The Role of Sports in New Identity Construction: A Grounded Theory Research from Turkey


Sociology of sport as a branch of applied sociology is a rapidly developing field despite being quite new in the world and Turkey. The main research problem in the study is that individuals who are stigmatized in the society in various ways do not have many opportunities to cope with the problems they experience. The purpose of this article, which is based on a broader study is to demonstrate the process of constructing a new identity on the formerly stigmatized individuals with sport as a game. This study is based on a holistic perspective along with the methodology of the Grounded Theory. The Grounded Theory methodology embraces the same sport, aiming to do data collection and analysis together, and have the potential to produce a bottom-up theory and practice. For example, the data collected systematically by the athlete or trainer during training or competition can turn into a training program for the development of the athlete or team. On the other hand, in Grounded Theory applications, social phenomenon is discussed in the natural environment of daily life where it takes place. In understanding the process of constructing the athlete identity, considering the time and space in the natural environment should be stated as another important relationship between sport and Grounded Theory methodology. Research findings revealed that the attraction of the game is the core concept as a result of open, axial and selective coding. In addition, it has been revealed that this situation is possible with games and sports (Sport4.0) specific to disabled people in parallel with the production and training (Education 4.0), which is described with the metaphor of “tailoring”, which is not similar to apparel production.

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Isik, S. and Kasapoglu, A. (2021) The Role of Sports in New Identity Construction: A Grounded Theory Research from Turkey. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 9, 425-450. doi: 10.4236/jss.2021.92028.

1. Introduction

Social sciences in general, and sociology in particular, have a very old relationship with sports. Studies of sports were first carried out by Catlin (1841), who was originally a painter and later referred to as a cultural anthropologist for writing books describing the traditions, lifestyles, and games of North American Indians. The first sports psychology studies are also the psychological theory of sport thesis written in Breslau by Benary (1913) before sociologists (cited in Nitsche, 2020: pp. 263-296).

According to Joakley and Dunning (2000), sports sociology as an academic research area began with Heinz Risse (1921), a student of the Critical Theory representative Theodor Adorno, also known as the Frankfurt School. However, with the pressure of the Nazis, silence prevailed in the 1940s. Even famous sociologists such as Adorno, Elias and Hokheimer left Germany. However, in 1961, Antony Giddens and Eric Dunning, who wrote a thesis at the London School of Economics, returned to sports sociology. The return to the main Critical Theory takes place with Bero Rigauer (1969/1981) and his work Sport and Work. According to Heinemann (2020: pp. 403-422), sociology of sports is considered as unintended consequences of commercialization and professionalization of sport in Germany.

Woody (1938), which is also important for our study, drew attention to the similarities between games in primitive and modern societies in his work titled “Professionalism and the Decay of Greek Athletics”. The importance of games and sports on a social base has been demonstrated by making comprehensive analyzes (cited in Kyle, 1990: pp. 16-44). However, in the USA, sports is not just a game. As stated by Mocri (2012), US competition is a core value and therefore central to both sports and partcipants. From here, it can be said that the Americanization of sport is based on both entertainment and competition as a hidden value for those who consume it.

It can be said that the sociology of sports started to develop after the establishment of the International Sports Sociology Committee in Geneva at 1964. Although its roots go back to the 1960s, the publication of texts that will form the theoretical and practical basis of the field took place in the 1980s. The study that provided the institutionalization of the field of sports sociology was conducted by Luschen (1980) in this context. Subsequent work has been on the relationship between Sport and Society (Frey & Eitzen, 1991; Washington & Karen 2001). With these studies, sports were accepted as an important field of study and institutionalized. In addition, with these studies, the theoretical (Functionalism, Conflict and Cultural) and methodological apsproaches that will form the basis of research have emerged more clearly. However, no study has yet been conducted on which approaches are used the most. Nevertheless, while the organizational aspect of sports and its role in socialization are examined with a functional approach; it can be said that the issues of hegemony, class, power, sexism, racism have been studied from the theory of conflict. Bourdieu (1998) and his theory of cultural and human capital have been used in very few studies.

What subjects the sports sociology deals with has long been an important question. According to Ornulf Seippel (2018) from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, who analyzed the content of three important sports sociology journals on 1923 articles published between 1984 and 2014, it can be said that the most effective topic is “culture”. In fact, although it was previously shown by Malcolm (2012) that culture is the most dominant or central topic, there are some who do not think like that (Dart, 2014). Other topics that gain importance other than culture are referred to as “media”, “body power”,” gender and race”. As a result, it is understood that, despite the differences between journals, the presentation of a discourse on sports and equality through quantitative research is widely preferred instead of inequality and class studies (Seippel, 2018).

In addition, it was revealed that a total of 20 issues were addressed in the study, which is generally based on content analysis. These topics, more precisely latent dimensions, regardless of the order of importance, “players”, “nationalism” and “urban” in the sense of space, culture, interview, football, organization and politics, body. and health, subculture, Olympics, activity, media, globalization, athletes and school, gender, natives and disability, European, participation and quantitative, race, body and power (Seippel, 2018). Disabled people, which are important for our study, take place towards the end in 20 topics. More often, “paralympics” and “wheelchair” are mentioned as keywords in these articles. Interestingly, it has been determined that the word body and power, which is in the list as 20, is examined through the concepts of class and field, with reference to Foucault and Bourdieu.

In fact, it would not be wrong to evaluate that the studies published in sports sociology journals do not make an intense effort to establish a relationship with the sociological theoretical framework. However, although rare, stratification, inequalities, gender, racism and ethnicity, globalization and media studies are also now being conducted (Malcolm, 2012). It was demonstrated by Malcolm (2012) that multidisciplinary and cultural studies especially in race, gender and body issues gain importance. In addition, it has been observed that studies based on post-structuralism, feminism, queer theory, cultural race theory, post colonial theory as well as cultural studies have been carried out in the USA in recent years (de Oca, 2016).

According to Seippel (2018), who made some suggestions that are important for the development of sports sociology, comparisons with sport management sport history, sport economy and sports philosophy may be useful as well as sports sociology. On the other hand, sociological discourse in general and the discourse of sports sociology can also be compared. With a similar approach, the comparison of the unscientific discourse about sports and the sports sociology discourse can yield fruitful results. Finally, it will be an important contribution to look at what sociological theoretical and methodological approaches are the most dominant in sports sociology. Finally, the trend from quantitative to qualitative research should continue. Since the probabilistic topic model (Blei & Lafferty, 2009), text mining or text analyzing gave some insufficient but important clues, it would be appropriate to develop it with the studies suggested above.

Turkey also has a parallel development to the world. Until 1975, no independent sports sociology course took place in Turkish formal education institutions. The subject is mostly handled within the sociology of leisure time. It took place as an independent course in three Sports Academies established under the Ministry of Youth and Sports in 1975. Therefore, academic interest in sports is quite new for Turkey. With these academies now under the umbrella of universities, sports sociology courses have also taken place in undergraduate and graduate curricula. Thus, sports sociology has now started to take place in scientific research and studies. Important resource books (Dever, 2010) and research articles have been published (Cengiz & Taşmektepligil, 2016; Ergur, 2019; Güler et al., 2018; Tezcan, 2019; Turkay, 2020; Yetim, 2015). According to Elmas et al. (2018), 1023 graduate thesis studies were carried out between 2000-2015 within the scope of social sciences in sports. Only 16% of these studies are on sports sociology.

Sports sociology is a field where all theoretical and methodological approaches in sociology can be applied. Studies have been conducted in England, Europe, North America, Australia, Latin America, East Asia and South Africa as Positivist, Interpretative, Critical, Feminist and Postmodernist as well as Conflict (Marxist), Functionalist (Durkheimian) and Symbolic Interactionist (Goffman) theoretical approaches (Bairner, 2012; Carrington, 2010).

2. Conceptual Framework

It was thought that the Symbolic Interactionist approach would provide a suitable starting point for this study, as it handles process-based investigations on a micro scale. In this study, through the concept of “stigma” of Goffman, as the leading name of the Symbolic Interactionist approach, the change that stigmatized identities experience with Sport 4.0 is tried to be interpreted. In the study, the findings collected with Grounded Theory have been analyzed using this conceptual framework.

The concept of stigma is a bad and damaging concept as per its perception. As a term, stigma has been used in history as a sign of bad, inappropriate things determined by society in one’s moral state. Marks engraved on the bodies of criminals or slaves are an indication that that person is someone who should be avoided (Goffman, 1963: p. 27).

While individuals perform an action or performance in society, they present an ideal view of the current situation in general. For this reason, when a person presents his/her actions to another person, this performance represents the values approved by the society more than the actions that he/she may want to perform (Goffman, 2018: pp. 44-45).

In general, exclusion from society occurs if an action that is not approved in society is not abandoned or hidden. Goffman (2018) divided these unwanted movements into three categories. The first of these is the insufficiency, incompatibility situation that can occur accidentally with the instant loss of muscle control. For example, slipping of the tongue, tripping, knocking, etc. Second, the communication of the agent with the group he/she is in may cause it to appear to be less interested in its interaction; forgetting memorization, seem tense or sleepy. The third category is the inappropriateness of the performance of the actor, that is, the actions of the individual, with insufficient dramatic guidance, to the action originating from the field or outside.

There are social institutions in the sense of rules that determine how to behave in society or as control mechanisms. Structurally, there are horizontal and vertical statuses and social relations linking various groups. Culturally, in the context of moral values affecting the activities in the institution, there are normative restrictions on goals such as fashion, customs, pleasure, and means (Goffman, 2018: pp. 223-224). In this study, the concept of institution is used in the context of this definition. Because most of the time, failure in education is not sought in the educational institution. While the failures are directly attributed to the student, the perception that the educational institution is working without any problems is created.

Goffman sees such situations as the product of a dramatic interaction between the agent and the audience, society or certain institutions, not as a characteristic of the agent, the individual performing the behavior. These statements are actually the summary of both Goffman’s understanding of self and his dramaturgical approach. In this sense, the visible difference between the identity of the person and the performance expected of him is also the reason for that person's stigma (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2014).

Messinger et al. (1962: pp. 98-99) defined life as a theater play in which a performance was staged. In fact, they gave their own name to the projected state of the person in society, that is, while he was playing a game, while the character was not playing, that is, when he was on his own.

In this respect, it is likely that the person performed his act and staged his performance for others (Goffman, 2018: p. 29). In addition to the fact that the show was made for others, another point stands out regarding the fact that the person performing the show internalizes the action. Two situations related to whether the performer believes in the role of the performer or not during the performance of the demonstration are defined:

One of these is the fact that the actor (in our example here, the student) may have gotten caught up in his play and is sincerely convinced that the behavior he performs and presents to the stage is his reality, which causes the society or the audience to be convinced as well. According to Goffman (2018), only sociologists or someone who is dissatisfied with society will doubt the reality of this situation.

While explaining the historical use of the concept of stigma, the criminals or slaves mentioned are discredited because they have a visible stigma in this respect. A person with a stigma that is evident when both situations are given more explicit examples can be a casualty, a person with a physical disability, because these stigmas are recognizable at first sight or immediately noticeable. Therefore, these people are discredited by definition. However, when a person with speech impairment is considered, he does not yet have a noticeable, immediately noticeable stigma.

Looking at the stigma in more detail, Goffman basically identifies three types of stigma: First stigmas associated with people with physical deformities that he calls horrors. Latter stigmas associated with people he refers to as individual character disorders such as weak will, immorality, deviant and rigid beliefs. Thirdly, social stigmas associated with race, nation and religion that can infect all members of the family (Goffman, 1963: p. 33). As can be seen, the persons in the first situation were discredited, and the other two are those who are likely to be discredited.

Society divides individuals into categories and classes, and at the same time determines the framework and characteristics of the behavior of those within a particular group and class. Looking at these qualities in society, people act and make discourses against each other. Stigmas also have certain characteristics, like classes, and these may differ according to class, culture, and society (Bakacak, 2002: p. 46).

As can be seen in the examples given, the stigmatization of a person varies according to the geography, place, location, and the moment of life. In that case, it would not be wrong to say that the perception of inadequacy and weakness in stigmatized identities is reflected to them by the society. Societies or groups, in a sense, perform the act of being with their peers and excluding the different in order to satisfy their sense of trust. As a result of this situation, there is a stigma associated with exclusion from many groups such as heretic, obese or lazy.

Moreover, in a reverse reading, what Goffman meant by saying “we are all normal deviants” is that being normal is an assumption. Therefore, the person who expresses himself as normal and stigmatizes another person because of his different characteristics is also open to being stigmatized as a “stigmatizer”. Trying to align the group functions simply as a social control mechanism. The group forces its members to stay within the action schemes determined by them. Otherwise, a stigma that can manifest itself as being “excommunicated” occurs. When understood from this aspect, stigma is a social control mechanism.

Examining the stigma as a social control mechanism also includes a representation of power. Stigmatization is often directed towards those who are in a relatively weak position in the society, minority groups, income level differences, or even gender-based violence (GBV). The issues that can be evaluated in terms of the stigmatization and symbolic violence they are in can be understood in this way (Barnett et al., 2016).

According to Link and Phelan (2001), groups that are dominant in society and culturally competent and groups that do not have this influence are divided into two as the dominant group and the stigmatized group. Ideas or persons who are weak within a society or group are stigmatized, losing their status, and are pushed into two categories, us and them. This state of strength also brings with it the stigmatizers putting a limit on the lives of those they stigmatize. The ghettos that immigrants have created in metropolitan cities, or are forced to create, are an example of this.

The effect caused or can be caused by a stigma can in a sense be related to how strong the stigmatizing, dominant group is against the stigmatized group. For example, the stigma caused by the use of glasses due to lack of vision is not as severe as using a hearing aid due to hearing difficulties (Newman, 2013: p. 87).

Identity deflection, as a strategy of resisting stigma, emerges as the self-protection behavior of individuals in this sense. According to Thoits (2016: pp. 147-148), this method reduces the anxiety of the person and, although the stigma is harsh, it causes positive effects on mental health compared to those who do not deny and accept that they have a stigmatized identity.

High self-esteem is seen as an important source of coping against stigma. It has been observed that people with high self-esteem can protect themselves from the harmful social effects of stigmatization (Dwyer et al., 2013). One of the actions that one can take to increase self-esteem is to do sports. The athlete identity to be acquired both helps the person in terms of identity diversion and the feeling of I can do while doing sports will be effective in increasing the self-respect of the person. In our study, sports is considered as one of the strategies to resist stigmatization when it is considered together with the learning method by playing.

The sport, which includes methods such as learning by playing and serious play, which are stigmatized in the education system in everyday life and work in society, and new education methods, provides a space to fight against stigma in both ways. The athlete identity to be acquired means to be included in the athlete group as well as all that has been said, which means being in a group with a stronger position.

As a result, it can be said that stigmatization is caused by reasons such as being different from the general public, looking different or thinking differently. In order to see the differences in a society, Goffman (1963) states that one should look at the normal, not the differences. In order to understand more clearly stigmatized people, people who are accepted as normal should look critically at the norms generally accepted in the society. In fact, they should sometimes deviate from the norms or keep a certain distance from the norms. In this way, it will be possible to analyze stigmatized identities. When the education system is considered as a social institution, it is looking at the student who is defined as lazy or unsuccessful, and trying to include students with various disabilities into the system. However, when this inclusion process fails, showing the student or the person himself as guilty is a completely incomplete and one-sided point of view, even if it is not claimed to be entirely wrong.

In order to prevent these discrimination in society, sports have a great power in breaking the isolation process. Likewise, it is possible to include new educational paradigms such as Education 4.0 into the education system with conceptualizations such as learning by playing and serious play (Hariharasudan & Kot, 2018; Huu Duc et al., 2018). In this way, the fact that participation in education aims to be more personalized for students and to be more oriented towards more talents and interests, as well as the fact that sports can prevent the stigmatization of those who are not included in the system or at least reduce its impact is important in terms of forming the basis of the study in this article.

In fact, it can be said that stigmas vary according to contexts. For example, sports and gaming can change these contexts. Game and sports can pave the way for an individual to be evaluated on his or her talent. In this respect, sports is important as a method that can be used to combat stigma both in society and in the education system. However, it should not be ignored that sports and games can also produce various stigmas within their contexts. Otherwise, it is necessary to explain the situation of being unsuccessful in sports, being stigmatized for various reasons (short, slow, etc.) in sports, and being stigmatized as a game disruptor while playing games. For these reasons, while conducting field research, the possibility of causing stigmatization during sports, as well as the fact that sports is a coping mechanism both in society and in the specific educational institution, was observed together.

3. Research Design and Analysis

Research Problem: The classical education system, which is still valid despite all the developments in education and technology, has a teaching approach that aims to develop students only cognitively, does not take into account the abilities and personal characteristics of the individuals. This sytem places the student in a passive position in the education process. With this understanding, individuals with different abilities and interests cannot be included in the system since they cannot receive an education in line with their own characteristics. As a result, they are exposed to “unsuccessful” and similar various stigmas. In addition to all these, this situation increases the severity of the stigma that these people have, when considered in terms of individuals who are stigmatized in society with their physical or mental characteristics.

The main problem of this study, in the light of the above, is that although people are labeled easily due to their characteristics, there is insufficiency of multi-purpose support mechanisms that are stigmatized in the society and especially for disabled individuals, and therefore the possibilities to construct new identity are limited.

Research Objectives: “Education 4.0” (Huu Duc et al., 2018) and similar paradigms are frequently discussed in Turkey. However, these are not applicable in the near term due to physical and financial barriers.

In this context, the main purpose of the study is to show the effect of sports on the change in the identities of individuals stigmatized for various reasons by conceptualizing a kind of “Sport 4.0”, considering that” Education 4.0” includes its methods, and to contribute to the necessary investments and incentives in the field of both education and sports.

The following questions were sought as sub-problems in the study:

1) How does the stigmatization process occur in the daily lives of persons with disabilities?

2) What are the changes that occur in the daily lives of the disabled with the start of sports?

3) Is it possible to talk about “Sport 4.0” in new identity construction?

Importance of Research: There are many studies mentioning the effects of Education 4.0 on students and stating that it positively affects the overall level of achievement in education (Hariharasudan & Kot, 2018; Ciolacu et al., 2017; Almeida & Simoes, 2019; Huu Duc et al., 2018; Salmon, 2019; Aziz Hussin, 2018). However, the effects of Education 4.0 on stigmatized individuals and their identities have not been mentioned. Our study is important from this point of view (Işık, 2020).

In addition, the concept of Sport 4.0, which was created by comparing the methods in sports with the methods of Education 4.0, is important because it has the potential to show the methodological relationship between sports and education rather than addressing the educational institution alone.

Focusing on the change in the identities of stigmatized individuals based on sports and learning by playing and personalized education is another originality of the study.

The very lack of sports sociology study is based on qualitative research in Turkey (14.2%) makes this study important (Elmas et al., 2018).

In addition, the study is a first in terms of being a sports sociology made in accordance with the qualitative tradition of grounded theory. It would not be wrong to say that the study made an important contribution to the sports sociology literature, since it is performed in the basketball branch where there are fewer disabled athletes than in mass sports such as football.

Limitations of the Study: In order to avoid confusion or under-representation that may occur due to the different dynamics, rules and characteristics of each sports branch, it was thought by the researchers that it would be more appropriate to stay in a single sports branch.

Due to the homogeneous distribution of the participants, the majority of individuals with walking disability and males seem to be a limitation in the study.

Another limitation of the study, Covidien-19 to take the whole world under the influence of the pandemic due to the school holidays and sporting events in Turkey and is only interviewed with the participants by phone.

In the study, most of the athletes did not want to participate in the interview, stating that they did not have time for phone or internet calls, and that they returned to their hometown due to the virus and did not have the opportunity to speak. In addition, some coaches who did not want interviews with their athletes did not help the researchers to communicate with the athletes.

4. Method

The study is a qualitative research due to the techniques used in analyzing the relationship between sports and stigmatized individual’s identity, characteristics and the change in the process. The research is descriptive as an answer to the question of what is sought.

In the study, in order to reveal the processes of stigmatization of individuals, how they are stigmatized in traditional education, and the processes of change that have occurred in their identities after starting sports, the grounded theory was used during the evaluation of empirical findings. In the study, it is tried to contribute to the existing theories with the grounded theory used as a research method. The data were collected using the data collection technique called in-depth interview.

Grounded theory was first discussed by Barney Glaser and Anselm Staruss in 1967. Contributing to the existing theory through the theory created from the data obtained during the research process is the main feature of the grounded theory (Creswell, 1998). Grounded theory is the development of a new concept in order to discover a new theory other than existing theories. The grounded theory should not be evaluated as a theory according to Punch (1998), but should be seen as an approach and strategy for theorizing due to the data. The main purpose of the grounded theory is to conduct data collection and data analysis processes simultaneously, and therefore to develop a theory by making an induction through the data obtained from the field (Akbal & Kasapoglu, 2020). In addition, during the grounded theory study, researchers are more open to producing new concepts because they go to the field without being connected to a concept (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Kasapoğlu, 2015).

The grounded theory is realized with three main coding stages. These are respectively; Open/Initial Coding, Axial Coding and Selective Coding stages. In the open coding stage, the necessary categories and concepts are created by examining the data obtained from the field (Kasapoğlu, 2015). In the axial coding stage, it is tried to obtain inclusive upper categories by determining the links between the categories and concepts obtained in the open coding stage, and associating them. The notes taken in the field in the open and axial coding stages continue until they are satisfied and the categories to be created are finalized (Kasapoğlu, 2015). Selective coding stage is the stage that expresses the merging of the categories determined in the axial coding stage (Kasapoğlu, 2019). The researcher focuses on this category by identifying a core category, a core concept. This core concept should be a central concept that will encompass the framework of the theory to be formed and all of its contents.

The findings obtained in the coding stages of the grounded theory are presented in summary form with the help of figures. This presentation of the findings, besides being more understandable for the reader, creates a visual material that can draw attention to the important points of the findings. As a result of the core category obtained with the selective coding stage, the stages of the theory based on the story and metaphor formation process, which Coffrey and Atkinson (1996) added to the grounded theory and developed in order not to get stuck in the coding processes, are completed. While the data coding and concept formation stages enable the researcher to know the data better, the metaphor-forming stage provides the ability to look at the same data from a different perspective (Akbal & Kasapoglu, 2020). This perspective provides the possibility to do cultural sociology and opens up the field where a unique contribution to the literature can be made by providing the researcher with the opportunity to conceptualize the words specific to the culture he/she is in.

Basketball sport is a sport that requires a lot of effort, the obligation to comply with many rules, and it is a team sport, so it has the characteristics of being equivalent to the classroom environment in the education system. Basketball was chosen with the assumption that it is suitable for understanding the process better. In addition, another reason for choosing basketball is that one of the researchers was a licensed athlete in this sport branch.

Sample and Sampling: In the study, interviews were made with 17 people using “Theoretical Sampling” in accordance with the research purpose. Individuals with similar characteristics who are suitable for the theory to be constructed in the grounded theory are included in the sample (Creswell, 1998).

In addition to taking theoretical sampling in the study, it is not possible to talk about a universe where the findings of the research can be generalized since the participants were selected according to the purpose and the probability conditions were not met. It would not be wrong to say that quota sampling was also used in the research since the research was carried out by determining a quota consisting of the participants suitable for the purpose (Sencer & Irmak, 1984).

The interviews were conducted over mobile phone calls, since face-to-face meeting with the participants could not be provided due to covid-19. Each interview lasted between 45 and 75 minutes, and the audio recordings obtained as a result of the interviews were deciphered. After obtaining the approval of the ethics committee for the study, appointments were requested from the athletes in order to conduct interviews (See Table 1). In the interviews held between May 2020-June 2020, all the stages required by the grounded theory were implemented and shown through figures.

5. Findings and Discussion

The obtained findings were firstly categorized by open coding, and then a core concept was attempted to be created by establishing connections between categories revealed by axial coding. Finally, the new identity-building process was presented as a story by producing metaphors.

Table 1. Demographic characteristics of participants.

5.1. Open Coding

The data obtained from the interviews held during the open coding phase were categorized.

5.1.1. Stigmatization Process

The situations of the people regarding the stigmatization processes were examined by looking at the positions of the people with different stigmas. Participants in wheelchair users with visible stigma are mostly not directly verbal stigmatized, while those around them are often uncomfortable with indirect attitudes and behaviors:

P11: “… after that, my father said it is rainy there, he said, don’t come, never mind. My father’s words meant that I couldn’t stay here. After that, I said that I should leave.”

P10: “… if ours were going to the pool, they were going to a picnic, they wouldn’t take me. You are disabled, you cannot walk, you cannot come or something.”

P9: “People around looking at them, asking disturbing questions, and always responding to them in the same way make the psychology of the person worse.

In line with the expressions of the participants, it is seen that stigmatization brings along isolation by the stigmatists. Each stigma creates a wall in front of the person in a sense and imprisons the person behind a “social isolation wall” in a certain area in social terms. As a result of this, a process that results in stigmatized identities leading an introverted life takes place (See Figure 1).

5.1.2. Start to Sport

According to Thoits (2016), identity deflection behavior emerges as a self-protection method as a strategy to resist stigma. In terms of sports that have the ability to perform this function and in our study, the main reasons for people to start basketball are family, friends, and physical education teachers. In addition, the reason why rehabilitated people with walking disability are asked to be directed to sports by their doctors during their rehabilitation period can be considered as helping to realize identity diversion behavior (See Figure 2).

P1: “My father took it when I was 12, and I’ve been playing ever since”.

P2: “My first father took it, just because I might lose weight, continue today.”

P3: “It started when my father enrolled me in basketball course. He had taken it by force at first. Then I started going myself.”

P14: “My father used to take me to swimming courses like that, I liked basketball and then I stayed like that.”

P4: “… Then my sports teacher started teaching basketball, then I liked it.” K6: “With the application of my teachers in primary and secondary schools.”

Figure 1. Social isolation wall.

Figure 2. Start to Sport as a process.

P7: “Our sports education teacher, I had nothing to do with sports, gave me the basketball one day, gave me a try and guided me.”

P9: “I started with friends in high school, they said, come back in case you play such a game.”

5.1.3. The Difficulties of Sport

Wheelchair athletes mentioned the difficulties of using a wheelchair:

K9: “Driving that wheelchair was difficult, there were times when I had difficulties, it is not like a normal wheelchair, is it the chair that drags the ball or not. In the early days when I had difficulty”.

P11: “When I first started, come on, I can’t do this, I can’t turn with a chair, I can’t.”

P16: “It was difficult because he was in the chair, we didn’t know the rules, then we got used to it”

P17: “I do not know that it is that difficult, control the wheel and shoot, but I said it is enjoyable, difficult and enjoyable.” It is a point to be interpreted why people do not want or do not quit sports despite these difficulties. Although people do not want to be in that area as a result of the difficulties they face in the class, the reasons behind the reasons for continuing sports as a result of the difficulties they encounter in the field of sports will be clarified in this way.

This attractiveness has brought along an increased desire to be included in the field and to continue doing sports. According to Huizinga (2018), one of the main features of the game is that it is a voluntary activity. It can be said that this principle of volunteering has triggered people to participate more in the field and their desire for this, since they have their own preferences. As the participants 1, 2, 3 and 14 stated, the only reason that keeps the student in the school area is the attendance condition. People are in that area due to these and other compulsions other than their consent. This situation dulls or even destroys the desire to enter and try to be included in the field. In addition to the spiritual appeal of sports, the fact that it has a material appeal can be considered as another factor that impresses the participants’ decision on this issue. The wages they receive from the clubs they have played with after obtaining the athlete’s license also reflect the financial value of their work. Apart from being spiritually, personally and psychologically attractive, this is another attractive element of doing this sport professionally in terms of participants (See Figure 3).

5.1.4. Changes in Daily Life with Sport

Participants were asked questions about whether the skills or knowledge gained in education can be transferred to every aspect of their lives, aimed by Education 4.0, and it was wanted to see whether there was a change in their daily lives, in other words, with Sport 4.0. It was observed that the participants changed many actions and activities in their daily lives on this issue:

P3: “For example, including the time after you leave your sport training, your life gets in order from breakfast to dinner.”

Figure 3. Attractiveness of sport-game.

P2: “Of course, I had a problem like holding my toilet until the age of 5, I can say that it was cut off.”

P4: “I learned to fulfill my responsibilities. You try to be in training for the minute. Of course, I started doing something at home when I had something to do.”

P6: “I have routines such as not leaving without having breakfast. I care about what I wear on my body, hair, beard, style or clothing or something. I can say that I am more into myself than before.”

P8: “Almost all my behaviors have changed. My self-confidence has been restored even more. Previously, if they told me that you would leave home and go somewhere alone, I would go in fear. But now I can travel all over Ankara alone. I even went outside the province alone.”

P9: “For example, I have been very careful with my perfume. You are trying to draw attention to dressing more stylishly because it changes you a little more because your self-confidence increases.”

P12: “For example, I slept until noon before starting this training job. After I started sports, I became a regular life.”

P17: “It changed my life, that is, I became more energetic, more motivated, and I traveled from country to country. My sleep pattern was very much I liked to use the phone until midnight or even until five o’clock, now I get up at seven in the morning.”

Also Kim et al. (2018), the features of the game include facilitating the behavior changes that players show. In addition, the game allows them to control their own progress. It is possible to say that these features are realized specifically for the participants in this study. After starting sports, changes occurred in the behaviors of the participants in their daily lives (See, Figure 4).

Figure 4. Changes in the Daily routine life.

5.1.5. Change in the Perspective of the Surrounding People with Sport

As the participants reported after they started playing basketball, there was a change in their view of themselves in their close circle. Particularly for the participants who have a visible stigma and who are wheelchair users, it was mentioned that changing people’s perceptions towards themselves are pleasing and self-confident things for them.

P2: “I can say that our conversation with my father increased, there was not much change with my mother. Believe me, I don’t even remember my mother coming to my match. Of course, the teachers started giving verbal grades because I play in the school team. You have a good mood among friends as well.”

P4: “For example, we went to school and they said that people cannot play by making fun of my height, and then they were silent after watching the game.” Sporile Birlikte İnsanların

Particularly, it was observed that the participants in wheelchairs felt happy and successful and had financial and moral gains, and a positive perspective was developed for both themselves and sports:

P6: “I mean, basketball proved me to me, I saw where I could come, and it proved to others, it gave very important things in terms of respect and trust.”

P7: “Previously, they used to call me by name, now my girlfriend and my close friends always call me champions, it was good and their words changed.”

P8: “After I started playing basketball, I started doing most of my work myself and became more free. Because of that, their behavior has changed a little, they no longer see me as a child, but they started to think that I was growing up.”

P11: “My family didn’t want me to start playing basketball at all. They looked here that I can do something on my own, I go abroad, etc. They are now proud that I am an independent individual.” Participant 10 states that there are people consulted on this issue

P10: “Of course, my circle of friends has changed since I started basketball, even the way they address me has changed. I am proud as a human when they say you were good like this. In my family, their point of view has changed, even my brother used to hang out on his head. Now he says to me, brother, I am doing this way I do this. It is changing.”

In line with the expressions of the participants, it is seen that basketball changes the viewpoints of the people around them towards themselves. This change in people is related to the success achieved in people: I can! This situation has increased the attraction of the game and the sport, as well as their desire for sports and basketball. When this situation is considered as a success wheel, the sport in which the person is guided by discovering his/her own talents has developed his skills in this field, his success has increased as he progresses and has led to an increase in self-confidence with the increase of success. In this way, especially stigmatized people were able to transition to normal identity.

The self-confidence and the feeling of being able to do it, along with the discovery of this success wheel, namely the talents, has also changed the perspective of the participants’ relatives towards them. It can be said that this change has broken the “social isolation” wall (See Figure 5).

5.2. Axial Coding

The axial coding stage of the study includes the re-evaluation of the data obtained in the open coding section and the common aspects of the emerging categories or the differences that have emerged, by moving them to a higher category and, in a sense, the collection of the revealed data. As shown in the Stigmatization Process discussed in the open coding section, the most important reason

Figure 5. Success wheel.

for stigmatization of individuals is that they remain outside the normals accepted by their family, friend group and education system. Being different, defining various abilities as deficient or excess for various reasons is the main reason for their stigmatization. Normals accepted in the society and in our education system cannot include people who are different from the systems because they cannot show flexibility and they are in an extremely closed and angular situation. However, as Goffman (1963) quotes, we are all “normal deviants” because anything that is not considered normal in a situation, location, and time can be considered perfectly normal when evaluated in another situation, location or time. When evaluated in the study example, it was seen that a “social isolation wall” was built by the families of people who lack certain physical or mental characteristics. This wall draws the boundaries of the normal definitions of families in the broadest sense. However, the success of those who are seen to be deficient in starting basketball, in another unexpected area, has expanded the limits of normal definitions of families.

At this stage, concepts such as starting sports and success, freedom and self-confidence mean that people in a sense break down the social isolation walls that have been drawn to them. The facilitating feature of this situation is the attractiveness feature that emerges when it is evaluated more broadly because sports are games. The attraction of playing games results in joining a new field and gaining the new “athlete identity” acquired with it. The acquisition of new identity triggers the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, and this situation brings with it the desire to be more involved in the game.

As a result, the attractiveness of the game and the ability of the person to find a place in the game, to position himself/herself, make him/her aware of his abilities and to acquire a new “athlete” identity. This new identity that the person has acquired causes him/her to respect himself/herself and his/her self-confidence because it is stronger compared to hisHer old stigmatized identity. For this reason, being “included” in a field or group is an important element in combating the stigma.

In the table of axial coding given in Table 2, the categories realized in the open coding stage in line with the statements of the participants were collected and the upper categories were obtained. In the face of the stigma they have experienced in daily life, the changes of the games in their daily life, in other words, their self-presentations, which Goffman calls the “scene of life” are important. When the stigmatizing structure of the education system (Education 4.0) is examined, it can be said that such a system will also create an attractive element against education.

Participants involved in sports and sports training, which is essentially a game; as they acquired an athlete identity, their daily games and self-presentations have also changed. For this reason, individuals are being respected and their effect on people’s self-confidence can be included among the reasons why sports and games are attractive. The other elements of this attraction are the fact that sports have a motivating side and evoke feelings such as perseverance and ambition. The realization of active learning by playing, playing and experiencing, in this direction, provides the change of identity in daily life, the education system and sports, and all the other features mentioned.

In the next stage, a basic category that will cover the categories presented in axial coding is chosen and the core concept is tried to be reached. Codes and categories in axial coding are shown in a schematic form to reach the core concept (See Figure 6).

In the selective coding stage, the core concept was chosen as “Attractiveness of the Game”. People have difficulties to be included in the system in their daily life and educational life where they have various difficulties. People who stopped attending classes as a result of the difficulties they experienced due to the lessons in their education life and whose interest in school decreased, when it came to sports, they wanted to continue their sports life, no matter how difficult conditions they faced. The main reason for this situation is directly related to the fun, pleasurable, competitive and rewarding features of the game, which are conceptualized as the Attractiveness of the Game (See Figure 7).

In summary, people are stigmatized for various reasons. Similarly, practices within the traditional education system also stigmatize individuals. In Education 4.0, which is the education system discussed today; methods such as gamification, personalized education, active learning can prevent this stigma. Sports also includes these methods and in this context, it has been conceptualized as Sport 4.0. In this respect, the study focuses on the change that sports has made in stigmatized identities.

Table 2. Axial coding.

Figure 6. Old and new identity features.

Figure 7. Core concept (selective coding).

A Grounded Theory study was carried out, and all of its open, axial, selective coding and story-making stages were included. The ability to carry out data collection and analysis processes simultaneously, to explain the findings with figures and metaphors, and therefore to be able to do cultural sociology, are among the important features of the Grounded Theory. The “attractiveness of the game” has been chosen as the core category as the driving force behind the identity changes of individuals and their inclusion in the system. The study was carried out with people who are interested in basketball sports. In this respect, the research is an important contribution to the sports sociology literature.

Based on the discourse of the participants, the fact that they cannot be included in the education system is associated with the traditional education system being closed and expecting each individual to have the same characteristics. Their inclusion in the sports system is associated with the game being attractive and flexible enough to find the area specific to one’s own abilities. For this reason, it is desired to create a metaphor by comparing the traditional education system to a “apparel product” produced by a firm, training with sports, and learning by playing to a “handcrafted product” shaped by a tailor (See Table 3).

On the other hand, there is not much to do when garments, which are garments, are faulty or they are thrown away if they are torn. However, a tailor may not re-patch the product and extend the life of the garment. When this situation is considered within the traditional education system, it is similar to why the participants do not want to attend the classes or prefer to sleep in the lessons. The person is stigmatized as a defective product in the education system. When it comes to personalized training, additions, patches can be made according to the fabric characteristics of the person and a unique product can come out. In terms of longevity, the information that people have learned in the traditional education system and that the mountains in the Black Sea are parallel to the sea can only be used within the system. However, it has been observed that the

Table 3. Comparisons of apparel and handcrafted products.

knowledge gained with Sport 4.0 influenced and used from their daily lives to character traits in line with the participants’ statements. When explained in the most comprehensive way and considering the main focus of the study, “apparel product” and “handcrafted product” narration is that the training taken or to be taken should be in line with the person’s own abilities and wishes. Otherwise, the traditional education system’s expectation of the same performance from every individual will continue to look like an ugly dress on students. In order to prevent this situation, students should want to be included in the system where they will be educated and in that field where they will gain new knowledge and skills. When this is considered as a phenomenon that will realize participation, the game can attract people into itself, and it is possible to include them in that field.

6. Conclusion

People have acquired new features as a result of the ties they set up with the game, and these features are directly proportional to the new identities they have acquired during the course of the game. The success that Training 4.0 wants to achieve, mentioned in the study, is also the mentioned features. The most important feature of the game, as discussed in the findings, is that it provides the opportunity to find a place for itself according to creativity and individual abilities.

The driving force behind the new characteristics that people have acquired due to their new athlete identity is the ability to participate in the game, in other words, the attraction of the game. This process, which can also be considered as engaging in the game, increased their desire to be more involved and as a result, they acquired an athlete identity.

Throughout history, people have been stigmatized and separated from their ethnic origins, gender, or just their thoughts. The reasons for being stigmatized are generally being different from the stigmatizing party and thinking differently. This stigma continues with the reactive stigmatization of those who stigmatize it. When the reaction of the stigmatized identities is evaluated as a counter stigma, it will be seen that the stigma process is actually a fluctuating process. This situation, which we will call “stigma fluctuations”, expressed by the concept and metaphor derived by the researchers, symbolizes the hitting a beach, which may be the expression of various behaviors and discourses that may be another stage of stigmatization. Today, individuals are distant from education and do not like it because of having an education system that can produce new stigmas instead of reducing this stigma. The fact that people who play games (Homo Ludens) and imagine (Homo Imaginalis) cannot find a place to keep these abilities alive in today’s education system, and the inability of individuals to receive education in line with their abilities, intelligence types, barriers or desires puts education faced with a serious problem. Paradigms have been developed for many years to overcome this situation with drama-like methods and to ensure the participation of the person in the education in line with their own abilities. However, with the advances in technology and the fact that artificial intelligence can now perform very large and complex operations in a very short time, the education paradigm called Education 4.0 has started to be discussed in recent years.

Although Education 4.0 includes the use of artificial intelligence in education, using gamification as a method also has features that can be discussed when considering the current conditions of our country. In terms of these features, in our study, we tried to evaluate sports as a learning method by playing. The fact that the sport has the educational outcomes targeted by Education 4.0, such as personalized education, learning by playing and dreaming, has enabled us to discuss the issue. In our study, we wanted to see what this process, which is conceptualized as Sport 4.0, can change the lives of people and especially stigmatized individuals. At the same time, the method of discovering their abilities with play and learning by playing also serves the purpose of spreading the gains obtained as a result of education, which is another goal of Education 4.0, to the whole life of people.

From the perspective of the participants in the study, it is seen that sports made changes in their lives. As can be seen in the open coding phase of the study, sports have increased the self-confidence and self-esteem of individuals and this situation has enabled them to both fight against their stigmas and to realize their own abilities by gaining new features.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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