 2011). Successively, the recording was manually transcribed following a ‘clean’ style transcription method; this enabled a more manageable, condensed and controllable dialogue without changing or losing any meaning (Amis, 2005; Silverman, 2000). Despite manual recording increasing the transcription procedure (Seale, 2011), the researcher undergoes data familiarisation, and this stimulates understanding from the start of the research project (Amis, 2005). Through this process, the data and information gathered was then coded into conceptual meaning groups, stressing key patterns and themes that emerge in the data, through a process called thematic analysis (Gratton and Jones, 2004). A thematic analysis arranges and explains the raw data in depth through “identifying, analysing, interpreting and reporting patterns (that is, themes) within the data” (Sparkes and Smith, 2014, pp. 123; Braun and Clarke, 2006). This simple form of analysis illuminate’s connections in the data, encouraging a deep, unrestricted, visually pleasing interpretation of the raw data (Sparkes and Smith, 2014). Following the six phases of thematic analysis which are immersion, generating initial codes, searching for an identifying theme, reviewing themes, defining and naming themes and finally writing the report, the key themes that guided this project was opportunities and access, the influence of parents, teachers and friends, and the value placed on sport. Once analysed and considered, a thorough process of ‘close reading’ was completed and led to consideration of the research outcome (Silverman, 2000). Consequently, after exploring and understanding the impact that educational institutions can have on sporting opportunities, this research project may impact through adding to the scholarly work around social injustice and inequalities in sport and physical activity.

3:4 Ethical Considerations

“A meaningful research project is also an ethically conducted research project” (Markula and Silk, 2011, p.40) and demonstrating ethical understandings for the potentially sensitive issues with social class inequalities is vital to meet the dissertations correct university ethical producers. Within any research setting, particularly research involving children, is it fundamental to support participants throughout the process and present the research findings in an honest, integral and professional manner (Denscombe, 2010; McNamee, Olivier and Wainwright, 2007). According to Denscombe (2010), key ethical considerations to acknowledge are informed consent, protection of identities, confidentiality of data as well as ensuring participants wellbeing. As a result, before the interview, informed consent was obtained to demonstrate the participant’s willingness to take part in the study, as well as parental consent for the participant involvement (Markula and Silk, 2011; Gratton and Jones, 2004; Sparkes and Smith, 2014). Additionally, all the participants were briefed before the interview regarding the interview requirements and permission to record the interviews were acquired. Within the transcription phases, to provide participant confidentiality, the participants were informed the data would remain exclusive, and pseudonyms would be used to protect their identities (Denscombe, 2010; McNamee, Olivier and Wainwright, 2007; Markula and Silk, 2011; Kaiser, 2009). Throughout the whole interview process, in the unlikely circumstances that the participant would like to withdraw from the study, the right to withdraw was made clear from the onset. Furthermore, regarding data handling; it was made clear that all data from the interviews would be protected by a password accessible laptop and only made available to the researcher and the unit conveyor.

3:5 Judgement Criteria

Judgement criteria also referred to as the promise, expresses the quality and effectiveness of the research project (Markula and Silk, 2011). As stated above, due to the neoliberal society striving for scientific, evidence-based data, similarly then, judgement criteria are also channelled towards science-based, academic criterions (Bush et al., 2013). Hence, quantitative and scientific based judgement criteria include common criteria of objectivity, generalizability, reliability and validity (Sparkes and Smith, 2014). Proposing that qualitative research is different, Tracy (2010) states that applying these common quantitative judgement criteria’s is illicit. Therefore, Guba and Lincoln (1985) devised equivalent judgement criteria for qualitative research and proposed criteria: “credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability” (Sparkes and Smith, 2014, p. 179). Alongside Guba and Lincoln’s work, other qualitative judgment criteria’s have been formed, and an additional route this project could take would be to follow Finlay’s five ‘C’s; in particular, credibility and contribution (Finlay, 2006).

However, due to impact I want this research to have in the vastly researched topic of social inequalities, sport and physical activity, this research project will draw on multiple criterions and adopt its own judgement criteria. Therefore, this project will be judged against contribution, credibility, dependability and its commitment to social change. Firstly, this project will be judged on the contribution and the ability to raise class consciousness, enrich understandings and contribute to extensive current class-based debates (Finlay, 2006; Richardson and Pierre, 2005). Secondly, credibility will judge against how convincing, trustworthy, plausible and justifiable the results are (Finlay, 2006; Tracy, 2010). Similarly, it will also be judged on the dependability of the project, focusing on aspects such as employing effective tools to collect trustworthy data. Lastly, the final judgement criteria will judge the commitment to social change, focusing on the contribution and impact this research can have on existing policy, attempting to make a difference and raise critical consciousness (Richardson and Pierre, 2005).

It is essential that research adopts the correct methodological practices to get the most effective and informative data regarding its topic. Therefore, each section in this research project has been selected to get the most compelling accounts of social class and the influence it has on sport and physical activity involvement. By doing so, this encourages the complexities and realities of participants experiences to be expressed and enables to this research to add to existing policy and lead to change.

Chapter 4: Results and Discussion

The key themes guiding this research project are going to be analysed and considered using Bourdieu’s sociological framework. Within the following section of this paper, I am going to discuss the interview findings and examine sociological reasons that influence participation.

As discussed in the methodology section, to support ethical considerations the names of schools and students have been substituted with pseudonyms. The pseudonyms represented in the discussion are: Institution A (independent school) participants are Penny, Pheobe, Tilly, Kim and India. Institution B (state funded school) participants are Kaycie, Sophie, Rosie, Emily, Nancy.

4.1 Facilities and Opportunities

Although this research project is moulded by a sociological stance and is exploring the deeper and more subtle mechanism that creates class-based opportunities, key themes regarding facilities, opportunities and access still arose in the data. Aforementioned, Stiddler (2015) proposed that facilities and access are key predictors to producing elite performers (Stiddler, 2015; Houlihan, 2000; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). Within this research project, the difference in school facilities and opportunities was astonishing. Between the two institutions, the range and quality of facilities and opportunities to participate inside and outside school varied considerably.

Institution A had a vast range of sporting facilities, covering a diverse amount of sports. The facilities possessed are:

“a hockey Astroturf, a large sports hall, eight netball courts, multiple fields that turn into cricket pitches, rounders and football pitches, an outdoor swimming pool, a large gymnasium, two dance studio, an area for high jump and athletics, a field designated for cross country running, six tennis courts as well as access to XXXXXXX local private tennis and squash club next door to the school”. (Penny, 14, Institution A)

Institution A encourages the use of these facilities during break times and after school, and all participants from institution A have used these facilities to practise sporting skills during their free periods. Additionally, institution A is undergoing a five-million-pound ‘sports regeneration’, installing and upgrading multiple sports facilities. This is compared to institution B having “two netball courts, a sports hall, a field that often floods, some tennis courts and a leisure centre attached” (Ellie, Institution B). Institution B do not allow students to use these facilities for sporting purposes during their free times due to health and safety reasons as well as inadequate staffing requirements.

As well as inequalities in facilities, disparities also occurred within the opportunities available to participate in sports and physical activity between the two institutions. From the data, institution B proposed to have “one hour of PE on week A and one hour on week B” (Ellie, Institution B) as well as one hour of after school activities offered per week. This is compared to institution A completing on average “7 and a half hours of PE a week, including matches” and after school activities available every night of the week (Phoebe, Institution A). Plus, this independent institution had an option to participate in further sporting opportunities during their daily hour of obligatory activities, ranging from sports to academics.

Furthermore, inequalities continued to infiltrate the range of activities offered in school curriculum; and institution A students experienced a wider range of activities to participate in:

“Hockey, Netball, Football, Rounders, Tennis, Badminton, Judo, Fencing, Yoga, Basketball, Kwik Cricket, Horse riding team but we don’t really do much of that here, there is a cross country club, a sprinting club, diving and swimming club, a gymnastics’ club, rugby club too. I can’t really think of any more, but there are more!” (Kim, 14, Institution A).

Whereas, the sports offered in institution B were impacted by mixed-gendered physical education lessons, resulting in only offering activities in fitness, badminton, basketball and mixed hockey (Sophie, 14, Institution B).

As a result of these inequalities, independently educated individual’s experiences enhanced facilities and far greater opportunities to participate in physical activity. Henceforth, in support of Evans and Bairner (2012) research, the underrepresentation of state school individuals achieving Olympic success comes as no surprise when comparing sporting facilities and opportunities for participation between independent and state institutions.

Moreover, this data has also suggested that inequalities further impact participation rates outside of the educational institution. The average participation rates outside of school for institution A individuals more than doubled the rates of institution B pupils. For instance, one participant from institution A stated she completed “12 to 14 hours a week depending on how many hours we do on a Saturday (India, Institution A). This was compared to institution B students who reported far less levels of participation outside of school, with two pupils stating that they don’t participate in any form of physical activity outside of school lessons. Notably, it was evident that participants from institution B experienced multiple barriers that prevented their participation rates outside of school. For example:

“My mum struggles with transportation. Also, money as well because my little sisters do clubs after school and its quite difficult money wise. If I want to do something, it is usually more expensive, and mum doesn’t want to pay” (Rosie, Institution B).

Although challenging common assumptions, this data also revealed that the independently educated individuals similarly reported barriers for participation, displayed in the form of parental work commitments and transportation. However, these families avoided these issues becoming damaging on participation by using external sources to support with childcare and lift sharing, for example using friends and peers.

These findings support studies that propose students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds commonly participate in less physical activity than those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (Duncan et al., 2004; Wright et al., 2003; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Engström, 2008). Theorist state this is because their choice to do so is not impeded by a lack of resources, work commitment’s and time (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Stiddler, 2015; Wilson, 2002), as displayed in this study. Therefore, and in support of Evans and Bairner research, it is unsurprising that elite sport is dominated by independently educated individuals when comparing middle-classes enhanced access, opportunities and top-class infrastructures that support and contribute to the likelihood of succeeding at the highest level (Evans and Bairner, 2012; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013).

Moreover, further supporting Evans and Bairner’s research, it is foreseeable that the overrepresentation of independently educated individuals continues to dominate and shape certain sports, for example, tennis, rugby, swimming, and single-gendered hockey (Sutton Trust, 2016), all of which are sports that were not participated in by institution B. As a result, institution B having to offer only mixed-gendered sports results in a narrow experience of sports compared to institution A. Therefore, it could be suggested that the underrepresentation of state-educated individuals in certain sports will worsen as the only opportunities to participate in these sports are through external clubs. However, as displayed in the data, institution B students face greater barriers to participation, reducing the opportunities for their involvement in these sports (Sutton Trust, 2016; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Horne et al., 2011; Sedghi, 2014).

Acknowledging such opposing educational circumstances then, could it be suggested that middle-classes are inherently more physically gifted and talented than lower-classes? Or, merely, are the middle-classes better prepared through upbringing in families’ and schools that are wealthy in resources and have enhanced access, opportunities and facilities and use this infrastructure to reach the standard required to achieve success in sport? (Evans and Bairner, 2012).

Consequently, it could be suggested that the data collected in this study fits in line with common assumptions about social class and the influence on opportunities and access to sport and physical activity. However, while acknowledging the inequalities in this data, this project is focusing through a sociological lens, and therefore will be exploring further subtle influences that can reproduce class patterns, and specifically explore the influences of parents, teachers and other significant individuals.

4.2 Teachers

Furthermore, a key sociological theme that arose from the interviews was the influence that teachers have on pupils, specifically their encouragement, motivation and support. A physical education teacher assists in the role of acquiring knowledge and forming opinions on sport and physical activity, both negatively and positively (Stuji, 2015). From the data, the influence the teachers had on the pupils was different between the two institutions.

Teachers in institution A appeared to reinforce values such as motivation and encouragement to their pupils. Teachers motivated pupils to “’try hard’, ‘no stopping’ and ‘push yourself’ and it drives you to make you do your best” (Kim, 14, Institution A). Alongside this, teachers in institution A were very supportive of pupil’s participation within and outside the school. This created a positive learning environment whereby hard work is equal to success leading to enhanced feelings of confidence, resilience and determination:

“They have always told us all that if you try hard, stick with it, show you’re determined, committed and want to be there then you can reach the level you want to get to. If you set yourself a (realistic) goal, it’s only yourself that will stop you achieving it” (Kim, 14, Institution A).

Moreover, it was apparent that teachers in institution A also encouraged the pupils to demonstrate characteristics that are deemed necessary for their future; for example, commitment, punctuality and cooperation:

“The teachers would be annoyed if I didn’t turn up. I think that’s really good though because some clubs they don’t really care if you don’t turn up and that can make you feel less inclined to go. So it’s good when they go ‘where were you?’. You’ve made a commitment so you would have to keep to that commitment and not let your teammates and friends down” (Kim, 14, Institution A).

“Out in the real world you need to be able to work as a team but also as an individual, and you need to push yourself. Some of my peers don’t like PE, but my teachers always tell us that we won’t always like everything we do in life, and that’s just life, you just have to get on with it” (India, 14, Institution A).

However, the influences that teachers had on pupils in institution B were very different. From the data, it is apparent that pupils didn’t receive the same reinforcement of certain values and skills as the private institution students gained. Instead, teachers tended to influence the students through “techniques, skills and how to play the game” (Sophie, 14, Institution B). Furthermore, another pupil stated; “we just learn techniques, we learn about sharing and passing and not hogging” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B).

Although, from the data, it was apparent that few teachers in institution B did use similar positive motivational techniques and encouragement as institution A teachers. However, pupils proposed this wasn’t frequent enough and despite the encouragement it “doesn’t make me want to do it” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B).

Also, the interviews displayed that teachers in institution B were less supportive regarding participation within and outside the institution. The data showed that all five pupils in institution B reported that their teachers didn’t support their external commitments, for example, “I don’t really know. There wasn’t very much, but I guess they don’t know. To be honest, I don’t think they would care that much” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B).

Consequently, from these research findings it can be argued that young people who attend institution A, and privatise their education, experience teachers passing on cultural values and life skills more than those from a state funded education, such an institution B. In relation to Bourdieu’s notion of cultural capital, and supporting research findings by Horne et al. (2011), it could be suggested that within institution A, teachers pass on forms of ‘embodied’ cultural capital; that is, developing in their pupil’s the habits and dispositions required for ‘successful’ futures (Horne et al., 2011). For example, habits of hard work, determination and commitment are refined in students, and these are deemed the skills that will lead to superiority in the future (Horne et al., 2011).

A similar study from Dagkas and Stathi (2007) explored the influence of teacher’s motivation and encouragement and stated comparable findings to this research project. It was stated that teachers in a private institution encouraged and motivated their pupils through offering guidance and expertise. Whereas, state-educated individuals reported they didn’t receive any motivation and encouragement for participation in physical activity, school sport or externally. These research findings contribute and extend Dagkas and Stathi’s work as this study found that the encouragement and motivation that students received, in turn, developed embodied capital through enforcing children’s hard work and commitment. Moreover, my study demonstrated that this was achieved through teachers permitting long school days, large school sporting commitments, obligatory activities, as well as supporting external commitments.

Subsequently, these findings suggest that teachers continue to instil subtle mechanisms within schools and this create class-based inequalities. For instance, state-educated individuals do not receive the same levels of motivation and encouragement, and therefore do not experience similar reinforcement of cultural capital and embodied values. Thus, values that are deemed to be beneficial to their future (Horne et al., 2011).

This can help explain the reasons behind privately educated individuals dominating elite sport (Sutton Trust, 2016). It is recognised that reaching an elite standard of performance requires certain skills and values such as, commitment, determination, drive and hard work (Abbott et al., 2007; Holland, 2012), and these are attributes that are transmitted from teachers to pupils in private schools, and not to the same extent in state schools.

Additionally, the possession of particular embodied capital values can also be linked with greater chances outside of sport, for instance, success in elite jobs (Frank, 2013; Sutton Trust, 2009). Current debates contend that a private education positively correlates with producing elite professionals and business people (Walford, 2003). Horne et al. (2011) advocates that contemporary private schools continue to supply students with embodied values and attributes that are valued in elite jobs (Horne et al., 201), as seen in this study. Henceforth, it could be suggested that this leads to a cyclical process whereby dominant classes maintain their hierarchal position. For example, gaining a ‘good’ education’ (), and installing respected values and attributes necessary to excel in interviews and jobs. To complete the process, this warrants enhanced economic capital (Shilling, 2004), and therefore, affording the ability to invest in a similar education for their offspring.

Consequently, this research project can suggest that, indeed, the subtle mechanism such as the exposure to embodied cultural capital can produce class-based inequalities, favouring the middle-classes and intensifying social injustice in schools and physical activity.

4.3 Parents

Theorists have considered the significance of parental influence on children’s participation and success in sports (Bloom, 1985; Linder, 2002; Woolger and Power, 1993). The influence parents had on participation in physical activity varied considerably between the two institutions. A common theme that occurred within Institution A was parent’s willingness and support for their child to participate in physical activity. This support appeared through transport, training requirements, buying kits, equipment and training fees. All pupils in institution A proposed their parents were willing to adhere to their busy training requirements, supplying transport and financial support:

“My mum does a lot for taking me and my friends everywhere, and she pays for my club, kit and everything. She’s my main supporter and is always happy taking me everywhere. If she can’t take me, I go with my friends, but really enjoys watching my games so always comes” (Penny, 14, Institution A).

Another student said:

“My mum takes me to do the horses every day. I am really grateful for that because it’s a lot to ask. We have to obviously have our own saddles and bridal and wear special stuff in the shows to make you look smart. We have to buy all that, so obviously a lot of financial support because horse riding is a very expensive sport. My dad is more for the financial support – he’s not particularly horsey!” (Tilly, 14, Institution A).

Alongside this tangible support, parents from institution A also appeared to be encouraging of their children’s participation. For example, “they always encourage me to do my best, and make me push to reach my best in netball” (Phoebe, 14, Institution A). Plus, another participant stated their parents were “always telling me to be the best I can be, encouraging me and making me determined to stick with it” (Kim, 14, Institution A).

In comparison, from the interviews institution B did not receive the same parental support and encouragement. Students from this institution faced greater barriers to participation, and this hindered their opportunities to participate. The key issues that the participants reported were difficulties in transportation and finances. One participant, for example, stated that she couldn’t attend every dance session because it was too expensive and as a result wasn’t selected for competitions because of her commitment issues (Sophie 14, Institution B). Additionally, another participant stated issues such as:

“Transportation, time and stuff like that. Parents struggle to get me too and from everything a lot. It is also really expensive, so sometimes my mum will tell me I can’t do a show or competition because it costs too much” (Ellie, 14, Institution B).

However, all the participants in institution B stated that their parents attempted to give lifts and support them as much as they could, but economic barriers prevented the support being comparable to institution A parents.

As well as facing greater financial barriers, students from institution B also reported less parental encouragement for participation. For example, when a participant answered a question regarding parental encouragement, her response was:

“I don’t know; they don’t really mind if I do it or not, they say it’s good for me but they don’t make me go at all” (Sophie, 14, Institution B).

“My parents don’t really care what I do; they are too busy to care” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B).

This study supports the view that children who have parents willing to provide support and encouragement have greater chances of participation (Linder, 2002; Brown et al., 1989; Smith, 2005; Hohepa et al., 2007; Nielsen et al., 2012; Hunter-Jones, 2014). Dependent on social class, parents value sport for their offspring in different ways, and dominant classes value sports participation and will devote time, money and energy investing into their offspring’s sporting activities (Wheeler, 2011). Taking a Bourdieusian lens; the difference between the institutions and parental support are influenced by notions of economic and cultural capital.

Drawing on the work of Bourdieu, Wilson (2002) stated that middle-classes that are rich in economic capital are more likely to participate in physical activity as their choice to do so is not impeded by lack of resources, income, work commitments and time (Stiddler, 2015; Wilson, 2002). Although this research mostly supports Wilson’s findings, and found that middle-class parents had the resources to invest in their child’s sporting activities (Kremer et al., 1997), my findings offered an alternative interpretation. As mentioned in the opportunities section above, institution A students faced similar barriers to sports participation as institution B. However, they continued to participate in sport because they didn’t allow the barriers to have an influence. For instance, their enhanced economic capital enabled them to capitalise on childcare support and lift-sharing – facilitated by strong social ties-, enabling their offspring to continue to participate. Whereas, a reduced amount of economic capital acted as a barrier and obstructed opportunities for participation for lower-classes individuals. For example, all participants from institution B reported financial hurdles resulting in reduced opportunities to participate.

Middle-class parents are not only more likely to possess greater resources or economic capital to support their offspring to engage in sport, but they are also more probable to be in a position to transfer their cultural capital (Green, Smith and Roberts, 2005). Similarly to the influence of teachers, this was evident in this research project whereby parents offering support and encouragement passed on cultural values to their offspring, which, in turn, can assist with participation (Horne et al., 2011; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). For example, parents displaying a supportive and positive approach to their child’s participation encouraged them “to be their best” (Kim, 14, Institution A), by reinforcing particular values of commitment, determination and hard work. Therefore, this study suggests that middle-class children that are independently educated experience a process whereby both their teachers and parents pass on embodied cultural capital (Rowe, 2015). Thus, instilling values that are deemed beneficial for young people reaching elite standards of participation (Horne et al., 2011).

Additionally, the results of this research project are supportive of Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu’s (2016) study, demonstrating that institution A parents are highly involved, encouraging, supporting and installing in their offspring similar skills, attitudes and competencies that are deemed to lead to success. However, my research study can contribute and extend Stefansen, Smette and Strandbu’s findings as the parents in this study, indeed, had intentions to do so, but lacked the resources, ability, time and knowledge to reinforce their offspring with similar attitudes and values (Wheeler and Green, 2012). This was apparent when participants from institution B reported that their parents attempted to support their participation but experienced greater financial difficulties, and this hindered their participation, consequently obstructing their ability to support and encourage. For example:

“they have been supportive and motivating, they try as much as they can to get me to everything and if there is something I can’t get to, they either try get me to lift share or they make it up by doing something else. There are just some things they can’t manage, and it makes it hard for me to try hard if I can’t always be there” (Ellie, 14, Institution B).

Although government, local authorities and schools have invested substantially in enhancing opportunities for young people to engage in free or minimal costing physical activity and sports, the families that have the desire but not the resources to participate in these opportunities, ‘success’ is simply not a possibility, and the gap remains everlasting (Evans and Davies, 2010). As a result of this, lower-class parents with reduced economic capital lack the resources and opportunities to reinforce their offspring with embodied cultural capital. Moreover, for these parent’s, success is not a perceived possibility, impacting their ability to strengthen the skills that are deemed to lead to success.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the independent sectors produce far greater elite performers (Sutton Trust, 2016) as middle-class children experience fewer barriers – due to their enhanced access to economic capital – as well as greater dispositions of embodied cultural values, as displayed in this study. In support of this statement, Rowley (1992) explored the influence parents have on helping produce elite young athletes, reporting that they viewed their parents to be closer, offer far greater support, motivation and encouragement and are adaptable compared to a control group. Additionally, research from Côté (1999) and Bloom (1985) exhibits how parental support aids elite performers to deal with the high requests of continued deliberate practice needed to grasp an elite standard of performance. Henceforth, athletes unable to access economic and emotional support face a more challenging route to accrue the high levels of practice necessary to reach the expert level (Baker et al., 2003), illuminating the underrepresentation of state-educated athletes achieving elite success (Sutton Trust, 2016).

Consequently, this data supports the hypothesis that subtle mechanisms do produce class-based inequalities and further intensifies the likelihood of middle-class individuals reaching elite standards (Coalter, 2005).

4.4 Value placed on sport

Another key theme that was identified from the raw data was the value placed on sport. Similarly to the other key themes, the values also varied between the institutions. From the interviews, institution A pupils valued sports involvements as opportunities to gain a fit and healthy body, as well as learning important life and future employment skills:

“I think sport is about health and your body and being healthy. But also learning skills like determination and keeping going even though it’s hard because I think that applies to a lot of life skills and not just PE” (Tilly, 14, Institution A).

“I see PE as how to work as a team and how to also push yourself. Out in the real world, you need to be able to work as a team but also as an individual, so you need to be strong and PE helps that” (India, 14, Institution A).

Also, it was evident that the value of sport was linked with advancing future and academic success. For example:

“I think it’s having time outside away from the classroom. I think it’s nice just getting out and running around getting fresh air, and just kind of burn off the energy of being inside, ready to try hard in the next academic lessons” (Tilly, 14, Institution A).

Additionally, another participant suggested she would benefit from more exercise around exam periods as this would relax her ready for revision (Kim, 14, Institution A), helping to enrich academic performance.

Whereas, the value placed on sport and physical activity for institution B students was different. Participants also stated they value fitness and health, but put greater emphasis on fun and enjoyment. One participant said “it’s not meant to be a serious subject, but it’s not meant to be just for fun. So a bit of both, fun and a little bit of hard work” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B). Likewise, another participant mentioned, “it’s a bit about fitness, and getting out of the classrooms to have lots of fun with friends” (Rosie, 14, Institution B).

Drawing on the work of Bourdieu, the value placed on sport associates with the notion of physical capital and its ongoing relationship with sporting capital (Shilling, 1991). The possession and influence of physical capital is unequal as it is reliant on one’s position in the social class hierarchy (Holoryd, 2002). Dagkas and Stathi (2007) further explored physical capital and presented findings similar to my study. They argued that lower-classes regarded to have an instrumental orientation to their body, and participation occurred through unpremeditated environments. Whereas, more dominant classes viewed their body as a project, and chose to endure fitness and health enhancing activities to increase their possession of physical capital (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Shilling, 1993; Wright, 2000).

While my research findings mostly agree with the findings from Dagkas and Stathi (2007), it offers a slightly different interpretation. My findings reported that independent institutions provided pupils with physical and sporting capital through continuous reinforcing of embodied cultural values. For example, in this project, participants from both institutions reported that enjoyment was a key value of physical activity, however, institution A participants extended their values of sport because their teachers and parents continually linked physical activity participation with future jobs and success. Consequently, this impacted how middle-class individuals viewed the role of physical activity and the orientation they had with their body (Shilling, 2004).

Additionally, further supporting research from Shilling (2004) suggests that middle-classes continually endeavour to enhance their physical capital as this can be seen to access and convert into other forms of capital (Shilling, 2004). Supporting Shillings proposal, this was evident in this study when institution A participation valued sports as a means of enriching academic performance and future success, which, in turn, can be converted into greater economic, social and cultural capital (Shilling, 2004).

Shilling (1991) and Wilson (2002) illuminate that young people have unequal opportunities to gain physical capital as its initial increase demands greater investments of leisure time and economic capital. Therefore, as mentioned in the previous data, institution A participants have the resources available to accumulate physical capital as they have greater access, support and encouragement for participation than lower-classes (Storr and Spaaji, 2017). This further elucidates the reproduction of class-based inequalities (Bourdieu, 1978; Shilling; 2004), and enables the dominant classes to maintain their societal position, positively influence the chances of sports involvement, and further intensify class disparities in sport (Sutton Trust, 2016).

4.5 Friends

Friends and peers have a strong influence and can predict participation in sport and physical activity (Sport England, 2014; Hopepa et al., 2007). In this study, students from institution A did not classify peers as their most influential source for participation in physical activity. Nevertheless, all students from this institution reported that they enjoyed participating with their friends and school sport was acknowledged as such a setting.

Institution B, however, had a far greater indication towards the influence of friends with regards to support, encouragement and motivation for physical activity involvement. Students mentioned their physical activity participation was due to “my friends are doing it, so I might as well do it. I get to spend time with my friends then” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B). Furthermore, two pupils mentioned that friends were the reason they joined a club, “they play, it and it would inspire me to play. They told me to come as it will be fun, so I did.” (Sophie, 14, Institution B). Importantly, all participants reported that friends were deemed a greater influence than parents and teachers.

Using Bourdieu’s sociological framework, the influence of friends and peers’ associates with social capital. Social capital is the network of social relationships that an individual is exposed to (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007; Sullivan, 2002; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014). In this study, social capital had a positive impact on participation rates and also affected participation through reinforcing involvement in certain activities that their social group expects.

Research from Dagkas and Stathi (2007) reported similar findings to this study. They found that in a state school, friend’s approval was the primary influencing factor in physical activity involvement and participation. Whereas, independently educated students did not suggest friends and peers were important influences to participation (Dagkas and Stathi, 2007). While my results mostly support Dagkas and Stathi’s findings, the result from this study slightly differed. It found that due to the lack of parental and teacher encouragement and support in physical activity, institution B pupils, instead, shadowed their friends and participated in the activities they took part in. For example, one participant from institution B stated that;

“My parents haven’t said anything about it; they don’t care. I asked if I could go to the gym and get a membership to be with my friends and they said it is good and they then said I should because they say I’m unhealthy” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B).

“my parents didn’t say anything about sport, so I would hang out with my friends and then sometimes they would play it, and I would copy them, they would make me play” (Emily, 14, Institution B).

Therefore, due to the lack of parental encouragement, support and drive to participate in activities, pupils in this study turned to their friends to seek encouragement to participate. Pupils didn’t initially report that they were looking for peer approval like found in Dagkas and Stathi’s results. Instead, their friends and peers acted as the only source of motivation and inspiration and therefore looked to their friends for encouragement and reinforcement to participate.

Importantly, according to Hopepa et al. (2007), both friends and parents are two essential sources of encouragement for participation. Although friends support may inspire and encourage participation to some degree (Hopepa et al., 2007), for sustained participation to occur parental support in the form of financial, transport and encouragement are essential for continued and elite participation (Hopepa et al., 2007; Baker et al., 2003). Therefore, despite institution B students receiving greater friend support, the overarching drive behind adolescent’s participation is parental support, and theorists have associated reduced parental support with lower levels of participation (Hopepa et al., 2007). Henceforth, it comes as no surprise that independent schools produce far greater elite performers as these pupils, such as those from institution A, receive superior parental support as well as encouragement and motivation from their friends, combining to enhance dispositions impelling towards participation (Hopepa et al., 2007; Dagkas and Stathi, 2007).

4.6 Habitus

An individual’s habitus is moulded through social locations, and instils in them a set of tastes, dispositions, thoughts and behaviours, and forms a worldview based on their position in society (Bourdieu, 1980; Shilling 2004; Evans and Davies 2010). Ferry and Lund (2016) argues that individuals with similar social backgrounds and experiences could have embodied similar disposition and tastes (Haycock and Smith, 2014), and this can explain the difference in participation rates between classes. This proposal was evident in my research. Due to institution A individuals being continually reinforced with embodied values, as well as having greater economic, physical and social capital, stronger and more aspirational habitual dispositions were moulded, impelling them towards sports participation (Birchwood, Roberts and Pollock, 2008). Whereas, lower-class individuals that didn’t have access to such forms of capital and embodied cultural values, as well as facing greater difficulties for participation, is likely to lead to a less ambitious and aspiring habitus (Birchwood, Roberts and Pollock, 2008). For example, as seen in this research project, if an individual is continually facing challenges regarding transport, finances and encouragement, their dispositions will alter and mould a weaker habitus and taste for physical activity.

Longitudinal research completed by Engström’s (2008) reported that children that have a strong habitus during school years have greater chances of participation when they are older. Although my research project is not a longitudinal study, similar findings were still evident. During the interview process, pupils answered questions regarding their desired future participation rates. All of institution A pupils enthusiastically responded and three pupils stated; “I will try to reach National level participation” (India; Penny; Tilly, 14, Institution A). Another pupil voiced that “my teachers say I can play for England if I try hard, so that is my goal” (Kim, 14, Institution A). On the other hand, institution B pupil’s responses differed and pupil’s desires to participate were not as aspirational. In fact, two pupils from institution B reported they didn’t believe they will take part after they leave school, and other pupils stated they “may join a team, or might join the gym, but I don’t know yet” (Kaycie, 14, Institution B). Henceforth, in support of Ferry and Lund’s work, it can be argued that individuals from each institution have embodied similar dispositions, and this can explain the differing habituses, desires and aspiration for future goals. Here, institution A students moulded a stronger habitus, set of dispositions and desires to achieve. Whereas, institution B students formed a weaker habitus and this impacts their drive and commitment to participate and succeed (Engström, 2008; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Bennett et al. 2010; Evans and Davies 2010; Evans and Bairner 2012).

Consequently, it could be argued that students that experience enhanced cultural values, as well as having greater possession of other capitals, produce a habitus and set of dispositions that impel them towards physical activity, enriching the likelihood of participation (Rowe, 2015; Engström, 2008; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013). Therefore, it is foreseeable that independently educated individuals dominate elite teams (Sutton Trust, 2016). This research supports Smith, Haycock and Hulme’s (2013) proposal that, to some extent, Team GB athletes are an illustration of the valuable economic, cultural and social forms of capital they previously gained within their social background before starting on the elite career pathway.

This study has shown that inequalities do exist in subtle ways and it’s not only the access, opportunities and money that enhance participation in sport and physical activity. Henceforth, the influence of subtle mechanism and a stronger habitus that middle-classes gain throughout childhood increases their desires and inclines them to participate in a determinate, committed and motivated way. Whereas, lower-class individuals that are not reinforced with such embodied values, alongside experiencing various participation barriers, leads to the formation of a weaker and less determined habitus. Consequently, without addressing these subtle influences, society is going to keep reproducing the same inequalities, further exacerbating the attainment gap between upper and lower-classes in sport and other domains (Engström, 2008; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Evans and Davies, 2010).

Chapter 5: Conclusion

Drawing on Bourdieu’s theory of capital, the purpose of this study was to explore the sociological mechanism that can produce class-based patterns. I have argued that, to a great extent, the class-based differences in money, opportunities and facilities continue to exacerbate inequalities. However, this study has also demonstrated inequalities do exist in subtle ways, and these mechanisms also reproduce class-based patterns, favouring dominant classes. The study provided new understandings of experiences, behaviours, thoughts, and opportunities of young people which shape their values, dispositions and habitus’ through practices which reinforce social inequalities (Bourdieu, 1990; Holt, 1998; Edgerton and Roberts, 2014). For example, middle-classes experience enhanced cultural values transferred from both teachers and parents, thus instilling values that enrich the chances of reaching elite success in sport (Hennessy et al., 2010). Additionally, this study has also illuminated that, as well as the benefit of cultural values and capital, those greater in economic, social and physical capital also have superior levels of participation (Shilling 1991). Importantly, this study demonstrated that middle-classes that possess greater forms of capital build a habitus, set of dispositions and desires that impel them towards physical activity, inclining them to participate in a determined, committed and aspirational manner. Hence, strengthening the ideology regarding middle-class and independently educated individual’s domination of elite sports participation (Sutton Trust, 2016; Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Stidder, 2015).

However, a recent report from the Sutton Trust (2016) proposes that a new group of state-educated Olympic medallists – such as Laura Trott and Mo Farah – is defying the traditional dominance of independent schools in elite sports (Sutton Trust, 2016). Firstly, I argue that these athletes attended state schools higher up in school league tables, granted academy status, implying more funding correlates with further opportunities and increased sporting success (Wilson 2002). Secondly, despite current news articles contending that the gap is reducing, I argue that the enhanced cultural embodied values passed on to independently educated individuals in this study, intensely influences the chances of reaching elite success. Combined with greater resources, the installing of cultural values such as determination and commitment creates a habitus that is conducive to sporting performance, driving the individual to participate and reach future goals.

Henceforth, this study has great importance as its findings have suggested that subtle inequalities do exist both within and outside the school environment, as well as the more recognised and theorised inequalities such as access, money and opportunities. Although the variety of sports resources, facilities and opportunities are important for increasing participation, the mere promotion of physical education and ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ sports as a type of quick-fix for profoundly rooted social inequalities disregards the role schools, teachers and parents play in the “production and reproduction of social hierarchies and inequalities” (Evans and Bairner, 2012, p.147). For example, initiatives such as ‘Towards an Active Nation’ (Sport England, 2016) targeted at reducing the cost of facilities to enhance participating rates and opportunities for all. One’s position in social hierarchy is very central to participation rates and looking to the process of schools and communities to promote participation, whilst overlooking wider social inequalities, is liable to have little influence on the persistence of inequalities in sports involvement at all levels of participation, but mostly in elite level (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013; Wheeler and Green, 2012).

To conclude, I support that this project has been successfully completed and met its judgement criterions. As displayed in the methodology section; this study adopted its own judgement criteria and judged against contribution, credibility, dependability and its commitment to social change. This project has contributed to existing research, further enhancing understandings on class inequalities and demonstrating that these disparities also exist in subtle ways, as well as through increased opportunities, access and money. Although using a small sample for data collection, the study gained credibility through gaining thick descriptive data, expressing a truthful and credible reality of participants experiences. Similarly so, I believe it achieved dependability through utilising an effective methodological range, using open-ended, semi-structured interviews to gain vast, effective and trustworthy data. Finally, this research can further raise class consciousness and inform people on the more subtle mechanisms that instil values of hard work, commitment and determination, thus reproducing class based inequalities and divisions. Hence, this study has a positive commitment to social change and can be used in an attempt to reduce inequality through implementing mechanism that acknowledges subtle inequalities in and outside schools. This will extend beyond a simple ‘quick fix’ promotion of physical education that is commonly suggested to address the gap that is so elucidated in society (Smith, Haycock and Hulme, 2013).

Despite the contributions of study; it also had limitations. Much of what the research acknowledges about social class inequalities in young people is based upon a small sample of participants. The data in this study was formed from ten individuals attending two different institutions in the South West. I recognise that any sample cannot be an exact representation of the whole population (Gratton and Jones, 2010) and the conclusion formed cannot be as strong with a smaller sample. An additional limitation of this study was the presence of a teacher in the interview process, and the potential influence of power relations and social pressures this had on pupil’s answers. Although the teacher did not teach the participants; simply the presence of another authoritative figure could influence the data and lead to unnatural, unrealistic and dishonest data (Denscombe, 2010; McNamee et al., 2007).


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Appendix One: Participant Information Sheet

Project title: Sociological Reasons for Participation: A Bourdieusian Approach.

Purpose of the Study:

This study seeks to explore the sociological factors that influence young people’s participation in physical activity. Whilst acknowledging inequalities in access, money and opportunities, this study seeks to extend beyond this focus and examine the deeper and more subtle mechanisms that can influence participation. This research will then discuss how these subtle influences can enhance the likelihood of reaching elite performance and success.

What will I have to do? / What will the study involve?

The participants will be interviewed in a one-to-one basis, and asked open-ended questions about their experiences, participation and opportunities they have had in sport.

The interviews will be situated in a school classroom, providing a comfortable environment for the participants, and will last about 20 to 30 minutes.

Important Information:

All participants within this study can freely choose whether they wish to be involved in the study. Moreover, although we don’t perceive any risks with the study, it is within the participants right to withdraw from the study at any time by informing the researcher of this choice. The participant’s privacy will be protected, and the data will only be accessible to the researcher and unit convenors. The data will be recorded and stored in a password locked computer and any information the participants provide will be kept confidential by the use of anonymous names. This study has been reviewed and accepted by the Research Ethics Approval Committee for Health at the University of Bath.

By signing this consent form, you are agreeing to take part in the study.




DATE: 17th January 2017

Appendix Two: Informed Consent Form

Project Title: Sociological Reasons for Participation: A Bourdieusian Approach

Researcher: Charlotte

  • I confirm that I have read and understood the information sheet for the above study.
  • The purpose of this study has been clearly explained to me and all my questions have been satisfactorily answered.
  • I understand that information I give will only be used for the completion of a dissertation at the Department for Health, University of Bath.
  • I understand that I have the right to remain anonymous in this research.
  • I understand that I have the right to withdraw from the study at any time.
  • I understand that study materials containing data (e.g. interview files and transcripts) will be stored in a lockable cabinet and/or on a password protected computer. Only the dissertation supervisor and the researcher will have access to these materials.
  • I understand that after the dissertation is completed, study materials containing data will be destroyed.
  • I understand that I have a right to request to see the interview transcripts to make changes. I also have the right to request to see the dissertation.




DATE: 17th January 2017

Appendix Three: Interview guide


  • Tell me a little bit about yourself- Name? how old are you? What year you are in? Your plans for the future?
  • Can you tell me about your past sport involvement? What age were you when you were started sport?
  • Do you currently still play any sports or do any physical activity? If so, can you give me a description?
  • Do you have a main sport?
  • Are you a member of a club for this sport? What’s your current level of participation? Local, national, international?
  • What requirements do you need for this? For example, how often do you train? Location of training and travelling hours? Equipment? kit costs? Cost of training? Signing on fees?
  • Have you ever experienced any barriers/difficulties for participation? Transport, lack of equipment? Working requirements?
  • Who got you into this particular sport/ activity? (or is it just through school?).
  • Why do you like the sport/ activity you play?
  • What are your planned next stages in this sport/ activity? And how do you perceive to get there?
  • Can you tell me about the support you have had from your parents in this sport/ activity? (transport, equipment, encouragement)
  • Can you tell me about the support you have had from your teachers in this sport/ activity?

Quality of sport at private/state

  • Can you tell me about your school… facilities? How many courts/Astro-turfs/pitches do you have available?
  • Do you have free use of these facilities during the school day? Are you allowed to use these facilities during break/lunch times?
  • What sports are offered to you at your school/ in the curriculum? List all.
  • For these sports – do you have good quality equipment in your school? For example, the quality of the hockey sticks and the amount that is available?
  • Can you tell me about your afterschool activities? How many sports are offered/ how often?
  • Are you encouraged to join in with these extra-curricular activities?
  • Do you have school fixtures against other schools? If yes, how regular are your fixtures?

Health focus

  • How many hours of PE do you participate in school? Both during PE lessons and extra-curricular activities?
  • How many hours do you participate outside school? E.g. clubs in the evenings/weekends?
  • How many hours did you participate in physical activity last week? In school and outside school?
  • Have you ever received any advice on nutrition and health aspects? (e.g. correct BMI, weight).
  • Do you have visions of yourself continuing to participate in sport and physical activity when you’ve finished school? If so, what do you think you’ll do? Uni participation? Join/continue a club?


  • Describe your last PE lesson/ one you can remember? (activities, length of game time, was it hard, what did you learn?).
  • Describe your perfect PE lesson? (activities, length of game time, with peers, focus on fun or hard work?).
  • What do you learn during your PE lessons?
  • Regarding your PE lessons; how do your teachers influence you? Do you learn something from them? E.g. try hard, stick with it, be determined. For example, how you might like/try harder in a certain sport because of that teacher.
  • What do you see as the value/importance of PE? For example, is it about socialising/ being active/or about learning sport?
  • Do you find your PE lessons helpful in achieving these values?
  • What do you and your peers enjoy about your PE lessons? The teacher, activities, working with friends, competitions?
  • Do you think all your peers enjoy this? Or do you think some students don’t enjoy their PE experience? Do you think some peers don’t want to participate?
  • If there is anything you could change – what would it be? Facilities/ amount of time in PE/ sports covered?

Appendix Four: Interview Transcripts

Coding Key


Parents influence

Teachers influence

Values placed on Sport


Institution B

I = Have you ever experienced any barriers/difficulties for participation? Transport, lack of equipment? Working requirements?

S= Transportation, time and stuff like that. Parents struggle to get me too and from everything a lot. It is also really expensive so sometimes my mum will tell me I can’t do a show or competition because it costs too much

I= Who got you into this particular sport/ activity? (or is it just through school?).

S= Probably friends, they told me to come as it will be fun, so I did.

I= Why do you like the sport/ activity you play?

S= My friends are doing it, so I might as well do it. I get to spend time with my friends then.

I= What are your planned next stages in this sport/ activity? And how do you perceive to get there?

S= Just keep doing this, either like teach little ones dancing or singing, or lifeguarding.

I= Can you tell me about the support you have had from your parents in this sport/ activity? (transport, equipment, encouragement)

S= I don’t know; they don’t really mind if I do it or not, they say it’s good for me but they don’t make me go at all

I= Can you tell me about the support you have had from your teachers in this sport/ activity?

S= I don’t really know. There wasn’t very much but I guess they don’t know. To be honest, I don’t think they would care that much.

Institution A

I= Do you have visions of yourself continuing to participate in sport and physical activity when you’ve finished school? If so, what do you think you’ll do? Uni participation? Join/continue a club?

S= Yes, I may not be an England hockey player or something but if I go to uni I’ll definitely do sport there, it’s quite easy to join a club. I will always do something, even if it’s just running. I want to always be super fit and healthy. My teachers say I can play for England if I try hard, so that is my goal.

I= Describe your last PE lesson/ one you can remember? (activities, length of game time, was it hard, what did you learn?).

S= Ok, so we have different types of lessons. We are doing HRE at the moment so we did the 12-minute run. It’s difficult but you know you have to beat yourself. It’s hard because some people give up and you have to try encourage everyone and the teacher is always like ‘try hard’, ‘no stopping” and “push yourself” and it drives you to make you do your best.

I= Describe your perfect PE lesson? (activities, length of game time, with peers, focus on fun or hard work?).

S= We did this really good PE lesson last week, it was circuit training and using all the cool equipment like the ropes and climbing wall built in the sports hall, and we also did some fun shooting and dribbling but also like star jumps and plank and it was really tiring. There was running and sprinting in that too. But it was really good as we were with our friends and had music on so it was still fun but really hard work. But really good because you’re with your friends and that motivates you to keep going.

I= What do you learn during your PE lessons?

S= We learn some biology, things like why you breath faster. But, also rules of games – how to play. Umm, different exercises, different stretches, different information to help you. But, also just fun skills. But also, being a team member, not just playing by yourself like you do in every other lesson. Being part of a team and how to motivate and keep driving for your personal goals. We also learn that out in the real world you need to be able to work as a team but also as an individual and you need to push yourself. Some of my peers don’t like PE, but my teachers always tell us that we won’t always like everything we do in life, and that’s just life, you just have to get on with it

I= Regarding your PE lessons; how do your teachers influence you? Do you learn something from them? E.g. try hard, stick with it, be determined. For example, how you might like/try harder in a certain sport because of that teacher.

S= They have always told us all that if you try hard, stick with it, show you’re determined, committed and want to be there then you can reach the level you want to get to. If you set yourself a (realistic) goal, it’s only yourself that will stop you achieving it

I= What do you see as the value/importance of PE? For example, is it about socialising/ being active/or about learning sport?

S= I think sport is about health and your body and being healthy. But also learning skills like determination and keeping going even though it’s hard, because I think that applies to a lot of life skills and not just PE

[JB1]Maybe include how the critical paradigm enhances your study?

[JB2]I think you need to talk about how the paradigm is intensively subjective and your role as the researcher is emphasised within the paradigmatic stance, as opposed to an objective quantitative standpoint

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