Figure 1. “Basketball court” by Ashton Emanuel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Sam Campbell, Abby CarterJackson Cleave, Sara DoesburgJaslyne Golaz, and Austin Labelle 

Welcome to The Ball is in Y(Our) Court! Social Change Through and Beyond Sport !

This book was created by upper-year kinesiology students in a Fall 2020 seminar class entitled “Sport and Culture” at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. This term was a very different learning experience for all of us, as we had to do our courses online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic threw a lot of challenges our way, but we adapted as needed, and we think our class was still very successful.

KNPE 473 focused on looking at big social issues through a sport lens and then funneling out beyond sport to look at these issues from a broader sociological perspective. As a class, the 25 students, our Teaching Assistant, Niya St. Amant, and our professor, Dr. Mary Louise Adams, worked together to create learning objectives, grading contracts, and this book.

Like a lot of our work this term, this introduction was a collaborative effort. It reflects a couple of class discussions among all 25 students. The actual writing was done by six students, with a bit of virtual scotch tape provided by our professor. We have not tried to make this joint effort sound like it was written by just one person. We are happy for you to read the different “voices” here. We hope that some of you will take advantage of the open format of this project, and the Pressbooks platform we have published on, to add your own!

Sociology may not be the easiest subject to understand, nor is it everyone’s favourite. But, since you’ve found yourself at the beginning of our book, we would like to encourage you to read some of our chapters. The book chapters are not written by professors or big-time authors, but by everyday students. We made an effort throughout our chapters to write somewhere between formally and informally to show that these are our own views, not abstract ideas, and we stand by them. However, saying this does not mean you have to agree with us. That is the beauty of this book! If you read a chapter, whether you agree or disagree, we would take that as mission accomplished. Our aim was not to teach you the foundations of sport sociology but to help you engage in your own thoughts about society. This is why we think you will enjoy our book, it’s not so much of a “we talk, you listen” thing, but an opportunity to reflect – for you and for us too.

As 4th year Kinesiology students, our degree program is often difficult to explain to people as our area of study encompasses the body, the mind, science, society, and everything in between. Sport is an area in which all these components come together, allowing us to understand and appreciate the value of our complex, inter-disciplinary ways of thinking. Over the course of our four years as Kin students, we have learned that the sociological perspective of sport may be one of the most powerful tools we’ve gained as students. It allows us to see the world of sport from a different perspective, one that we could use to help change the world as we know it.

This book project allowed the class to learn more about topics that interest us, and to promote further learning as we try to share with others what we have learned about our chosen topics. Being able to read each other’s work for peer editing allowed us to learn more about the topics that our classmates chose. Choosing topics that were our own interests helped us to think more critically about sociological issues and how to engage with different sources of material.


Critical Pedagogy 

As a class we have explored a lot of controversial social issues while also emphasizing how we personally think about them by using critical pedagogy, which is the practice of challenging those who teach us. We first learned about critical pedagogy by reading a chapter from Paulo Freire’s book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  Critical pedagogy is a teaching approach that attempts to help people to question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that support it.

In a critical pedagogy approach, the students lead the learning process with guidance from the professor. This type of learning fosters critical thinking and allows students to have autonomy in their education, with the goal of this then translating into their lives. The way in which we teach university students can either develop students who are complicit with the status quo or those who feel empowered that their actions can change the problems in our society. A critical pedagogy approach hopes to challenge the power structures that are fueling inequality and develop citizens who take action in lifting up the oppressed.

So, each week we focused on real life issues such as authoritarianism, the Black Lives Matter movement, climate change, and settler colonialism. We talked about current events like the racist violence against Mi’kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia, about the 2020 US election, about racism and Covid-19. Our challenge was to use critical pedagogy to develop our own thoughts about each of these topics, and to teach one another about them.

The notion of critical pedagogy is something we really want to emphasize throughout our book. We want to encourage people to formulate their own opinions and rather than just falling in line with everyone else. We want to encourage people to start asking why things are the way they are. Lastly, we want to bring forward everyday issues within our society that could be fixed through working collectively towards a set goal. Everyone is important, everyone can make a difference, it all starts with us.


Linking to sport 

This book was born out of a collective love of sports and an urgency to spread awareness about societal issues and inequities. By using sport as a lens through which we analyse the various issues in society, we hope to reach people (like us) who might not otherwise have been exposed to these topics.

Exploring these different social issues and how they relate to sport has allowed us to gain a better understanding of systemic problems and the historic events that have shaped how our society works today.

Sporting institutions and athletes can be impacted by the issues we look at, but sport can also be used as a platform for activism in pushing for social change. Focusing on activism and what has been done to invoke social change is a large part of empowering people to take a stand themselves. We hope that while reading our book, you feel angry about these topics, like we do, but that you also feel a sense of hope that we have the ability to make a change.

A lot of people in our society invest in sport as a way of life, we want to say it’s time to use sport as a way to invest in the betterment of our society and to think about how we can accomplish this daunting task.


Our goals for this book 

The hope of this book is to drive discussions and empower ourselves and others to think critically about structures and normative beliefs within our current society. Through discussions and critical thinking, advocates are born, and protests emerge. The power to change lies within our current generation. A diverse education is the driving factor to making this shift possible. Working on this book we realized the multitude of issues we as a society are not exposed to because of how our schooling system is structured. We think that education systems need to change!

Our aim was for this book to brings awareness to different issues that are prevalent in society today. We hope to explain the roots of many of these issues and why we need to create change.

We hope you can engage with this material and be able to think about these issues from a different perspective in your everyday life. This textbook was created so we can all reflect on society. We wanted to use sport as a lens to learn about bigger social issues. We hope the chapters provide you with some of the context for these issues and that they leave you wondering how you can create social change in your life to help create a more equal society.

We’d like to thank our professor, Dr. Mary Louise Adams, for helping us see sport from a new perspective, for inspiring us to dig deeper, and giving us this opportunity use our education as a platform to connect with others. Our teaching assistant, Niya St Amant, did all the background production work on this book, sorting through the technological difficulties, and ensuring everything came together. We are grateful for the assistance of Will Roy and Mark Swartz, from the Queen’s University Library, who helped us learn about Open Education Resources (OERs) and about copyright and Creative Commons licenses, and of Dr. Courtney Szto, who is a professor in our department, who took the photo that appears on our cover.

We cannot overemphasise the importance of being educated on matters of social change, it is for this reason we wanted to ensure this information was accessible for everyone. This open textbook is a product of hours of hard work, dedication, and collaborative efforts.  We hope that other students will use this book as a starting place for their own projects. We would love for it to be re-used, revised, remixed, and redistributed!  Whatever you do with the book, we hope you too will be inspired to make our world a better place going forward.


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The Ball is in Y(Our) Court: Social Change Through and Beyond Sport Copyright © by The students of KNPE 473 at Queen's University, Fall 2020, edited by Mary Louise Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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