Mason Center to Promote History of Sport and Leisure in Society

Posted: May 31, 2012 at 4:43 pm, Last Updated: July 31, 2012 at 10:37 am

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By Catherine Probst

John Nauright

As texting on phones and posting on Facebook and Twitter become the dominant ways in which people communicate, many argue that we are losing the art of interpersonal interaction. In fact, according to Mason researchers John Nauright and Dave Wiggins, one of the few experiences where people still come together is through sport, whether they are watching or playing.

To help promote a greater understanding of the history of sport and how it has and continues to influence society, Nauright and Wiggins recently launched The Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society (CSSLS) at Mason.

The center brings together scholars from across the university, the country and abroad to examine the place of sport and leisure in American and global societies. It will provide research and consulting services, academic programming and critical analysis of key issues in sport.

According to Nauright, the CSSLS is the only center of its kind operating in the United States and one of the largest centers for the study of sport and leisure studies in the English-speaking world.

David K. Wiggins.

David Wiggins

“This is a unique opportunity for Mason to be recognized as a global leader in sport and leisure history and in sport and leisure studies more broadly,” says Nauright, professor of sport management and history. “There are very few places that have as many top-level scholars who specialize in this area as we have here at Mason, and we felt it was important to leverage all of this collective knowledge into one center.”

The center is housed within the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)  and will work closely with faculty and students from schools, departments and programs on campus, including the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism, the Department of History and Art History and the Film and Media Studies and Women and Gender Studies programs.

In addition, the center plans to partner with the U.S. Department of State and the Smithsonian Institution, both in Washington, D.C.; and the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Va.

To broaden its international scope, the center plans to work collaboratively with the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at De Montfort University in England; the Centre for Research and Innovation on Sport at Claude Bernard University Lyon 1 in France; and the Mulier Institute in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Together, the centers will spearhead major projects that focus on sport in Europe, Africa, North America and South America. Faculty and student exchanges are also planned.

One possible project is preserving historical sporting sites such as old baseball stadiums. Photo by Nick Kosan

“One of our goals in creating this center is to help break down the stereotypes and negative perceptions that people often have of cultures different from their own,” says Wiggins, professor and assistant dean of Mason’s School of Recreation, Health and Tourism. “By partnering with other universities throughout the world, we are introducing faculty and students to new experiences from which they can learn and bring back to their own countries.”

One of the center’s primary objectives is to build on the academic framework of CEHD’s Division of Sport, Recreation and Tourism and help support the work and enhance the knowledge of students in the division.

Student and faculty research projects currently under way in the center focus on how sports influenced the opinions of political revolutionaries; a database that documents the business history of sports; the history of sport in the British Empire; a survey of the D.C. United soccer team’s four major supporters groups; and the history of songs that are sung at Argentinian soccer games.

Working closely with the Academy of International Sport, which Nauright directs, the center will host and sponsor conferences and seminars throughout the academic year and welcome international students and visiting scholars to campus. The Sport in the Global South Conference and the Sport and Leisure in Society Seminar Series are planned.

Future projects include partnering with Mason’s Center for History and New Media to create digital platforms; working to preserve historical sporting sites such as old baseball stadiums; partnering with other museums and historical sites to engage the community; and looking at ways to infuse sport and leisure into the school curriculum.

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at

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