Women having the ability to take control of their images via social media is a crucial step in creating more positive role models for young girls.
In today’s world, being a professional athlete includes more than being at the top 1% of the sport. Athletes are facing demand to provide frequent and personal information on various social media platforms (Hayes et al, 2020).
In turn, by doing so, athletes are more likely to receive sponsorships, greater salaries as well as experience an easier career transition out of sport (Aria et al, 2014). However, social media can be incredibly distracting, including negative messages and sponsorship pressures, all of which may negatively impact an athlete’s performance.
Results from a study on the National Football League (NFL), showed that there was a negative relationship between posting frequency on social media and performance (Lim et al, 2020). In other words, as social media frequency increased, the footballers performance decreased. Concurrently, findings were replicated by another study on tennis players, whereby high twitter usage impacted performance during a match.
Encel et al (2017) analysed the facebook usage prior to, during and following competitions for over 290 athletes of varying levels. Results exhibited that time spent on Facebook prior to a competition significantly correlated with disruption and distraction during competition.
Social media should however not be completely dismissed. It has also opened the door for athletes to take control over their representation in the media. This is particularly important for female athletes, who can rewrite what it means to be a female athlete. Research indicates that not only are women under-represented across traditional and online media outlets, but when they are represented, the focus is on their femininity and sexuality rather than their athletic achievements (Kane, 2013).
The role and influence social media plays and how to successfully manage the media is covered within the “Introduction to Sports Psychotherapy” Online Course which is available for purchase now.
Click here to find out more and purchase for only £59.99.
Social media however may enable women to address this traditional lack of coverage as well as challenge and change the way they are portrayed, which is usually in a sexualised manner (Litchfield & Kavanagh, 2019). Reichart et al (2015) ran an Instagram analysis and found that females accounted for the majority of the active sport photographs, which suggests that when given control, female athletes contest the trend of visual representations found in the media, and present themselves as athletes first, females second.
Krane et al (2011) found that preadolescent girls preferred images of women presented as competent athletes as it evoked feelings of admiration. These findings highight those young girls look up to sportswomen as role models, therefore women having the ability to take control of their images via social media is a crucial step in creating more positive role models for young girls.
However, not all research supports this claim. Coche (2012) analysed the Twitter profiles of 38 male and 41 female athletes and found that women actually preserve traditional gender roles in sports found in traditional media. Although women presented themselves as athletes through their biographies, women highlighted their femininity in their photographs. The opposite was found for male athletes. Serena Williams is a perfect example of this. She is one of the best tennis players, but her profile picture highlights femininity rather than athletic talent. This highlights her looks, which may entice some fans, however research shows that this fails to engage women in sport.
Social media has incredibly positive aspects for athletes, allowing them to interact with fans, gain sponsorships and also it enables them to take control of their image. However, research does indicate that social media can have detrimental impacts on an athlete’s performance during competition. Athletes should consider the time and frequency of their social media usage to gain the benefits and avoid a decline in performance.
By Anne-Sophie Pierre – @annesophie.pierre
29th October, 2021
- Arai, A., Ko, Y. J., & Ross, S. (2014). Branding athletes: Exploration and conceptualization of athlete brand image. Sport Management Review, 17(2), 97-106.
- Coche, R. (2017). How athletes frame themselves on social media: An analysis of Twitter profiles. Journal of sports media, 12(1), 89-112.
- Encel, K., Mesagno, C., & Brown, H. (2017). Facebook use and its relationship with sport anxiety. Journal of sports sciences, 35(8), 756-761.
- Hayes, M., Filo, K., Geurin, A., & Riot, C. (2020). An exploration of the distractions inherent to social media use among athletes. Sport Management Review, 23(5), 852-868.
- Gruettner, A., Vitisvorakarn, M., Wambsganss, T., Rietsche, R., & Back, A. (2020, January). The New Window to Athletes’ Soul–What Social Media Tells Us About Athletes’ Performances. In Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.
- Lim, J. H., Donovan, L. A., Kaufman, P., & Ishida, C. (2020). Professional Athletes’ Social Media Use and Player Performance: Evidence From the National Football League. International Journal of Sport Communication, 14(1), 33-59.
- Smith, L. R., & Sanderson, J. (2015). I’m going to Instagram it! An analysis of athlete self-presentation on Instagram. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 59(2), 342-358.
- Toffoletti, K., & Thorpe, H. (2018). Female athletes’ self-representation on social media: A feminist analysis of neoliberal marketing strategies in “economies of visibility”. Feminism & Psychology, 28(1), 11-31.
Engaging in sports is a great way to manage stress and have fun! But at what point does sport become the stressor?
Is it the influence of external factors? Perhaps early training to make it in sport? The root of this is unknown but what we do know is that the awareness of mental health is increasing within the sports sector, and so does the need for the funding for support.
In a survey funded by Dance UK, it was found that over half of 658 respondents experience external stress, general anxiety and tension with others (Laws, 2005). It was also found that 84% of contemporary dancers experienced at least one injury in 12 months. Some perceived the causes to be down to being overworked and fatigue. However, 44% have no access to psychological support. This demonstrates a need for funding to address these issues so the appropriate support is provided to dancers, to prevent severe injury and psychological distress.
Lack of funding within sport is a topic featured within the Introduction to Sports Psychotherapy course which is available for purchase on October 29th. If you’d like to find out more about how the lack of funding can impact the psychological well-being of sportsmen and women within the world of Dance and other sports, click here to find out more.
We can only assume that the lack of funding can be due to different reasons. Firstly, the stigma in disclosing injuries within the dance industry is apparent (Vassallo et al., 2019). Research has found that some dancers fear telling their employers that they are injured as it can result in losing professional work. Therefore, dancers may feel like they cannot reach out for support which suggests that this can be seen when asking for emotional support. As a result, dancers may feel that they cannot approach teachers, parents, choreographers about any issues due to the stigma that is seen within the industry.
Secondly, the appreciation of seeing dance as a sport and dancers as athletes is absent (Guarino, 2015). Whilst there is overlap between sport and the performing arts, dancers are ultimately creative athletes who have similar physical demands, but with an element of subjectivity. Let’s take football as an example. Both sports are competitive, they both have a need to be physically fit to execute skills and they both serve a purpose to entertain viewers.
Dancers are seen at concerts, films, music videos, theatres. Dance is seen everywhere even if it may not be obvious. At a more amateur level, of course anyone can dance, all you have to do is stick some music on and move! Equally, in football finding some grass and kicking a ball. Understanding the hard work both physically and mentally that dancers engage in to become professional, needs further awareness which could perhaps lead to its appreciation of it being a sport.
Not only does dance provide entertainment, but it also makes us feel good! Dance can be used as a therapeutic tool, as practitioners are beginning to use dance movement psychotherapy (DMP). Cunningham (2014) found that infertile couples benefited from DMP as they felt connected with others when moving as it created social and emotional bonds, particularly when they felt isolated.
Dance serves many different purposes and yet the government have cut arts courses by 50% which can have a huge impact (Guardian, 2021). This can increase competitiveness of dance, but also limits the resources available for DMP. Community Dance Artist, Jennifer Hale, shares her thoughts:
‘It just shows an astounding unawareness of what a basic building block they play in all our lives and the makeup of society. When we went into lockdown, many people turned to art in some form to help support them through, dispel fears, say what was on their minds or just play, proving that it is needed now more than ever – both professionally and within the community’.
Funding is needed to allow dancers to access the mental health resources available whether that’s in dance schools or private practitioners who can draw on similar experiences. Furthermore, the funding for anyone who may engage with DMP who can find great benefit in movement.
- Vassallo, A. J., Pappas, E., Stamatakis, E., & Hiller, C. E. (2019). Injury fear, stigma, and reporting in professional dancers. Safety and health at work, 10(3), 260-264.
- Guarino, L. (2015). Is dance a sport?: A twenty-first-century debate. Journal of Dance Education, 15(2), 77-80.
- Cunningham, J. (2014). Potential benefits of dance movement psychotherapy with couples experiencing infertility. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 9(4), 237-252.
- Laws, H. & Apps, J. (2005). Fit to Dance 2: Report of the second national inquiry into dancers’ health and injury in the UK. Dance UK.
22nd October, 2021
Sunderland manager Lee Johnson on the highly addictive and destructive substance affecting the mental well-being of his players.
Sunderland manager Lee Johnson has been speaking in relation to his thoughts on how addictive substances are being used and abused by not only his players but across the English Football League and in Europe.
Originally coming from Sweden, ‘Snus’ is an oral tobacco product which is similar to the packaging used when distributing teabag’s. It is made from pulverised or ground leaves and is directly consumed by placing the substance under the top lip in one’s mouth.
Snus is not currently considered an illegal substance, however the UK and European Union banned the ability to sell the substance back in 1992. Sweden remain one country whereby it is still legal to sell and distribute the commodity.
The matter of consuming the substance is harmful and impacts individuals at the professional level of sport, Johnson continued by expressing how it can affect both a players’ physical health and mental well-being.
“I have not tried it myself, but having spoken to the players, the worry for me is it is so highly addictive,” Johnson told talkSPORT.
“I have had players who are so highly addicted that they are in hospital overnight with something else, maybe an operation, and are begging the doctors and nurses to get them a tub – or otherwise they say they are going to run out of bed and get (it) themselves when they have just had a knee operation.
“It is so highly addictive that it comes to the forefront of our minds which then becomes dangerous.”
Sport is considered to be problematic when considering addictive behaviours due to the competitive mindset that it fosters amongst those competing for places within a team environment, or individuals trying to gain an advantage to better those they are competing against.
The use of ‘Snus’ is considered as well as the impact of hidden addictive behaviours such as gambling and gaming within our ‘Introduction to Sports Psychotherapy’ online course.
More on the matters Lee Johnson has spoken about with regards to ‘Snus’ and how it’s consumption can have implications on his players can be found within Module 4, available now for pre-order (Released October 29th).
Although it may seem that this immediate high combined with a lasting calming effect for a performance enhancing composed feeling in-game. The medical findings make for grim reading.
The use of snus has been associated with adverse health outcomes such as obesity (Norberg et al., 2006), the development of type 2-diabetes (Carlsson et al., 2017), experiences of heart failure after pro-longed use (Arefalk et al., 2012), and oesophageal and rectal cancer (Araghi et al., 2017).
“You are messing with the balance of the body and mind, that is the biggest thing for me in terms of development. You will find that some players have two or three ‘snus’ sachets under their lip, but then they are taking caffeine tablets, so it is giving themselves that calming effect.
(With) so many spikes in the body, sort of balance if you like, I don’t believe it is conducive to top performance, but more important it is not conducive to the player being healthy for a long period of time.
I see how many players are actually on it – you could probably go to maybe a third or half of a dressing room. I think they are uneducated on the negatives towards it.”
Education on the impact substances and addictive behaviours can have within sport is crucial to not only professional sportsmen and women across a variety of sports, but also the next generation coming through Football academies, Dance academies and individuals involved in sport through academia.
Ensuring that individuals are aware of the negative impact that substance abuse in the form of legal high’s such as ‘Snus’ can have on an individual’s physical and mental health is the best way to ensure use of highly addictive and destructive legal substances is reduced and eventually eradicated from the world of sport.
- Araghi, M., Galanti, M. R., Lundberg, M., Liu, Z., Ye, W., Lager, A., … & Magnusson, C. (2017). Smokeless tobacco (snus) use and colorectal cancer incidence and survival: Results from nine pooled cohorts. Scandinavian journal of public health, 45(8), 741-748.
- Arefalk, G., Hergens, M. P., Ingelsson, E., Ärnlöv, J., Michaelsson, K., Lind, L., … & Sundström, J. (2012). Smokeless tobacco (snus) and risk of heart failure: results from two Swedish cohorts. European journal of preventive cardiology, 19(5), 1120-1127.
- Carlsson, S., Andersson, T., Araghi, M., Galanti, R., Lager, A., Lundberg, M., … & Magnusson, C. (2017). Smokeless tobacco (snus) is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes: results from five pooled cohorts. Journal of internal medicine, 281(4), 398-406.
- Norberg, M., Stenlund, H., Lindahl, B., Boman, K., & Weinehall, L. (2006). Contribution of Swedish moist snuff to the metabolic syndrome: a wolf in sheep’s clothing?. Scandinavian journal of public health, 34(6), 576-583.
By Dan Rimmer
11th October, 2021