What is your sporting autobiography? Who are you as an athlete, fan, and as a product of racialized U.S. society and culture? What are the characteristics of the schools, community, teams, and athletic system that shaped you and your involvement and interest in sports? How does this intersect with who you are now?
This 2-3 page paper will allow you to explore your own sporting experiences, and begin to unpack how your own beliefs and understandings about sports, race, and social and cultural positioning emerged. For this assignment, you will explore how your personal history, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, physiology, and your cultural and socio-economic/socio-political positions, impacted your participation in sports, your current relationships to sports, and how you see sport as an element of cultural/social development. The assignment is a way to understand who you are, how you are positioned in the context of sports, race, communities, and the world, and what that means for how you will be positioned in diverse racial communities in the future.
While you need NOT answer all of the following questions in your response, nor should you feel limited by them, the following reflective questions may help to guide the direction you take your paper, and should help you un-pack your personal sporting history:
- What kind of community did you grow up in? What kind of schools did you attend? What sports did you play and have access to? What sports were most popular, and most valued? How did the schools, community, and sports relate to one another?
- Has your race, ethnicity, gender, or physiology ever been a topic of conversation or focus in relation to your life in sports? Have you been pressured to take on, or groomed for, a certain position/event/role/etc. because of factors related to your identity, rather than your interests, qualities, or abilities?
- What was the racial and demographic makeup of athletic teams you participated in? Did this align with the racial and demographic makeup of the coaching staff? Of the league you participated in and other teams you competed against? Of the fanbase and spectators?
- What role did your family have in relation to sports? What sports were you encouraged to participate in or watch? What sports were you discouraged from participating in, or not have access to, and why? How involved were your family in sports participation and fandom? For what purposes? Did expectations of athletic success in your family match those of other influences, like the school and community?
- Did your engagement in sports offer you any advantages or privileges in your school or community? If not you, did it do so for others? What did this look like? How did these advantages play out?
- When you reflect on your community, family, and closest friends, what did their trajectories in athletics and sports fandom look like? What was considered normal? How did the family and community support and reinforce certain goals and roles in sports?
- Did you excel in sports? Did you ever struggle in athletics? What were the messages around these moments of success or adversity? What support were you given access to? By whom?
- What sporting contexts did you (and do you) feel at ‘home’ in? Did the participants in school and community sports seem reflective—demographically speaking—of the community? Why or why not? Now go check the internet to see if your impressions of your school/community’s demographic diversity were accurate…how do the numbers stack up to how it felt?
- What support for your athletic life did you receive from OUTSIDE of the school? Were you able to participate in formal leagues or structured coaching opportunities before sports were offered at school? Were you aware of other people in your community who were able to access better coaching or participation opportunities due to factors besides performance? Who provided this support?
- What are your fandom practices, affiliations, and commitments? Where did these practices come from? Were they common in your community? In your family?
- What about your cultural, socio-economic, racial, geographic, etc. background felt distinctive about your experiences in sporting and educational settings? Did the values and practices of your family reflect the values and practices of your athletic contexts and educational institutions?
- Given what we have learned about the concepts of race and racial identity in the U.S., where does your experience fit in? How were recent moments and current events around race and sports discussed in your cultural world?