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Centrifugal Social Forces in a Youth Sport League


  • Chalip, Laurence
  • Philip Scott, E.


The dynamics of conflict among sport clubs for children and adolescents are examined via a case study of a summer swimming league in the American southwest. Participant observation, interviews, and archival analysis of league and member team records are used to document and describe the escalation of political rivalries, the emergence of policy coalitions, the aggravation of conflict among clubs, and the consequent efforts to splinter or disband the league. It is shown that the conflict resulted, in part, from the league's inability to formulate or implement policies addressing the consequences of its own growth and success. It is argued that the league's inability to formulate and implement new policy initiatives can be attributed to four forces: (1) goal displacement, causing means to become conflated with ends during policy debates; (2) tribalism in the confederation of rivals, causing parochial issues to dominate league decision processes; (3) the uncertainty of principals, causing personalities rather than issues to be the focus of problem attributions; and (4) the tether of tradition, causing policy proposals to be disregarded. These forces caused league policymaking to be reactive rather than proactive. It is suggested that team competition, which is the raison d'etre of such leagues, will generate these forces unless specific procedures are implemented at league level to blunt their impact. These findings suggest new directions for research, league design, and the management of sport systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Chalip, Laurence & Philip Scott, E., 2005. "Centrifugal Social Forces in a Youth Sport League," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 43-67, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:spomar:v:8:y:2005:i:1:p:43-67

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:56:y:1962:i:04:p:947-952_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Cuskelly, Graham & Boag, Alistair, 2001. "Organisational Commitment as a Predictor of Committee Member Turnover among Volunteer Sport Administrators: Results of a Time-Lagged Study," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 65-86, May.
    3. Edwards, Allan, 1999. "Reflective Practice in Sport Management," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 67-81, May.
    4. Kellett, Pamm, 1999. "Organisational Leadership: Lessons from Professional Coaches," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 2(2), pages 150-171, November.
    5. Schulz-Hardt, Stefan & Jochims, Marc & Frey, Dieter, 2002. "Productive conflict in group decision making: genuine and contrived dissent as strategies to counteract biased information seeking," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 563-586, July.
    6. Charles R. Schwenk, 1990. "Conflict in Organizational Decision Making: An Exploratory Study of Its Effects in For-Profit and Not-For-Profit Organizations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(4), pages 436-448, April.
    7. Hoye, Russell & Cuskelly, Graham, 2003. "Board-Executive Relationships within Voluntary Sport Organisations," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 53-73, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Warner, Stacy & Chalip, Laurence & Woolf, Jules, 2008. "Fan Development Strategy: The Austin Wranglers' Game Plan," Sport Management Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 309-330, November.

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