Spirituality and Basketball Fanship: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and Synthesis

By Elena Balcaite, Stephen D. Edwards and Richard M. Buscombe.

Published by Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: July 23, 2015 $US5.00

The world of competitive sport affords an individual the opportunity to enter a spiritual community, adding meaning that transcends one’s current understanding of life (Parry et al. 2007). Previously established dimensions of sports fanship (group affiliation, psychological commitment, and team identification) share characteristics commonly associated with religious or spiritual affiliation indicating that fans may generate substantial life meaning from observing sporting encounters. In the present study, 12 male basketball fans (M=32.42; SD=7.97) completed semi-structured interviews immediately prior to viewing a competitive match at the 2011 European Basketball Championships (Vilnius, Lithuania). Interviews were structured under four headings: 1) the most memorable moment as a basketball fan, 2) thoughts, feelings, and emotions attached to their team, 3) affiliation to the team in the context of the fan’s meaning of life, and 4) connection with members of the fan’s sporting community. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was employed to analyse interview transcripts. Raw data clustered into four dimensions: 1) devotion, 2) obscure emotions, 3) connectedness, and 4) universal values. The results indicate that sports fanship is characterised by, and synonymous with, an established understanding of spirituality derived from membership of wider spiritual and/or religious communities. The findings hold implications for the marketing and membership of local, amateur, and professional sports clubs and brands, as well as community development, health, and welfare.

Keywords: Spirituality, Fans, Basketball

Journal of Sporting Cultures and Identities, Volume 6, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.39-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: July 23, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 467.688KB)).

Elena Balcaite

Applied Sport Sciences Research Group, University of East London, London, England, UK

Dr. Stephen D. Edwards

Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department, University of Zululand, KwaDlangezwa, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

Dr. Richard M. Buscombe

Senior Lecturer, Applied Sport Sciences Research Group, School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, University of East London, London, England, UK