Monthly Archives: December 2015

January BOOST for all Level 2 Sport and Fitness Students

As part of a new initiative for Level 2 students aimed to BOOST motivation and academic health in the New Year the sport and fitness team are launching ‘BOOST your success for 2016’ in January. The BOOST initiative will consist of three one hour OU live sessions as well as an associated BOOST forum that will be open from 4th-14th January. There will be plentiful opportunities for you to share ideas and discuss the content of the tutorials with the tutors and your fellow students.

The details for each of the three OU Live BOOST sessions is as follows:

4th January at 7.30pm BOOST your motivation An application of sport and performance psychology skills and how these can be used to BOOST your academic motivation and performance

9th Jan at 9.30am BOOST your grades An innovative and fully tailored session to meet L2 sports students’ referencing and academic writing needs.

11th Jan at 6.30pm BOOST your academic health An interactive session aimed at developing independent study skills and finding academic resources – particularly useful for E217

The forum will contain a discussion thread for each of the three tutorial topics and these discussions will be moderated by the tutor leading the OU Live session.

These sessions are not compulsory for the level 2 modules but have been designed specifically with sport and fitness Level 2 students in mind to compliment the range of activities and resources within the modules. You may wish to select those sessions that you feel are most relevant to your own development or some of you may wish to attend all three.

We very much look forward to seeing you at the OU Live sessions as well as the forum discussions and hope that you find these resources enjoyable and beneficial to your academic development.

Links to the BOOST OU Live room and the BOOST forum will appear on your module website in January.

The Sport and Fitness Team

Why Tyson Fury’s sexist and homophobic comments make him unfit for BBC Sports Personality of the Year

By Helen Owton

One could be forgiven for being under the misapprehension that the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year accolade should be about more than a sportsman or woman’s exploits on track, field, court or ring. The clue’s in the name: “personality”. Most of us, I would think, would expect that the honour should be bestowed on someone whose achievements and bearing have struck a particular chord with the public, and have elevated their sport beyond the physical achievement. Apparently not.

I have to declare an interest here. I am among the 77,000 and more who have signed a petition (available here) pressurising the BBC to remove boxer Tyson Fury from its shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) on the grounds that his shockingly sexist and homophobic remarks show him to be a man whose personality gives absolutely no grounds for celebration, still less for an award.

Fury’s comments include remarks about fellow SPOTY nominee Jessica Ennis-Hill’s appearance, saying that she “slaps up good” and “looks quite fit when she’s got a dress on”.

In response to the widespread public condemnation of his remarks, Fury has denied being sexist and his wife Paris has defended the boxer as his “show side” but he has continued his vile stream of unconsciousness telling critics in an interview with IFLTV’s Kugan Cassius that they can “suck my balls” and called those who have signed the SPOTY petition as “50,000 wankers”.

I’m a little bit backward I didn’t really go to school so which part of “a woman looks good in a dress” was sexist?… I stand up for my beliefs. My wife’s job is cooking and cleaning and looking after these kids, that’s it. She does get to make some decisions – what she’s gonna cook me for tea when I get home… She’s a very privileged woman to have a husband like me.

It’s also fairly disturbing that Cassius appears to agree with these sentiments.

Jessica Ennis: role model and high achiever.
Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Fury has been unrepentant since, as his Twitter comments amply illustrate:


Not only have his comments been sexist, but he continues this verbal diarrhoea by attempting to frame his homophobic beliefs as embedded in Christianity saying “the bible doesn’t lie”. Fury told Oliver Holt:

There are only three things that need to be accomplished before the devil comes home: one of them is homosexuality being legal in countries, one of them is abortion and the other one’s paedophilia. Who would have thought in the 50s and 60s that those first two would be legalised?

This link between paedophilia and homosexuality is not only extremely harmful but against the law. However, these laws brought in by the Equality Act in 2010 do not seem to be protecting women and LGBT people from this sort of discrimination.

Once again, I’m disappointed that a sportsperson lacking in such moral character has been able to receive exposure that celebrates his aggressive sporting prowess but ignores the greater problem that can be spread by these harmful beliefs. Many sports can be misused as an arena for promoting a skewed brand of heterosexual masculinity which feeds sexism and homophobia into all sports – whether played by men or women.

Fury’s brand of sexism and homophobia only serves to reinforce these findings. When these sorts of attitudes are evident and accepted in sport, it is hardly surprising that athletes have fears of “coming out” and sportswomen feel less valued.

The harm of invincibility

Of course, there’s no suggestion that this applies to Fury, but when athletes believe that they are invincible, above the law, or incapable of being hurt they can undermine respect for authority or social norms and can result in criminal activity or deviant behaviour because they believe that the “jock culture” of which they are a part takes precedence over any other authoritative structures outside their sporting world.

Indeed, a large body of research suggests that competitive sporting environments provide a unique socio-cultural context that offers possibilities for sexual abuse and exploitation to take place. For example, findings in one study indicated 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). Another study showed that while male college athletes made up only 3.3% of the collegiate population, they represented 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators.

Meanwhile challenging homophobia in sport can be an intimidating task, particularly when the person handing out the abusive comments appears to be so intimidating and invincible. But nevertheless, some sports are raising their game – rugby, for example, rising to the challenge of promoting awareness of gay issues. It seems to be making a big effort to challenge homophobia, which also could enable a much less narrow definition of masculinity to be accepted in rugby.

Perhaps boxing should follow the example of men’s rugby? The BBC could help this shift by removing Fury from their list. It would certainly help the sport of kings climb off the canvas when it comes to promoting acceptable behaviour among its stars.

The Conversation

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

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

Gender and Inequalities in Sport Conference – March 2016

diverse-hands-painting This event focuses on the theme of equality in sport which seeks to engage debates about gender, sexuality, race, disability and multiple forms of representing this sort of research. In light of the move towards being able to communicate our research to the wider community, new forms of representations can be beneficial, purposeful and intentionally effective when aiming to communicate sensory, emotional, collective memories, intergenerational, and personal stories. Therefore, there will also be a focus on alternative and innovative forms of research.

Date: Thurs 17 March 2016
Location: Mercure Parkside, Milton Keynes
Event: 10-5pm, 7pm evening conference dinner
Cost: £55 (includes lunch & conference dinner)

Various presenters will be discussing their own specialised research on these topics that include:

  • Prof Kath Woodward – gender and sport, Emeritus Professor at The Open University, UK
  • Prof Vikki Krane – social justice in sport, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA
  • Dr Jayne Caudwell – LGBT and sport, Associate Professor, Bournemouth University, UK
  • Dr Kitrina Douglas, Leeds Beckett University, UK

Additionally, there will be THREE SYMPOSIUMS focused on various themes to evolve around gender, sexuality, race, disability, feminist methodology, reflective accounts, and multiple forms of representing these topics. There will be 2 prizes (Amazon vouchers) that will be awarded for the following:


REGISTRATION DEADLINE 29 FEBRUARY 2016 (Places are going fast!)

To register please contact to book a place and to make payment. Payment options are cheque or card payment over the telephone.

Let the children play

By Linda Plowright

If noise levels are anything to go by then school playgrounds, ball parks and bouncy castles all seem to be high octane centres of energy expenditure and yet it still seems difficult to get our children as active as the UK Chief Medical Officers advise (UK CMO 2012 Report, published March 2014).

Meanwhile there is a steadily growing body of research reporting what children say about why they like to be active – “because it is fun” (Visek 2015 The Fun Integration Theory). It doesn’t seem that difficult to work out ways in which children can experience an hour’s ‘active fun’ each day, however over 75% of primary school aged children fail to meet this physical activity target.

How do children have fun?

Curious to try to find some answers to this seemingly simple question, I conducted a small study observing some 5-11 year olds during their holiday Activity Camp to gain some insight into how they chose to spend their time. I wanted to see what they chose to do and how much physical activity was involved. Videos, drawings and photographs that told the children’s story of what they loved about their Activity Camp demonstrated that being with friends was key to their choices. With friends they developed and sustained highly imaginative and creative fantasy games. The power of being with friends has been highlighted in a number of studies, particularly for girls. See StreetGames’ recent “How to ..” guide on understanding how to harness the impact of socialising to engage girls in physical activity (Friendships How to guide). In addition children appeared to be motivated by novel equipment and environments. They fully exploited large equipment that probably wasn’t usually available to them comprising a bouncy castle, giant sponge building bricks and ride-in cars. They appeared to enjoy a range of physical sensations, bouncing, going upside down, racing around pushing cars and having rides. Novelty also existed in the space available – a large fully equipped sports hall – and other children and play scheme leaders who the children engaged in their activities allocating them roles and tasks.

What do we mean by ‘active fun’?

What children showed and talked to me about active fun had the following ingredients:
• Opportunities for the children to interact – often noisily and in role play – with their friends: a time to chat and socialize, encourage one another, banter and make noise. These elements are often alien to a learning or coaching environment which is what differentiates ‘active fun’ from PE or sport participation most starkly.
• Opportunities for children to let their imaginations drive the activity, where they choose what they do and how they do it: room for individuality, opportunities for children to create the activity themselves with their friends. There must be the opportunity to ‘not’ be committed to the game, to temporarily leave and return at will.
• Something that the children feel competent to engage in: this might mean the activity is extremely simple or it may mean that an environment of carefreeness where taking part provides the fun – ‘failing/losing’ in the activity is as much fun as ‘achieving/winning’. Play may be entirely collaborative. In the context of an hour’s ‘active fun’, keeping it fun is not about teaching new skills it’s about creating a safe environment in which the children’s imagination can drive fantastical creative activity. This does not deny increased competence, can increase enjoyment and commitment when children have chosen to pursue a particular sport. Nor does it deny that having a skilled adult to encourage and assist children to take part in an activity can be beneficial. However these things can also get in the way of fun.

So why is it seemingly so difficult for children to have an hour’s activity each day?

One answer seems to be the age-old problem of adults over-complicating the world. The challenge of encouraging our children to be active for at least an hour a day has resulted in a focus on whose responsibility it is. Neither the PE teacher, the sports coach, National Governing Bodies for sports nor parents can be solely responsible. It needs team work! We should all applaud and learn from simple, fun, cost free initiatives such as St Ninian’s daily mile (St. Ninian’s Primary School, Stirling). At St. Ninian’s every classroom teacher, not just the PE teacher, accompanies their class on a recreational mile’s walk or run each day. It is unscheduled allowing teachers to be spontaneous and creative in how and when they use the break from academic studies. The teacher joins in and the children complete it in their own way – as an exuberant run or a sociable walk. We all need to start thinking how we can weave active fun into our time with children.

Keeping the hour’s daily activity simple, spontaneous, accessible and child-centred seems to sum up the way of developing the physical activity habit for a healthy lifestyle. Games whilst walking to school, active tea-times and novel playground equipment do not require specialist knowledge. Creating opportunities and incentives for children to have ‘active fun’ is best not viewed as a specialist’s responsibility but as a way of life to be encouraged by all those who care for children. Physical activity specialists, whether that is the PE teacher or the sports coach, can then engage children further in their subject. In short “Let the Children Play”.


Linda is a PhD Research student in the Faculty of Education and Language Studies, Department of Childhood, Youth and Sport and Centre for Research in Education and Education Technology at the Open University. Trained initially as a Physical Education specialist she had a 35 year career in sport and recreation management spanning public, private and voluntary sectors. During that time she gained an MBA and MBRM studying as an open learning student with the OU before taking up her current full time research student role.

Linda’s main interest is children’s physical activity and the power of physical activity to enrich health and wellbeing. She is particularly interested in middle childhood and unlocking the power of research with rather than on children to gain insight into their understanding and beliefs. She hopes that with greater insight, new ways may be found for motivating children to develop active lifestyles – for life. As part of her Masters in Research Degree she undertook a small ethnographic pilot study focused on how 5-11 year olds chose to experience physical activity in their recreation time. She is continuing these studies in her PhD.

Will Davis Cup victory spur on a new generation of British tennis stars?

By Candice Lingam-Willgoss

After a 79-year wait, Great Britain’s Davis Cup win was an emotional day for the country’s tennis fans, players and, in particular, Andy Murray. Having won all eight of his singles matches in the tournament – a record that matches the likes of John McEnroe and Mats Wilander – he was instrumental in ensuring victory.

Murray’s Grand Slam and Olympic success has without question raised the profile of British tennis in the last few years. While the former golden boy of Wimbledon Tim Henman was popular, he didn’t have the success of Murray on the court. It would be easy to think that this would have led in turn to higher participation rates in the sport, but that has not been the case.

In general terms, sport participation figures have been failing since the London 2012 Olympics, with tennis one of those hit the hardest. This led to a cut of £530,000 for the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) in 2013.

Trickle-down effect not assured

The LTA, the governing body of tennis in the UK, has been criticised for failing to capitalise on Murray’s Wimbledon victory in 2013. But LTA chief Michael Downey said that victories such as the Davis cup “are very, very special and emotional moments that can drive interest in our sport”. He went on that the sport has “a couple of great weeks of coverage now” which could help increase participation.

Great Britain beat Belgium 3-1 in the Davis Cup final.

But this “trickle down” effect in sport is one which some researchers have dispelled as fundamentally flawed when success and participation rates are investigated more thoroughly.

In the case of tennis, timing may play an issue. Unlike Murray’s 2013 Wimbledon win, December is most certainly not a time of year when tennis is at the forefront of people’s mind, so the LTA already have a challenge on their hands.

A good contrast can be made if we rewind to London 2012 Olympics. One key legacy goal for the games was “to inspire a generation of young people”.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill and cyclist Chris Hoy were fundamental in fostering the enthusiasm of a nation and providing excellent role models to a raft of young people – in turn participation rates jumped for both cycling and athletics.

All about access

But tennis may have different drivers. Murray is very much on his own when it comes to raising the profile of British tennis, unlike athletics and cycling which have multiple successful athletes. While the Davis Cup win was a team event the success was in the main down to Murray – and the other players have a much lower profile.

Tennis also carries with it some unique challenges which in part are deep-rooted in the sport’s culture. It is an expensive sport, in which early specialisation is often encouraged. It is also a huge commitment for parents and families both in terms of financial and logistical demands.

It is this combination of commitment, cost and a middle-class image that has led to the current situation within British tennis, with only two British men (Andy Murray and Aljaž Bedene) and two British women (Johanna Konta and Heather Watson) in the current top 100 players in the world. Add to this the funding issues which have impacted on the sport’s facilities, and it becomes a challenge just to find a venue.

As Andy Murray’s mother, Judy, says of her two sons’ access to facilities locally: “If that centre wasn’t there and we’d had to drive 40 or 50 miles to Glasgow or Edinburgh then Andy and Jamie may never have gone down the tennis route.”

Even with the challenges of cost, and facilities, perhaps the bigger issue comes down to the man himself. Andy Murray is unlike Ennis Hill who embraced her role as an ambassador for athletics and identified the impact of role models on athletes.

Murray is at the other end of the curve and has made it clear he thinks his role is on the court. He has attracted some criticism for this from former player and David Cup captain David Lloyd who has accused him of not doing enough to promote the sport – to which Murray responded by posting a video of himself training on Instagram.

Yet while Murray rightly is highly focused on his performance on court, there is an unwritten code that athletes are also role models for the next generation and therefore fundamental to the process of increasing participation rates.

But if the LTA, with Murray’s support, can capitalise on the Davis Cup success there is potential to begin the path towards galvanising a new cohort of future British champions.

The Conversation

Candice Lingam-Willgoss, Lecturer in Sport & Fitness, The Open University

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