Sport Evangelism: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Sport for Development and Free Play for Kids

  • Author / Creator
    Ormandy, Matthew
  • Recent sport for development (SFD) scholarship undertaken from critical and poststructuralist perspectives (Darnell, 2012; Darnell and Hayhurst, 2011; Hayhurst, Giles, and Wright, 2016) has called for further research that problematizes SFD programming while considering the impacts of existing social, political, and economic structures. Specifically, scholars have suggested that research which attends to structures of oppression based on race, gender, and colonization is needed. This thesis takes up such calls through a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of Free Play for Kids (FPK), a prominent no-cost SFD program operating in Edmonton, Alberta. Before presenting the CDA I historicize relevant programs and discursive lines in sport and recreation in the 19th and 20th century which work to construct particular subjects as ‘in need’. This historicization is informed by critical theoretical perspectives (Hall, 1996; Kincheloe and McLaren, 2005) which call for deep historical understandings of existing social processes and contexts.
    In conducting the CDA I identified three main themes which were dominant in media produced by and about FPK. The first theme centers around a welcoming and inclusive Edmonton, which is shaped by hegemonic representational forms of Canadian multiculturalism and reconciliation. I primarily draw on Mackey (2002), and Dene scholar Glen Coulthard (2014a) to argue that such discourses work to shape the logics of FPK and reinforce dominant framings of Canadian nationhood.
    The second theme I identified is ‘giving back’ to the community and how that participates in ongoing neoliberal, and individualist discourses. I position FPK within neoliberal political rationalities (Brown, 2006) and follow Spade (2020) in arguing that the discourse of ‘giving back’ operates to depoliticize social movements. I also apply critical cultural studies insights to explore two subthemes: sporting celebrity, and the patriarchal ‘father figure’ who founded FPK.
    Third, I explore discourses of positive youth development and ‘sport evangelism’ (Giulianotti, 2004) which are prominently used to promote and market FPK. I draw on existing critical SFD literature which has critiqued individualist (sport) development paradigms, and apply Coakley’s (2011) critique of hegemonic, racist, SFD narratives. I then conclude by reflecting on the methodological design of the thesis and explaining the implications this research has for other SFD researchers and practitioners.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.