New research group takes sport beyond play

Even if you don’t believe sport explains historic trends within society – which it has done – or that it creates seemingly unbreakable community bonds – which it does – or that it is linked to the most fundamental aspects of human health and well-being – which it is – then Sport Management professor Alison Doherty has one last argument for you about the value of sport research.

“We are one of the few topics to still have its own section of the newspaper,” she laughed.

Next week, Doherty and her fellow researchers will come together to celebrate the launch of the Sport and Social Impact Research Group. Housed within the School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, the group officially brings together, for the first time, researchers who explore sport and its impact on individual and community wellbeing.

The official launch takes place Monday, April 24, in Somerville House, Room 3315. Following an opening reception at 9:30 a.m., Doherty will moderate a panel discussing and debating a range of issues with sport, including panelists Glen Belfry, Janice Forsyth, Laura Misener and Craig Hall.

“Sport can be a barometre for all that is well and not-so-well within a community,” Doherty said.

Sport, in all its manifestations, is “a significant social phenomenon and a potentially vital factor in the wellbeing of individuals and communities.” Ranging from physical literacy – the mastery of fundamental movement – to elite performance, as a participation or entertainment activity, engagement in sport and physical activity is an important determinant of physical, social, emotional, psychological, and economic health, she continued.

Sport and physical activity is linked to many of the critical issues and questions facing Canadian society, including Indigenous and rural communities, aging, obesity, mental health, disability and mobility, equity and social inclusion, social justice, reconciliation, human enhancement, social media and marketing, volunteerism, youth development, social capital, and concussion. Sport is both a viable and valuable context for examining these critical and complex issues leading to knowledge that informs policy and practice for social change and better quality of life, Doherty said.

The new group will allow existing researchers an opportunity to promote interaction, mutual support and collaboration.

“The energy around this group, and among its participants, is amazing. As we share ideas, and as we share energy, new things and new ideas pop out of that. We can do more when we work together,” Doherty said. “It was a no-brainer for us. We also wanted to stand up and say, ‘We’re here, we’re here, we’re here.’”

The group builds on generations of history in sport-related research and teaching within Kinesiology, a department already home to a number of well-established scholars. That work has centred on sport philosophy, history, management, social psychology, biomechanics, nutrition, physiology, and medicine, with much of that research supported by Tri-Council and major grant-funding agencies. Kinesiology – the former Faculty of Physical Education – has been home to nationally recognized interuniversity athletics and campus recreation programs, the International Centre for Olympic Studies, and is the birthplace of the Special Olympics movement in Canada.


Western encourages the formation of collaborative research entities, both within and across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Those collaborations are defined within three areas:

  • Centre: A collaborative research venture, possibly involving some research participation and/or funding from outside the university, with a directorship, an administrative structure, a budget, and possibly some assignment of space;
  • Institute: A collaborative research venture satisfying the criteria for a centre, and also involving significant research participation, or funding, or administrative participation from outside the university; and
  • Research Group or Research Unit: A number of investigators informally organized within – and recognized by – a department, school and/or faculty (or in two or more departments, schools, or faculties) with shared research objectives, and possible shared facilities and funds.


Join the Sport and Social Impact Research Group at its official launch Monday April 24, in Somerville House 3315. Following an opening reception at 9:30 a.m., Sport Management professor Alison Doherty will moderate a panel discussing and debating a range of issues with sport, including panelists Kinesiology professors Glen Belfry, Janice Forsyth, Laura Misener and Craig Hall.