UMN Expert: Building community through sport
Minnesota is home to dozens of professional, semi-professional and college sports teams. As some teams have moved into new spaces and welcomed new fans, University of Minnesota Assistant Professor Yuhei Inoue is available to speak about how sport can build a sense of community.
Yuhei Inoue, Ph.D.
“There are two ways sport spectatorship can lead to a sense of belonging.
"The first is attending sporting events. Research has shown that a live sports game is a unique physical environment, allowing attendees to feel emotionally supported. When you attend a sporting event as a fan, you are surrounded by other fans. This connects you with people that you would not otherwise encounter, making you a part of a larger community. It’s not just about your friends, but also about the people seated next to you and random interactions.
"The second is the psychological connection fans have to their teams. Your fanship increases the perception of emotional support you feel from your fellow fans. When you identify with a sports team, socially and psychologically, you begin to feel like you are a part of that team. This ‘team identification’ increases the emotional support you feel when surrounded by fans of your team.
"If you are following a sports team, you are also supporting that team’s community. Essentially, you are not only building connections with other supporters, but—by extension—a larger community, whether they are involved in sports or not.
"This fanship and connection to community has been shown to have an especially positive effect on populations that are isolated, such as aging communities, or communities that have recently undergone a large tragedy.
"Also, you can connect with your fellow sports fans in a way you cannot in many other instances. Sports are a rare environment. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream—with sports, that’s what you do! Imagine the last time you and a co-worker screamed or cried over the copy machine. It has probably never happened. But, think back to the last time your team celebrated a come from behind victory or championship win—you probably screamed and maybe even cried tears of joy. Your fellow fans get to participate in a uniquely emotional environment with you. You celebrate victories and mourn losses together in a way that is unique to sports.”
Yuhei Inoue, Ph.D., is an associate professor of sport management in the School of Kinesiology in the College of Education and Human Development. His primary research agenda is to understand how sport organizations and events create social impacts, including: promoting public support for charitable causes; fostering collective identity and pride; and enhancing health and well-being.
About the College of Education and Human Development
The University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) strives to teach, advance research and engage with the community to increase opportunities for all individuals. As the third largest college on the Twin Cities campus, CEHD research and specialities focus on a range of challenges, including: educational equity, teaching and learning innovations, children’s mental health and development, family resilience, and healthy aging. Learn more at cehd.umn.edu.
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