Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Willson, Andrea


The study explored the potential social benefits and motivations of participation in sport beyond those that pertain solely to healthy active living. Using organized youth ice hockey in Canada, the study also examined how cultural context can be a factor in the facilitation of such benefit, as well as the ways the game can reflect and reproduce inequalities in society more generally. A framework based on Pierre Bourdieu’s assertions on social, cultural, economic, and symbolic capital, was used to analyze data from ten semi-structured interviews with men who are former youth hockey players. The interview data revealed that through hockey – as a heteronormative institution – boys and men forge rich and extensive social networks, as well as acquire the linguistic skills, attitudes, and dispositions that help them to bond in a private and exclusive manner. Furthermore, their participation in an activity increasingly limited to the middle-to-upper class allows them to be socialized among this demographic, thus making economic capital – through job opportunities, for example – highly extractable from their social and cultural capital. To a certain extent, participants also derived a sense of connectedness to a Canadian national identity due to their participation in an activity that proliferates in their national context. Nevertheless, the study identifies a number of opportunities and constraints that create disparities in participation, and as such, the allocation of benefits. Since these inequalities in sport may help to reproduce inequalities in society at large, the study closes with recommendations for policy, programs, and future research.

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Change Report