Author Archives: Helen Owton

About Helen Owton

Helen joined the Sport & Fitness team in May 2015 and is developing a section on gender equality in sport on the new 3rd year module which focuses on contemporary issues in sport. She is a psychologist and completed her PhD in Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter. Helen enjoys boxing, cycling and running.

Be Ready for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019!

By Helen Owton

On Friday 7th June 2019, France will host the 8th edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Lyon is recognised as a city where sport is hugely popular putting football on the very highest pedestal which is an ideal location because the convenient time zone to attract large audiences means that women’s football could hit even greater global heights of popularity. The hosts kick off the tournament against South Korea at the Parc de Princes (Paris) at 20:00 UK time. A total of 24 teams qualified for the tournament with the hosts being sorted into a group they are expected to win.

If you thought the FIFA WWC in Canada in 2015 and EURO 2017 was exciting Joey Peters says that this year, “…a new level of tactical sophistication is expected to evolve this tournament – not so much the tempo of the game but more how each team connects, adapts and thrives in such a pressure pot atmosphere.” (Joey Peters, 2019).

The Groups

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Locations

Since the FIFA World Cup in 2015 which was hosted in Canada, women’s football has grown in popularity, visibility with the recognition of the ever-increasing reputation on women’s football. Parc des Princes, home of Paris Saint-Germain, is the fifth largest stadium in France with the capacity of 48,583 but one its oldest and hosted matches in the 1998 men’s World Cup. It is one of nine venues where 52 matches will be held:  the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes, the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, the Stade des Alpes in Grenoble, Roazhon Park in Rennes, the Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier, the Allianz Riviera in Nice, the Stade Oceane in Le Havre. The final of the women’s world cup will be played at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Lyon on 7th July which seats 59,186.

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Dare to Shine

The motto behind the FIFA Women’s World Cup is “Dare to Shine” which is a message spread by the official mascot Ettie and embodied by the official emblem. Ettie’s name comes from the French word for star, étoile and links the passing on of the bright star from Footix, the brother mascot from the 1998 FIFA Men’s World Cup. The message is that:

Her enthusiasm for women’s football is contagious and she hopes to radiate her sense of fair play and passion for the game around the world and to inspire national pride in France as the host country for the competition.”

Media coverage

With the increasing popularity of women’s football in the UK, there is exciting anticipation that the women’s world cup is set to break new viewing records with the hope that a billion people will tune in.  BBC have exclusive broadcasting rights for this year’s WWC and will be showing the games on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, and the BBC Red Button and website. All the of the England games will be shown on BBC One and the schedule is available here.

Scotland

This year the FIFA WWC welcomes four newcomers to the tournament: Scotland, South Africa, Jamaica, and Chile. Scotland are ranked 20th in the world and their opening game is set to be an exciting one as they will be playing England in Nice on 9th June. This is the second major tournament that Scotland have qualified for after qualifying for Euro 2017. However, their new manager, Shelley Kerr, has a squad filled with Women’s Super League players and if they can avoid injuries “Scotland could be a surprise package in France” (Suzanne Wrack, 2019). Whilst Kim Little is Scotland’s star player, look out for the duo “Lime” and “Soda” on the team as well! Given this and their 1-0 defeat over Brazil (ranked 10th), England should not underestimate them.

Favourites

France (ranked 4th) are the favourites to win their group and progress to the knockout rounds and are among the favourites to win the whole tournament. They have a home advantage which we saw benefit Netherlands in EURO 2017 and their performances at previous world cups has seen them through to the quarter finals each time. This year, they enter the tournament having lost only 2 games so with the home advantage, a relatively easy group stage, and their winning performances so far Les Bleues are one of the favourites to win. Germany (ranked 2nd in the world) also enter the tournament with a strong winning streak of 13 along with twice Champions in 2003 and 2007. Germany have dominated the UEFA tournament wince winning in 1989 with an impressive 8 times Champions and only lost to USA 2-0 in the FIFA WWC semi-finals in 2015 so they are always ones to watch! Indeed, previous Champions include Japan (2011), Norway (1995), and the United States (1991, 1999, 2015) and as current holders, USA are another favourite to win again given that they have managed to finish at least third at a World Cup. As current European Champions, Netherlands are also among the favourites. Being a previous champion does not always make you a favourite, however, as Norway demonstrate this year entering the competition.

England

Many of us still remember England (ranked 3rd) making history in 2015, by beating Germany for an extremely well-deserved bronze medal at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015. Many of the players demonstrate resilience as a team and have become a team of female role models and an inspiration to a younger generation. Since 2015, the team has not been without controversy but has been building on their success with their new manager. The country is ready to get behind the team again and you will see many familiar names and faces with Steph Houghton as Captain and Jill Scott and Karen Carney making their 4th World Cup. Also, we welcome rising stars to the field including Georgia Stanway (20yr old) who is “England’s youngest player has the potential to be an X-factor.”

Be ready to back England again!

Players to watch

There are a wide range of ages playing at this year’s FIFA WWC so I am going to be watching both the youngest and the oldest players in the tournament. Mary Fowler, Australia, is just 16yrs old and is labelled as Australia’s ‘secret weapon’ but many have questioned whether she will be able to step up to an international field and cope with the pressure. Paired with their Captain and top goalscorer Sam Kerr could prove an exciting and unknown development on the field which could surprise opponents. 25yrs older is Marta Formiga at 41yrs of age who plays for Brazil and will become the first footballer to participate in seven world cups, surpassing Onome Ebi’s five world cups at the age of 36yrs old. It will be interesting to watch how age and experience play out on the field.

A Platform for change

The Women’s World Cup is a phenomenal global event that everyone can enjoy but it is also deemed as a platform for change like many other sports. Germany’s WWC advert has used the opportunity to create a video focusing on a “strong message of female empowerment and push for equality”.

Additionally, Lucy Bronze (Lyon) who will be on familiar ground in France has used the opportunity to discuss how more could be done for women’s football by addressing the pay gaps that still exist.  The existing gender pay in football is a stark and unexplanable gap and is the widest compared to other industries (e.g. politics, space, medicine) so it is really about time that FIFA addressed this inequality.

The more opportunities that are created for discussion the more that can be done to create change and indeed many of the women at the FIFA WWC are the change but now they just need that paid recognition.

Key Dates

  • First game starts: 7th June 2019 – France vs South Korea 8pm
  • England vs Scotland Sunday 9th June at 17:00 in Nice
  • How well do you know England & Scotland players: QUIZ
  • Fixtures: https://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/
  • Final is on 7 July 2019

Sir Roger Bannister Dies

By Helen Owton

At the age of 88 years old, “Sir Roger Bannister, died peacefully in Oxford on 3 March 2018” his family said he was “surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them”. He was best known in sport for breaking the four minute mile barrier (3mins, 59.4s) on 6 May 1954, nearly 60 years ago.

Something that he worked relentlessly to achieve remembering that, “I felt suddenly and gloriously free of the burden of athletic ambition that I had been carrying for years” (The First Four Minutes). He held the record for 46 days when John Landy, Bannister’s rival, ran a mile in 3mins, 57.9s in Finland on 21 June 1954. Indeed, breaking the four minute mile barrier was a giant sporting achievement particularly in light of the lack of training techniques, research and technology that currently exists today.

Life After Sport

Nonetheless, Sir Roger said, “None of my athletics was the greatest achievement, my medical work has been my greatest achievement and my family with 14 grandchildren. Those are my real achievements”.

For many, however, “Life after sport can be a challenging time, but it needn’t be. It’s a wonderful opportunity for reinvention.” (Richard Branson). Ending a career in sport can be a particularly challenging transition which can have cognitive, emotional and behavioural effects on individuals (Taylor and Ogilvie, 1994).  Many athletes struggle with life after sport particularly those who are ‘performance’ focused with a strong athletic identity whereas athletes more focused on ‘discovery’ tend to discuss life after sport more positively (Douglas and Carless, 2015). The transition from sport to life after sport can be even more disruptive if it was not planned (e.g. a career ending injury) (Allen-Collinson and Hockey, 2007). Regardless, if not supported, the dramatic transition can elicit stressful reactions and difficulty adjusting emotionally (Lavallee, Gordon & Grove, 1997).

Athletic careers have a short shelf life with athletes ordinarily retiring before their mid-late thirties, but Sir Roger was able to put his great sporting achievements in perspective and set his sights on other meaningful purposes enabling him to live a full life enriched by family and medical breakthroughs.

End of life

The irony of Sir Roger Bannister being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a medical field he had worked a lifetime in, is not lost on me. My Grandfather was diagnosed with bowel cancer after his wife, Joan Bebbington, had dedicated so much of her life working for Mr Douglas Macmillan (now known as Macmillan cancer). Similarly, another sporting legend, Muhammad Ali, also developed the degenerative brain disease Parkinson’s and died in 2016 at the age of 74 years.

Sir Roger may have argued, as a neuroscientist, that the brain is the most critical organ but the loss of a loved one will be felt most critically in all our hearts.

Women’s Sport 2017 is On Fire!

By Helen Owton

The summer of 2017 has been an outstanding season for women’s team sports.

Team success!

In the Netball Quad series earlier this year, the England Roses missed out on the title by just one point to the Australia Diamonds at Wembley. England beat India by just nine runs in a dramatic world cup final at Lords thanks to Anya Shrubsole’s remarkable bowling.

The England football team reached the semi-finals losing to the home nation, Netherlands at EURO 2017 but becoming national heroes. The Red Roses steamed into the Rugby World Cup final with an intense game against the very strong side of New Zealand, the Black Ferns. It wasn’t the happy ending they were looking for but the nation got behind the event to watch two of the best women’s rugby teams in the world.

Record High Viewings!

Not only has the Nation been so successfully in so many different sports, but the public have demonstrated a huge hunger for more! The women’s EURO 2017 viewing statistics hit record highs of 4 million, beating Celebrity Big Brother and the British Bake Off marking the highest audience figures for Channel 4 this year (Kennel, 2017).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L09K1qg1i9c

Earlier in the year, the England v Australia Netball game drew in half a million viewers on BBC2. Women’s cricket is also in high demand selling out Lords with 26,500 people and 1.1 million tuning in to watch the World Cup on Sky (Whaling, 2017). Recently, the Women’s Rugby World Cup, held in Ireland reported a record total attendance of 45,412, a peak of 2.65 million tuning in to ITV in the UK to watch the final between England and New Zealand and a vast increase in social media engagement.

Looking ahead, this trend is likely to build rather than fizzle with 80,000 tickets having already been sold for the Women’s Hockey World Cup 2018. Household names are cashing in on women’s sport with Vitality, Investec, and SSE sponsoring various sports and television companies are battling to secure broadcasting rights for women’s sport. Now, Kia have continued their investment with the Ladies’ PGA deal. It seems that the opportunity to watch women’s sport has never been better and it is an ideal time for other brands to invest.

Indeed, as Sally Munday highlights: “Even more encouragingly, terrestrial TV broadcasters have played a big part in this incredible summer of women’s sport. The UEFA Women’s EURO’s were shown live on Channel 4, the Women’s Rugby World Cup Final was broadcast live in a primetime slot on ITV, and Channel 5 has just announced that it will show women’s cricket domestic highlights in 2018.

Now, when I read about sport or listen to the news, I’m wondering why there isn’t more of a distinction so I know whether they are talking about men’s sport or not. We can’t just say ‘Football’ and assume that it is men’s football.

*Gender and Sport is a topic covered in the E314 module on Contemporary Issues in Sport

UEFA Women’s EURO 2017: The power of ‘Home Advantage’

By Helen Owton

On Sunday 6th August 2017, the Netherlands stormed the final after a stunning 4-2 win against Denmark having knocked out the Lionesses in a surprising win. At the start of the tournament, however, they were ranked 9th with favourites Germany being knocked out by Denmark in the quarter finals. When the hosts win it adds weight to the argument that ‘home advantage’ is a powerful weapon, but surely, home advantage can’t be that powerful?

Home advantage
Firstly, the idea of home for an individual performer may be very different, however, and the concept of ‘home’ is thus one that differs for each sport and its performers. Nonetheless, home advantage is a phenomena which has been a hotly debated contentious issue but appears to be very real. Research on home advantage found that home teams are more likely to win 53-69% of the time (Courneya and Carron, 1992). Indeed, research shows that nations hosting international sporting events can improve their medal count by around 25% (UK Sport, 2011). For example, in London 2012, ‘Team GB’ achieved a 27.8% increase in medal count (47 in 2008; 65 in 2012).

Various reasons have been sought to explain this home advantage phenomena. The presence of a supportive audience appears to be the most critical factor (Cox, 2012) and the size, density and proximity are important aspects to consider when evaluating the influence a crowd has which can activate the autonomic nervous system producing physiological and psychological arousal. This of course could have positive or negative effects on both teams. For example, a home team might feel ‘overwhelmed’ by the pressure of such a momentous occasion but an away team may experience the pressure in a different way.

Other factors include the issue of travelling to distant venues for visiting athletes; the unfamiliarity of stadiums and changing rooms for away teams, for example (Pollard, 2006). Nonetheless, the home advantage is dependent on a number of factors, including the familiarity of surroundings, the effect of travel on the opposition, an evolved response to defend home territory and the impact of the belief that we are more likely to be successful at home. Additionally, some of these factors are interrelated because the home crowd’s support might indirectly influence the thoughts and actions of the referee as well as the opposing team.

Indeed, Lucy Bronze mentions that the game against Netherlands was ‘a different game’ and needed to ‘silence the crowd’ and that referee decisions didn’t go their way.

Referee bias
In the Lionesses versus Netherlands game there were some hotly debated referee decisions. Indeed, referee bias is one of the many factors that contribute to home advantage. The idea that there is an unconscious impact that the home crowd have on refereeing decisions is a contentious one and is obviously hotly disputed by most sporting officials. Nonetheless, it could be that the power and strength of the home crowd subconsciously encourages a referee to go along with a crowd particularly if the decision is open to interpretation.

I think what makes home advantage so impressive is that unexpected teams win and it’s always surprising to watch a low ranked team work their way to victory! There were indeed some other unexpected stories in this year’s women’s EURO 2017.

Unexpected stories
Out of the teams making their debuts in the final this year Austria (ranked 13) quickly became the team to watch as they built on their successes and got strong and stronger after each game until they lost against Denmark (ranked 12th) on penalties (3-0). A great experience for Austria! France were strong contenders but were knocked out by England. Whilst Germany (ranked 1st) dominated the tournament since winning in 1989 making it an impressive total of champions 8 times, they got knocked out by Denmark in the quarter finals opening up the way for a new champion team! The hope was on the England to win the tournament, possibly adding pressure to their game as they played Netherlands. With the large supportive home crowd, it wasn’t to be for England.

Media success of Women’s Football
The fact that there has been a possibility of ‘home advantage’ during this WEURO2017 indicates the large crowd sizes which have been approx. 30,000. Additionally, Channel 4 have shown all the matches and peaked 4 million audience sizes, beating Celebrity Big Brother and Panorama (Sweeney, 2017). A huge leap for women’s football and the misogynistic comments on twitter are becoming an old fashioned dying breed.

I’m sure the nation will be excited about the Women’s World Cup in 2019 which is to take place in France! It will be interesting to watch whether the ‘home advantage’ will have the same results for France.

*Home advantage is a topic covered in E313 Exploring Psychological aspects of athletic development. If you are interested in studying sport and fitness at the OU please visit the ‘study with us’ tab at the top of the page.

References
Corneya, K.S. and Carron, A.V. (1992) ‘The home advantage in sport competitions: a literature review’, Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, vol. 14, pp. 28–39.

Cox, R. (2012) Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications, New York, McGraw-Hill.

Pollard, R. (2006) ‘Home advantage in soccer: variations in its magnitude and a literature review of the interrelated factors associated with its existence’, Journal of Sport Behavior, vol. 29, pp. 169–189.

Sweeney, M. (2017). England’s Lionesses smash TV audience record in Euro 2017 semi-final, The Guardian, [online, 4 August]. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/aug/04/englands-lionesses-smash-tv-audience-record-euro-2017-semi-final-women-football

UK Sport (2011) ‘Home Advantage – The performance Benefits of Hosting Major Sporting Events’ [online]. Available at www.uksport.gov.uk/docLib/what-we-do/…/Home-Advantage.pdf

Women’s Euro 2017 football preview – all you need to know

Helen Owton, The Open University

As the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup draws towards its conclusion, the summer of women’s sport takes to the football pitch with the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 competition getting underway on July 16.

It will be the 12th women’s Euro tournament and is hosted by the Netherlands for the first time, who will launch proceedings with a match against Norway in Utrecht. A total of 47 UEFA nations took part in the qualifications for the tournament and this will be the first time the finals will involve 16 teams rather than 12.

In 2015, the FIFA Women’s World Cup also upped its number of teams from 16 to 24, highlighting how women’s football is growing in size and popularity. According to a recent report by UEFA, there are 1.27m registered female players in Europe in 2016-17.

Media coverage of the sport in the UK is improving with Channel 4 announcing that it will be showing all of the games featuring England and Scotland. Other games will be shown on British Eurosport 2.

During the tournament, there will be a focus on increasing the number of women who play football through a campaign called Together #WePlayStrong. It focuses on three key aspects that embody the game: skill, togetherness and positive attitude.

The favourites

Germany, the holders and ranked first in 2017, have dominated the tournament since winning in 1989, lifting the trophy an impressive eight times. They also put an end to Brazil’s winning streak on July 4 2017 in the lead-up to the Euros. They will meet one of their biggest rivals, Sweden, on their opening game on July 17 – a team who are yet to beat them.

Dzsenifer Marozsán, who had a long football career as a junior, has appeared more than 60 times for Germany’s senior team. She is a highly skilled technician with the football who, after being instrumental in winning the Olympic Gold medal in Rio 2016, is one to watch.

France are also strong contenders and have had a successful year so far. They face Iceland first who beat Scotland 4-0 in the qualifying round in June 2016.

The Lionesses

England – known as The Lionesses – made history by finishing third for the first time in 2015, by beating Germany for an extremely well-deserved bronze medal at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015. They are a resilient team and have become female role models to a younger generation.

Since 2015, the team have been building on their success and on July 1 beat Denmark 2-0, with both goals scored by the captain for the game, Ellen White. She is known for scoring one of the best goals in the history of the FIFA World Cup in 2011, and is definitely another player to keep an eye on in this tournament.

The England squad has been announced – and there has been a bit of a shake up. There are some familiar stars from the 2015 world cup, including Fara Williams, Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze, Laura Bassett and Fran Kirby – but also some new names. Demi Stokes (defender), Isobel Christiansen (midfielder), Nikita Parris (striker), and Millie Bright (midfielder) all make their debut for England.

The Lionnesses’s first game, versus Scotland, takes place on July 19 in Utrecht at 19.45 UK time. England are favourite to win their group.

Debutantes to watch

Scotland make their debut in the Women’s Euros this year. The team is ranked 11th but has made strong progress on financial, commercial and equality issues for women’s football in Scotland in the lead up to the Euros. Despite a few injuries, the team demonstrated their form on July 7 beating Ireland 1-0. After they play England they’re lined up to play Portugal, ranked 23rd, and then Spain who are ranked 6th.

Other teams making their debuts in the final this year include Belgium, Austria, Portugal, and Switzerland. Switzerland, in particular, shouldn’t be underestimated.

Key things you need to know

• First game starts: July 16. A full fixture list is available on the UEFA website.

• The top two teams in each of the four groups will progress to the knockout phase.

• The final is on August 6 in Enschede.

Helen Owton, Lecturer in Sport & Fitness, The Open University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How to get a First in Sport & Fitness

By Helen Owton

The summer is here and for those who want to use it to your advantage here are some top tips on how you could get a First in Sport and help you get ahead for your next academic year!

Passion

One of the top tips for students wanting to gain a first in their subject is to have a passion for their subject (Tefula, 2012). The vast majority of sport and health science students share some sort of sporting experiences given that the majority of students partake in sport themselves.  Indeed, I argue that these sports science students tend to be ‘active learners’ (Owton, 2016) which means that the best students make notes in learning sessions which can help if you have a short concentration span. Get the most from your lectures by doing pre-reading, take notes and record the sessions and listening to podcasts of lectures that relate to your topic area.

Reflect on personal experience

As sports students, you are in an ideal position to reflect upon your own experiences. Indeed, previous sporting experiences have been sources of confidence for sport psychology graduates and this experiential knowledge can have a major impact on a student’s development (Brown, Gould and Foster, 2005).  Martens (1987) has highlighted the importance of experiential knowledge which is vital in areas such as sport psychology and sociology to forming relationships, understanding the human experience, and introspection of self. This is something sports students can use to their advantage and making the most of activities that give you the opportunities to think with personal experience and blend this with academic literature to support your claims will help gain you first in your final degree.

Prior knowledge is another tip for getting a first. Again, sports students have an advantage here with their shared experiences in sport. Also, you have lots of opportunities at the Open University to engage in free OU learning courses at different levels and participate in the Skills Check on the library website (https://www2.open.ac.uk/students/skillsforstudy/assignments.php). You could use the summer holidays before and during your studies to participate in the free OU learning courses to give you a head start. It means you keep a foot in the door of studying as well so you build on your knowledge from year to year.

Reference, reference, reference! Whilst prior knowledge and experience bodes well for students wanting to get a first for their degree, it goes without saying that referencing your points with supporting literature helps strengthen your arguments. This demonstrates that you have read widely and the more widely you read the more you will understand the wider arguments embedded in the topic areas.

Work ethic

When we think of someone with a good work ethic, we might think of someone who is self-disciplined, professional, responsible, positive, organised, dedicated, accountable and humble. These are all qualities that help towards gaining a first in your degree, but being disciplined by making the most of the time and space you have is key to giving yourself the right environment to process what you are reading and digesting. Just remember to submit mitigating circumstances and seek support if you need to.

Study environment

It much more challenging when you are juggling family, part-time or full time work, multiple modules, relationships and other personal responsibilities which is why this is one of the key aspects. If you cannot study at home or at work, there are plenty of other places which might suit you better – cafes, libraries, hotel receptions. Try different locations for different tasks to see what suits you.

An Open Mind

Your degree lasts 3years and longer which is a commitment to learning, but once you recognise that learning is something that happens through life and your career and doesn’t stop once you complete your degree then this opens up a new way of thinking outside the box. I’m sure some of you are familiar with Carol Dweck’s concept of the growth mindset given that this theory is covered in some of the Sport & Fitness modules. A growth mindset is the idea that talents and abilities can be learned and developed through constant effort, determination and persistence. In other words, with hard work, you could get a first. Working hard and putting in lots of effort isn’t just enough if you are not working hard on the right aspects. Imagine a hamster running round and round in a wheel; the hamster is working really hard but isn’t getting anywhere. If you are not working hard on the right things then whilst you might feel like you worked really hard you haven’t achieved the grade you want because you haven’t worked smart.

Work smart

Take exam preparation as an example. You can read and re-read notes over and over again until you are blue in the face, but there are strategies for revising which help you to master memory. Testing your memory with Cue cards will be more effective than reading your notes over and over again. Being strategic about how you revise and work will help you achieve the grade you want which is the same about how you work and prepare for your assignments. Reading widely around a topic is a good start, but don’t just include everything you have read and think that a long reference list will get you high marks. Remember, you need to be selective about the things you have read and form a coherent and convincing argument which answers the question.

Writing is a craft

Preparing your assignments in advance of the deadline is a useful strategy. This gives you the opportunity to proofread your work, let others proofread it, give yourself space from the assignment and then craft your assignment with fresher eyes. Writing is a craft which needs work and not even the best writers share their first draft.

Make your final assignment count!

Remember, at the Open University, your final assignment can sometimes determine your overall grade regardless of how well you have done in your overall TMAs. Think about where you expend your energies and how you apply yourselves to make your final grade count.

Run your own race

Remember the best athletes are those who focus on their own race, their own personal best and don’t compare their results with others. Make the most of your degree but remember to look after your body and mind (keep a check on exercise, diet, alcohol and sleep).

References

Brown, C., Gould, D., and Foster, S. (2005). A Framework for developing contextual intelligence (CI), The Sport Psychologist, 19, 51-62.

Martens, (1987). Science, knowledge, and sport psychology. The Sport Psychologist, 1, 29-55.

Tefula, M. (2012). How to get a first. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Referencing In Sport: Getting your head round it!

By Helen Owton and Gavin Williams

Many students find referencing confusing and it seems that confusion comes from not fully understanding what is meant by voicing your own opinion in the context of an academic essay. Indeed, you are asked to write about what others have found and argued yet at the same time, you are told that you need to think for yourselves and come up with your own ideas and interpretations. According to Norton et al. (2009), those who are skilled essay writers respond to the essay by:

  • Reading the relevant sources
  • Formulating an argument that represents their personal stance
  • Ensuring that all the points they make in their essays are supported with evidence from the literature

Knowing when to reference and the specific conventions required can prove difficult, however, particularly for students new to studying at university level. The flowchart below “Is a reference needed?” provides some useful guidance for you:

Adapted from Cardiff University, 2006

As the diagram points out, you cannot make claims about knowledge in your essays without backing up with reference to the appropriate sources. It is the same with concepts and ideas. It might help to think about your own experiences; for example, think about how annoying you might find someone passing off one of your ideas in a meeting as their own without mentioning that the original idea came from you. As Jill, a student (cited in Norton et al., 2009, p. 79) points out “You can’t just make a point and leave it at that, you need to show the evidence is out there. This has been said and it is in this journal or this book” At undergraduate level, most points and ideas should be referenced, therefore, search through relevant journals and find previous research in order to support your points. First and foremost, you should use the module materials in order to show your understanding of what you have studied. As you increase through the levels (e.g. level 3), you might start to use other different sources of information as listed below:

  • Journals: the quantity and quality of your evidence will increase greatly and so will your topic of the area
  • Textbooks e.g. the Study Guide or Reader for your module(s).
  • Other credible documents

In E217 Sport and Conditioning Science into Practice, for example, you are encouraged to explore sources outside the module material to produce a “Personal Investigation”. Not only must you cite where you found ideas or knowledge, you must do this accurately as referencing is essential in higher education. You must do this in 2 ways:

  • In the text, by putting in brackets the author’s surname (not their initials) and the date when the study/book was published
  • And in the referencing section at the end of your essay, by alphabetically listing, by author, all journals, books, websites and other sources you referred to in the main text of your essay

Additionally, in sport, the general rule of thumb is to avoid using too many quotes because summarising information helps you understand something better as well as demonstrate your understanding to the person reading your work. Including too many quotes can result in a very superficial response to a question and when you are being marked you are not demonstrating your understanding to the reader/tutor. You should therefore keep direct quotes to a minimum and look to summarise (paraphrase) the information you have read whenever possible. Despite the need for referencing and citing appropriately, you must write about it in your own words. This can help demonstrate your understanding of what you have read and that you can apply this understanding to the question you are attempting to answer. Remember to reference it in the text AND in the reference list at the end of the essay. By doing this you are meeting academic criteria.

Getting penalised

It is important to get your head round referencing because a lack of referencing can directly affect the overall quality of your response to a question and consequently affect how tutors mark the essays. Many tutors take the view that when students have been told how to do something in their writing and then do not do it, it is valid to penalise them by lowering their mark (Norton et al., 2009). This happens particularly when a student’s turnitin scores are high (e.g. over 25%) which shows a high level of copying directly from another source or putting things in your own words. plagiarism

In order to gain further information about referencing on your module take a look at the Assessment Guide, available from the module website. The Open University library provides a range of resources to assist with academic writing and referencing. The Referencing and Plagiarism section here contains further information along with a very useful video about plagiarism. In addition, the Study Skills section on your StudentHome page also contains some very useful resources to help you plan and write assignments. Remember too that your tutor is there to provide support so do get in contact with them if you would like some specific advice about referencing.

In essence, “Every single name that appears in anything you write must be followed by a date in brackets, and the full reference must be presented at the end of your assignment” (Norton et al., 2009, p. 83). These cited references should then be listed at then end of your assignment in a reference list.

Reference List

Norton, L., and Pitt, E. with Harrington, K., Elander, J. and Reddy, P. (2009). Writing Essays at University: A Guide for Students by Students. London: London Metropolitan University, Write now Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

How universities can help to support student-parents

The challenges of being a parent while studying must not be overlooked, says Helen Owton

With student tuition fees in the UK increasing, part-time study for young and mature students might start to become a more viable and feasible option, particularly for those students who have children.

“Student-parents” are usually working part-time, with many juggling studies, family life and maybe other caring responsibilities. This all means that student-parents might fall between two stools, being neither a “traditional” student nor a mature student. Academics need to be supported by institutions to empathise with these unique circumstances – particularly if they are to become more commonplace.

Whatever the individual circumstances (young, mature, disabled, single), being a student-parent can mean a slow, time-consuming and strenuous adjustment phase when starting university. This varies from student to student.

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Many have been out of education for longer than five years, which can mean that becoming a student again can be a daunting experience. For example, as a mature student parent, they might feel anxious about intellectual insecurity, feel “uncool” or different, and have the additional pressures of managing the guilt of juggling parental responsibilities with study. Meanwhile, younger student-parents who have not been out of education for such a long time (particularly if they became pregnant during their studies) may face a different set of challenges such as overcoming stigma.

Either way, the transition into higher education – where there are significant shifts in lifestyles – can be a challenge. Institutions cannot assume that all their students are living in an academic “bubble”, waiting to enter the “the real world”; they are living, and have to breathlessly juggle studies and other commitments that can lead to emotional and financial hardship.

Unfortunately, many university protocols don’t necessarily accommodate the lives of students with children. For example, timetabling has been identified by the NUS as a significant source of stress for 87 per cent of student-parents.

Childcare is the greatest source of angst for most student-parents, because of the financial and the organisational demands. Half-terms can be of particular stress, especially during Christmas when there are fewer clubs and greater family demands (usually during a time when students are expected to be preparing for exams). Planning childcare can be time-consuming, long-winded, expensive and challenging.

It’s clear that student-parents have much greater demands on them than other students without these responsibilities, so it’s important for universities to encourage this group to seek out support as much as they can. But the support has to be there. More universities could create websites (such as this example from Newcastle University) that signpost student-parents to the most up-to-date resources available.

Where new structural developments are taking place, institutions should take the opportunity to build spaces, or crèches, for accessible and affordable childcare on campus.

Student-parents are an enthusiastic, motivated, purposeful and inspiring group of students who achieve in the face of adversity, but they might struggle and go off the radar – this is when lecturers can help remind student-parents of why they are studying. That can keep them motivated. As one student-parent said to me: “Sometimes just knowing someone is there, knowing the support is there if I need it, is enough.”

Helen Owton is author of Studying as a parent: A handbook for success.

Article originally published in Times Higher Education. Click here.

Superqueeroes: Gender and superheroes

By Helen Owton & Meg-John Barker (With expertise input from Joseph de Lappe)

The new Batman v Superman film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is coming out on 25th March 2016 so we thought this would be a good chance to reflect on superhero movies: particularly the place of gender in them. 

We’re particularly interested in the role of binaries and hierarchies in these kinds of films. Batman v Superman pitches two well-known superheroes against each other in a binary way, and – of course – the superhero genre as a whole is based on the linked binaries of hero v villain, good v bad, and right v wrong, with the former winning out in the end. More recent versions of superhero movies trouble these simple distinctions somewhat. For example, The Dark Knight version of Batman is less clear cut, and the two groups of X-men can be seen as more about assimilationism v radical approaches to activism. However, audiences may well not pick up on such nuances.

An additional binary and hierarchical consideration in Superhero movies is needed. Characters are male or female, with predominantly male characters, and masculinity is privileged over femininity in various ways.

Currently, we are living through a golden age of comics, with a vibrant independent comic and graphic novel scene which includes strong representations of womenExternal link  and LGBT+External link  characters, much of which has been taken up by mainstream superhero comicsExternal link  too. Nonetheless, there is a serious disparity between this shift in comics, and the continued limited representation in the movies which are based on these comics.

Wonder Woman and women/men in superhero movies

You might be surprised to learn that Wonder Woman is making an appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice given that both title and trailer suggest that the film will revolve around two well-known male superheroes. In superhero comics Wonder Woman has been part of the recent positive trend towards strong representations of women, notably with Gail SimoneExternal link ’s seminal run writing for Wonder Woman. However, turning to the movie, Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot (who served two years as a sports trainer in the Israeli Defense Forces) has been blasted on social media already for being too slim, not busty, and not fit enough to play the part, but this should not be surprising given that women tend to be more heavily criticised on appearances. Not only is there a complete lack of women in superhero films, but the women are either cast as damsels in distressExternal link (e.g. Lois Lane) which serves to infantilise women, or as sidekicks to a main male character(s). This is the case in many of the recent X-men and Avengers movies, for example, very few of which pass the Bechdel testExternal link  (a simple test with three criteria: 1) features two or more female characters, 2) who have a conversation with each other at some point, 3) about something other than males). It also seems a shame that the Bechdel test is still what we’re aiming at rather than, for example, equal numbers of male and female characters, and female characters playing a major role.

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(Illustration: ‘Wonder Women’ by Helen Owton, 2016, Pencil, 297x420mm, 130 gsm white cartridge paper)

Hopefully, the inclusion of Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman is a precursor for the specific Wonder WomanExternal link  movie due for release in 2017. However, we fear in the Batman v Superman movie that she will end up merely a sidekick behind the two white heterosexual hyper-masculinised superheroes, thus positioning her as second-class to the men.

It is worrying that Batman v Superman continues with the same hyper-masculine aesthetic that has defined superhero movies for so long. For example, superheroism enables individuals to express aggression, competitiveness, speed, strength, invincibility, and skill – traits commonly associated with hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is white, heterosexual, privileged/middle-class, and able-bodied masculinity which is generally represented as opposite and superior to femininity and homosexuality (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). Thus hegemonic hyper-masculinity marginalises other masculinities (e.g. black, disabled, working class, gay) and devalues femininity (Connell, 1987). Also, the hyper-masculinity expressed in superhero movies is frequently tortured, addicted, lonely, and painful. We could reflect on the gendered violence inherent in the messages this gives to young male viewers about (hyper)masculinity requiring such suffering.

Unlike Wonder Woman there are many female superheroes that have not made it into films as sidekicks let alone solo or lead roles in a film (e.g. Ironwoman, Batwoman, Spiderwoman, Ms Marvel, She-Hulk). When women superheroes do appear, often they are dressed in over-sexualised costumesExternal link  in an attempt to appeal to a presumed male heterosexual audience. They are scantily clad (e.g. Elektra) or dressed in PVC (e.g. Catwoman). Attempts to gender-flip the outfits and posturesExternal link  of superheroes have usefully drawn attention to how sexualised and ridiculous female superhero costumes and postures often are. These attempts also draw attention to the clear male/female binary that is in play (when women are represented at all in superhero movies). It is possible to gender flip characters – and find the results ridiculous – because the depictions are so very binary: hypermasculine male characters and hypersexualised female characters.

Wonderwoman

Battling the super-binary

Just as superhero films rarely radically challenge binary ways of thinking about moral values (e.g. good v bad, wrong v right), also they rarely question gender binaries (men v women, masculine v feminine), or the related ways in which men have been privileged in terms of legal status, formal authority, political and economic power, access to resource, and sexuality. They do little to challenge a gender ideology that is based on a simple binary classification model which comes with quite fixed ideas about how to understand sex and gender. This binary model suggests that all people can be classified into one of two sex categories: male or female. These sex categories are identified as oppositional and defined in biological terms. According to the model, males are assumed to be completely different (in terms of feelings, thoughts and actions) from females which then form the expectations for the ways people define and identify gender (masculine and femininity). This gender ideology is so deeply rooted in our social worlds that we hardly think to question this organising principle (Coakley & Pike, 2009). This means that many people resist thinking about gender in new ways and often feel uncomfortable when others do not fit neatly into one sex category or the other; a problem experienced by many trans athletes competing in sport. This classification of all bodies into two separate categories appears to reflect social and cultural ideas rather than biological facts (Jordan-Young, 2010). Evidence suggests that sex/gender isn’t entirely binary on any level of physiology or psychology (chromosomes, hormones, brain structure, personality, gender roles, Fausto-Sterling, 2000). For example, Daphna JoelExternal link ’s research (2011, 2015) has found that it is extremely rare for anybody to have what used to be thoughts of as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ brain: most people’s brains display a mixture of featuresExternal link . And on the level of experience, over a third of peopleExternal link  said that they were to some extent the ‘other’ gender, ‘both genders’ and/or ‘neither gender’.

Superqueering gender

If we are to shift the hierarchical positioning of men as superior to women in the superhero movie genre (and beyond), perhaps we need to go further than fighting for the inclusion of equal numbers of female characters at an equal level to male characters, and no more sexualised than male characters. Perhaps we need to also encourage the inclusion of characters who question the assumption of a fixed gender binary. One way of shifting the notion of fixed binary genders is to challenge the expectation that conventionally ‘male’ characters need to remain male in the movie versions, and to be played by male actors. Given the historical context of most of the superhero comics things are unlikely to change until some of the sidekick/damsel in distress female characters are elevated to heroes in their own right and writers and directors recognise that just because a character was originally depicted as a straight, white, male, doesn’t mean they have to remain that way. There are several examples of such shifts in superhero comicsExternal link , although these are often received with at least as much criticism as celebration from readers. Another, more radical option, is the inclusion of more characters who explicitly challenge the gender binary, either by focusing on already non-binary characters, or by making currently binary characters non-binary. There are a few possibilities already available in the superhero canon. For example, the character of LokiExternal link  in the Thor/Avengers comics and movies who can shapeshift different genders. Although Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series (not a conventional superhero series) has come up against glitchesExternal link  in attempts to be developed into a movie, it also includes an androgynous character, DesireExternal link , who appears in different genders (as do other characters at times). However it’s worth noting that both these characters are probably closer to being villains than heroes, reflecting the way in which non-binary characters – like bisexual characters – tend to be represented as evil, manipulative, and suspicious. Also already non-binary characters do not have to be the limit. Just as there seems to be no reason not to have a female actor playing Hulk or Professor X, is there any reason not to have a non-binary Spider or Bat person? There are already a number of far more explicitly queer/trans superhero comics which could be adapted for the screen, such as The Young AvengersExternal link ,the wicked + the divineExternal link Astro City #16External link , or Grant Morrison’s and Rachel Pollock’s runs on Doom PatrolExternal link , if film-makers could get past always returning to the same set of heroes and villains. Queering superhero movies in this way not only has the potential to empower queer and trans audiences through seeing themselves represented, but also it can liberate straight and cisgender audiences by offering something other than rigid binaries of hypermasculinity and sexualised femininity.

Conclusions

As with other intersecting identities such as disability, race, class, and sexuality, clearly there is still a very long way to go with gender in the superhero movie genre. Whilst the inclusion of Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman could be seen as a step forward, it still feels like a small step indeed, and it remains to be seen whether the movie even passes the low bar of the Bechdel Test. In future media representations it would be great to see female characters on an equal footing with male characters, women actors playing originally male characters, films with central female superheroes (like the Netflix series, Jessica JonesExternal link ), and all-female cast superhero movies (as with the new GhostbustersExternal link  film), explicit gay/lesbian characters (like Xena: Warrior PrincessExternal link ), men playing more feminine characters and women more masculine ones, and explicitly trans and non-binary characters and actors in both leading and supporting roles.

This entry was posted on OpenLearn. Read the original article.

Adam Johnson guilty: Why is there so much depravity in football?

By Helen Owton

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Adam Johnson leaves Bradford Crown Court after being found guilty of one count of sexual activity with child (Getty)

On 2 March 2016, 28-year-old former Sunderland footballer Adam Johnson was found guilty of grooming (a strategy used to convince or coerce a child or young person to engage in sexual behaviour) and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl. At the time of his crime, his then girlfriend Stacey Flounders had just given birth to their daughter, and he has since also admitted to cheating on her several times.

Now he faces a ten-year sentence, serving a minimum of five years. Although in this case the offence concerned a child, this is certainly not the first instance of sexual or violent offences, or disrespectful behaviour towards women we have seen from footballers.

In 2012, Ched Evans was convicted of raping a 19-year-old woman and he has since served half of his five-year sentence. Since his release in 2014, he has pushed to return to his club Sheffield United, but they withdrew an early offer after the intense public response.

Even when not committing a crime, some footballers’ lack of respect toward women has been exposed to the public. In 2015, three Leicester City footballers – Tom Hopper, Adam Smith and James Pearson – were sacked from the club after being seen on film engaging in what has been described as a “racist orgy” with a group of Thai women.

These recent cases have sparked debates about whether sportspeople who have crossed the line should continue to occupy the exalted status of “sports star“. However, why do they think they will be able to get away with it in the first place?

Jock culture

One of the problems with the culture of sport is that it places athletes on a pedestal that gives them celebrity status. Many argue that competitive sporting environments provide a unique socio-cultural context that offer possibilities for sexual abuse and exploitation to take place.

Research has found that male college student athletes were responsible for a significantly higher percentage of reports of sexual assault on the campuses of Division I institutions (the highest level of intercollegiate athletes).

Other research showed that while male college athletes in the US made up only 3.3% of the collegiate population, they represented 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators. While sport does not cause domestic and sexual violence, “it can provide the conditions that enable forms of domestic violence“.

When sportspeople believe that they are above the law, invincible, or incapable of being hurt they can undermine respect for authority or social norms and can result in criminal activity or deviant behaviour

Men’s football, in particular, provides a platform to global celebrity, bloated salaries, corporate sponsorship and fan adulation that can catapult male footballers into famous millionaires. This status comes with power that has the potential to be abused.

As Scott Goll wrote, professional athletes seem to be “used to getting what they want. They get the attention. They get the money. To some extent, I believe there’s a sense of entitlement.”

Therefore, when sportspeople believe that they are above the law, invincible, or incapable of being hurt they can undermine respect for authority or social norms and can result in criminal activity or deviant behaviour. They believe that the “jock culture” of which they are a part takes precedence over any other authoritative structures outside their sporting world.

Reinforced entitlement and invincibility

Furthermore, this sense of entitlement and invincibility seems to be preserved; when they do commit serious offences (e.g. violent or sexual), evidence suggests that “professional athletes are not punished by the leagues, teams, or criminal justice system as harshly or consistently as their general public counterparts”.

The overwhelmingly high value placed on men’s sport, specifically men’s football, means that they think they can get away with it and maybe many of them do given that abuse is likely to be underreported.

“We need to enable and support victims, bystanders and other sportspeople to become ‘whistleblowers’ in order to continue to challenge the ‘lad culture’ that seems to exist in football”

During the trial at Bradford Crown Court, Johnson claimed he told Sunderland’s chief executive Margaret Byrne “everything from the start” and that he had kissed a 15-year-old fan. Following his arrest, he was suspended. However, this suspension was lifted 16 days later with him then playing nine months of football, during which he earned £2m.

Sunderland FC have now issued a lengthy statement denying they were aware of Johnson’s intentions to plead guilty and would have sacked him earlier if they did. The statement added that Johnson’s claim he informed the club of his intentions “is utterly without foundation and is refuted in the strongest possible terms.”

‘Lad culture’

In response to Johnson’s guilty verdict, football fans have also taken to social media and some of the responses following Johnson’s conviction highlight the way ‘lad culture’ can trivialise and normalise the issue.

Breaking the Silence

When victims are subjected to abuse by a famous footballer, it can be extremely difficult to report it; they feel they won’t be believed and there is a risk of victim-blaming and trivialisation from football fans. Not only did Ched Evans’ victim experience the worst victim-blaming ever seen in this country after moving house five times because she was repeatedly named on social media, but she will have to relive this ordeal again when his conviction is reviewed later this month.

Similarly, Adam Johnson’s victim was subjected to bullying and abuse when her name and picture were unlawfully posted online. She was called a “slag” who was “making it up”, or a “slut” who must have lured the footballer by claiming she was over 18.

We need to enable and support victims, bystanders and other sportspeople to become ‘whistleblowers’ in order to continue to challenge the ‘lad culture’ that seems to exist in football. In the US, the Major League Baseball Players Association have done this by suspending Ardolis Chapman for 30 games after domestic violence allegations from his girlfriend. This action demonstrates a strong statement that the MLBPA does not condone this sort of behaviour and are adhering to the sport’s new policy on domestic violence.

Since 2014, debates have emerged that question whether sportspeople should be able to return to compete after a conviction involving a sexual offence, and be positioned on a pedestal where they continue to hold wealth, power and be glorified in the public eye. But should footballers be granted this much power in the first place.

This article was originally published on IBTimes. Read the original article.