4. Sport as a Forum of Learning, Education and Socialization

4. 1. The role of Sport in Socialization

Socialization is a life-long cognitive process, during which the individual learns the values, norms, behaviour patterns of the respective society, community or environment, and acquires the skills and abilities necessary to be integrated into a smaller or larger community (let it be a family, a school, a job, or the entire society itself). Sport-socialization is nothing but educating the individual to daily sport activities. The primary participants in this process are the close family members, then the school, peers, other people important in the life of the individual concerned and, last not least, the media. In the course of this, the individual learns about the significance of sport, studies about the various facilities, the movements necessary for a specific sport, the norms and rules of behaviour. When sport becomes an important part of one’s life, they will relay this to their children. Sport will thus reflect the values, norms and behaviour rules of the entire macro-structure (Rétsági 2015; Földesiné Szabó et al. 2010).

Snyder and Spreitzer (1981) believe that relation between sport and socialization is characterized by two directions: one is socialization into the special world of sport, and the other is socialization through sport. Research projects concentrated on the first direction examine the physical and mental factors that influence an individual’s participation in some sort of a sport activity. Research focussing on the latter, deals primarily with the results and consequences of sports activities at both individual and social levels. Socialization into the world of sport means the acqusition of values such as self-determination, purposefulness, fair play, competitiveness and the appreciation of hard work. This socialization is, however, not always a positive a process; doing sports does not always and inevitably improve one’s confidence, the development of leading skills and social competences. There are active factors in addition to sport, including peer groups, activities outside sport and the media (Frei, Eitzen 1991).

The elements and directions of sport socialization referred to above is divided by Heinemann (1995) into five categories:

1.Sport reinforces the skills and competences necessary for social-normative activities;

2.Sport contributes to the development of the personality, to the imprinting of characteristic features;

3.In the course of doing sports it is possible to learn forms of social behaviour, such as following the requirements of a group, cooperation and solidarity;

4.It is possible to interpret sport as a special space of communication, in which specific systems of verbal and non-verbal symbols have emerged. Sportspeople are supposed to learn these symbols, as there are skills and competences required for the effective use of the symbols;

5.A mission of sport is to compensate for the gaps, negative phenomena and disadvantages in the socialization of the individual in other fields (for instance, correcting low or underdeveloped motoric skills, lack of confidence, excessive aggression).

4. 2. The Effects of Sports on the Development of Personality

Similarly to other activities, achieving success in sport requires the continueal development of the personality of the individual. Only a high degree of discipline, persistence, faithful following of the instructions of the coach or trainer, a willingness to make sacrifices for the success and for the fellow sportspeople may lead to lasting success in sports. While doing sports, the individual has the opportunity to learn basic work ethics: punctuality, devotion, respect to colleagues, equipment and facilities. The moral and educational functions of sport are also to be noted. Moral development is manifested through the regulated activities of the world of sport, aimed at improving the participants’ sense of fair play. Every type of sport has its own specific set of rules, all designed to prevent the use of unlawful ways and means that are not only unfair to the competitors, but may easily be physically dangerous to the sportspeople themselves. When pursuing a sport, the invidual will not only formulate ideas about moral norms, but will also experience these norms in practice. Sport will develop endurance, willpower, monotony-resistence, competitive spirit, motivation and a rule-abiding attitude. Sportspeople learn activity, perseverance, discipline, initiative, responsibility, leadership skills, good behaviour, adaptability, fighting spirit and the acceptance of regulations. Sport offers abundant opportunities to gather experience, establish social contacts and to learn general social norms. The development of a moral sense, emotions and behaviour takes place as a process among those who do sports regularly (Biróné 2004).

Gabriela Andersen-Schiess, a heroine of Marathon running, aptly demonstrated what it means to persevere until the end, even at the cost of one’s life, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olyimpic Games.


Derek Redmond’s story from the final of the 400m running at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics has become a synonym of ”Never Give Up”.


Control question?

  1. What does socialization into the special world of sports and socialization through sport?

  2. Who are the agents participating in the process of socialization into sport?

  3. What personality and community developing effects do sports have?