TedX Ruakura: Action Sports for a Better World

On July 30 I had the pleasure of giving a TedX talk on the topic of my Marsden research: Action Sports for a Better World. The video should be coming pretty soon, but for now a photo from the event. While the day was a real buzz, the whole experience was very eye-opening to what goes on behind the scenes of TedX events. There really are hundreds, or more like thousands, of volunteer hours that go into the production of these events. The speakers ended up working with the speech coaches and the broader team over a period of six months… and a HUGE amount of work goes into every single talk, and the production as a whole. It was a pleasure to go through this experience with such an amazing and diverse group of speakers! Thanks to my family and friends for all of their support xx

TEDxRuakura 2016. Photos by Jeremy Tritt, The University of Waikato

TEDxRuakura 2016. Photos by Jeremy Tritt, The University of Waikato

Hot off the press: New media and digital technologies in action sport cultures

Comm and sport

Two radio interviews: Action sports and the Olympics project

Last Friday I did two radio interviews on action sports and the Olympics. These interviews were following my visit to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne in late March, and based on my research with Associate Professor Belinda Wheaton. Although the titles used by the radio stations might not be the most accurate, I felt that both interviews were a good opportunity to share some of the initial findings from our project, and highlight some of the cultural politics leading to the decision about the potential inclusion of skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing in Tokyo 2020. If you’re interested, you can listen to the longer interview with Radio New Zealand here or a shorter interview with Newstalk ZB here. I was able to raise some different points in each interview, and the Radio New Zealand interview with Kathryn Ryan was fun as she is a fabulous interviewer and super smart lady!

ASDP: Action Sports for Development and Peace

Yesterday (April 6) was International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. According to the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace website:

“Due to its vast reach, unparalleled popularity and foundation of positive values, sport is ideally positioned to contribute towards the United Nations’ objectives for development and peace. To raise awareness of this potential, 6 April was declared as the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) by the UN General Assembly. The adoption of this Day signifies the increasing recognition by the United Nations of the positive influence that sport can have on the advancement of human rights, and social and economic development”.

Following up on my visit to the Skateistan headquarters in Berlin (after my IOC visit), they asked me to be their first guest editor for a new long-form blog they are starting called Medium. They launched this new platform on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace and I was more than happy to contribute with a piece that provides a brief overview of ASDP (Action sports for development and peace) and some of my latest and upcoming research in this field. The creative approaches being developed within ASDP organizations (and among youth themselves) aren’t often given much space within broader discussions about Sport for Development, so it was an honor to use this forum to bring some of these issues into the broader conversation about the power and potential (and limits!) of Sport for Development in this crazy world we’re currently living in! You can read this article by clicking on this link.

Working with the IOC

In 2015, my colleague Belinda Wheaton and I won an International Olympic Studies Advanced Research Programme Grant to study youth perceptions of the Olympic Games, with a focus on action sport participants. Shortly after winning this award, it was announced that surfing, skateboarding and sport-climbing were to be short-listed for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The two events were unrelated, but with this announcement our project quickly gained the interest to both those in the global action sport cultures and industry as well as the International Olympic Committee. Our project included an international survey in nine languages, interviews with key members of the action sport industries and federations, and extensive media analysis, and overall, was really well supported by key figures within the global action sport cultures and industries.

A couple of weeks ago (March 14-18), I travelled to Lausanne (Switzerland) to present findings from our study to the Olympic Programmes Commission. Sadly Belinda couldn’t join me due this time. Ultimately though, this really was an amazing opportunity to share our findings with one of the most powerful sporting organizations in the world, and for our research to play a part in informing the decisions they are making about how best to respond to the changing landscape of youth sport participation and consumption. The Olympic Studies Center (and the lovely and very helpful Nuria and Laila) are really putting a lot of work into opening up a productive dialogue between researchers and the IOC. It’s interesting to be part of this transition for the IOC, and to see them working towards greater transparency and engagement with academics. During my visit I spent time working in the Olympic archives, visited the Olympic Museum, as well as a series of other meetings and presentations, including one with the Youth Olympic Games committee. Belinda and I continue to work on the final analysis of our results which will be presented to the IOC in June 2016, and we’re hoping this isn’t the end of what seems to be a productive relationship developing.

Holly after her meeting with the YOG committee at the IOC, Lausanne.

Holly after her meeting with the YOG committee at the IOC, Lausanne.

Exciting times!

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, but I may say I’ve had a very exciting last few months! Here’s a quick update.

In early November, just as I was boarding a plane to head to the US for NASSS, I received news that my application for a Marsden Fast-Start grant was successful! Marsden’s are so competitive in New Zealand that I really wasn’t expecting such positive news, so the adrenaline was still running as I reached my destination almost 20 hours later. My project, ‘Sport in the Red Zone: Youth Politics and Agency in Contexts of War and Disaster’, will be a big focus of my next three years. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to dedicate time and energies to a project that I have been steadily working toward over the past 3-4 years. Now it is a reality, woohoo!

The North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference in Santa Fe was an excellent conference with two great keynotes (Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser and Professor Richard Gruneau) and lots of great presentations. It was particularly nice to catch up with my lovely academic friends from all around the world. I was also very honored to be awarded the inaugural Human Kinetics Early Career Researcher Award, as well a special mention for the NASSS Outstanding Book Award.

Professor Michael Giardina and I at the Awards Ceremony, NASSS 2015

Professor Michael Giardina and I at the Awards Ceremony, NASSS 2015

A few months back I also received news that I had been awarded a Lancaster University Centre for Mobilities Research Fellowship. I am very excited to have the opportunity to spend a month with the world-leading group of mobilities scholars of CeMoRe in April 2016.

So, all in all, a pretty awesome few months. Finally, I have just received news that my application for promotion to Associate Professor at my home institution was successful, yay!

I do want to say though, that with every successful grant, award or promotion application, there have also been many unsuccessful ones. So, finally, a big thank you to all who have supported (and challenged) me over the years, particularly my mentors, academic friends and colleagues, graduate students, and those who I have had the honor to collaborate with. Also, thanks to my family for supporting my career in all the ways that you do xx I am a very lucky/blessed/privileged woman to love what I do so much that it never feels like ‘work’.

Article in The Conversation

Belinda and I wrote an article for The Conversation a few weeks ago following news that skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing have been short-listed for Tokyo2020. It just went live today. This article relates to our IOC Advanced Research Programme Grant, titled ‘Youth perceptions of the Olympic Games’, which focuses on action sport participants attitudes to the Olympics, and includes a survey (in 10 languages), media analysis and interviews with key stakeholders in the action sport industries and cultures:

Also, an article that appeared on the Grind TV website focuses on these issues in relation to skateboarding.

Australasian Parks and Leisure

In a three page article in the latest Australasian Parks and Leisure magazine, I comment on trends in action sport research and policy. If you’re interested, check out pages 14, 16 & 17.

cover of Parks and Leisure

Parks and Leisure

National Radio interview on action sports and the Olympics

Yesterday (16th July) Belinda Wheaton and I did an interview on NZ National Radio regarding our project with the IOC on youth perceptions of the Games, and particularly the attitudes of action sports participants. Click this link to listen.

Interview on National Radio with Belinda Wheaton

Interview on National Radio with Belinda Wheaton

IOC Advanced Research Programme Grant

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Associate Professor Belinda Wheaton and I received the exciting news that our application for an IOC Advanced Research Programme Grant was successful. Our project is titled ‘Youth Perceptions of the Olympic Games: Attitudes Towards Action Sports at the YOG and Olympic Games’.

Here is a link to a newspaper article about the project, and also an interview I did on RadioSport on July 21 with Tony Veech.

Girlhood, Sport and Development Workshop

I am excited to be contributing (virtually) to the Girlhood, Sport and International Development Workshop being held at the University of Ottawa on June 17, 2015. This workshop is being organized by Lyndsay Hayhurst, Megan Chawansky, and Cathy van Ingen, and is a lead-up for the Women Deliver symposium. The workshop includes an international group of scholars, practitioners, activists and policy-makers who will be presenting some exciting, cutting-edge work in the areas of girlhood, sport and international development. I wish I could be there in person, but here is a link to my virtual contribution titled Girls Empowerment and Action Sports for Development: The Case of Skateistan.

Sorry it’s not the greatest quality video, but it’s the best I could do with the technologies on offer.

Thanks again to Megan, Lyndsay and Cathy for offering me the opportunity to be part this workshop from afar. I hope it’s a great few days!

Action Sports on the Agenda: Sport NZ National Conference

On April 13-14, my new colleague, Associate Professor Belinda Wheaton (formerly of University of Brighton) and I facilitated two workshops at the Sport New Zealand National Conference in Auckland. The workshops focused on action sports in New Zealand communities from two different perspectives. One group included three CEOs of sporting organizations: Hilary Poole (Netball NZ), Phil Holden (NZ Rugby League), and John Brimble (Sport Otago). The other panel featured five action sport advocates, that is, individuals who are actively working to support and develop action sports in New Zealand communities. This group consisted of the following: Robett Hollis (ex professional snowboarder and Founder of Frontside Media), Damien Puddle (CEO of Parkour New Zealand), Mihi Nemani (3x world champion bodyboarder), Steve Hodges (CEO of OnBoard, providing skateboarding in schools), and Fiona Duncan (ex professional snowboarder and founder of Wahine on Waves). Both panels were invited to respond to a series of questions about the challenges and strategies for better utilising action sports in the development of healthy children, youth and communities. The panel discussions were presented in front of an audience and were also being filmed. Belinda and I then spent the best part of the evening editing the footage to produce a 20 minute video montage that revealed the differing perspectives of the CEOs and those working in local communities to develop and support action sports initiatives. The following morning, and immediately after a presentation from Minister of Sport and Recreation (Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman), I presented the video and key findings from the two panels back to a full house.

This was an exciting opportunity to work with Sport NZ, action sport advocates/athletes/enthusiasts, and CEOs of NSOs (National Sporting Organisations) and RSOs (Regional Sports Trusts), and we hope that we can build upon these conversations over the coming months.

The video of my presentation followed by the edited video from the two panels is now available, as is the video of just the montage of the two panels: Do decision makers in sport and young people see eye to eye?

Thorpe at Sport NZ conference 2015

Dr Holly Thorpe speaking at the Sport NZ National Conference

Conference season

Phew… it’s been a busy few weeks with the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference in Portland (USA) from 5-8 November, the Contemporary Ethnography Across the Disciplines conference in Hamilton (NZ) from 25-28 November, and an invited presentation at the New Zealand Recreation Association national conference in Christchurch on the 27th November.

At NASSS I presented a paper titled ‘Feminism, biology and the moving body: Female runners experiences of amenorrhea and medical intervention’, in which I engaged with the work of Nikolas Rose to understand how women make meaning of (and respond to) medical knowledge about their biological bodies. I also chaired two sessions on Feminist Physical Cultural Studies, which revealed the exciting diversity of those working in this strand of feminist and cultural studies inspired scholarship. The University of Waikato had its strongest contingent ever at NASSS, with five of us attending, including Bob Rinehart, Bec Olive, Hamish Crocket, Amy Marfell, and myself. Someone even (jokingly) referred to the ‘Waikato turn’ in the sociology of sport and physical culture, which we thought was pretty funny :)

My CEAD paper was titled ‘Feminist ethics, embodied politics, and reflexivity in women’s health research’. In this paper I was trying to problematize how we do reflexive research when working at the ‘biological turn’ in the social sciences. In other words, how do we think both the social AND the biological thru ourselves (to paraphrase Elspeth Probyn)? I was a bit nervous presenting this paper, as I was writing myself into the text quite a lot, but it seemed to be well received. CEAD is a great space to do something a bit different, and push oneself to be more creative in content and presentational style. I also chaired the keynote panel titled ‘Mapping the sensual / sensory in ethnographic practice’ with the amazing Professor Soyini Madison, Dr Karen Barbour and Hotorua Barclay-Kerr. This was a wonderful dialogue with three incredible scholars, artists and activists. I was also very proud of two of my doctoral students, Grace O’Leary and Amy Marfell, who came second and third, respectively, in the PhD essay prize! Both of their papers were highly reflexive accounts of their research journeys to date, with Grace working to understand female sex workers embodied experiences of sport and physical activity, and Amy focusing on New Zealand women’s experiences of playing netball. Great work ladies!

My invited presentation at the NZRA was titled ‘Action sport and recreation for youth development: Global and local insights’. Although I was only there for one day, I thoroughly enjoyed this vibrant conference, and had some great discussions for potential research opportunities and collaborations. I look forward to seeing where these connections may lead.

All in all, a wonderful few weeks of conferencing, with lots of ideas being shared, discussed and debated. What a privileged life we (academics) live!



YouTube presentation: A conference presentation on women in action sports cultures

Unfortunately, my dear colleague, Dr Rebecca Olive, and I were unable to attend the Sporting Females conference held at University of Leeds on September 4th in honor of Professor Jennifer Hargreaves. Dr Belinda Wheaton was chairing a session on women in action sports that we really wanted to contribute to, so we recorded our presentation and sent the file to Belinda to play at the conference. In our presentation we provided an overview of trends in women’s participation in action sport cultures, and then offered a case study of the highly controversial Roxy promotion video and the cultural response to the sexualization of female athletes, and particularly professional surfers. If you are interested in watching our presentation, you can click on this link to watch via YouTube. As always, it was a pleasure working with Rebecca on this project.

New book published this week!

My latest book, Transnational Mobilities in Action Sport Cultures, was published this week by Palgrave Macmillan. It is part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship series that is edited by Professors Robin Cohen and Zig Layton-Henry. I am very excited to have my book feature as part of this series. I was also thrilled to receive three wonderful reviews from scholars whom I greatly admire:

“Holly Thorpe has produced an outstanding sociological study of action sports within the global context. I particularly enjoyed the book’s highly insightful, creative and critical engagement with contemporary theories of transnationalism and mobility to understand the cultural politics and contemporary practices of action sports. This analysis draws on very rich data that has been derived from many years of fieldwork and interviews across the world. The book will be essential reading for all academics, students and wider readers who are interested in sport, migration, transnationalism, and the social and cultural aspects of globalization.”  – Professor Richard Giulianotti, Loughborough University, UK 

‘This is an all-action account of the geography and sociology of action sports. It is a really interesting and entertaining read – strongly recommended.’ – Professor John Urry, Lancaster Universit, UK

‘An invaluable interdisciplinary contribution to the understanding of both action sport cultures and, more generally, the network of flows and mobilities that constitute the transnational condition. Transnational Mobilities is a complex and comprehensive discussion, characterized by a compelling synthesis of theoretical depth and empirical insight.’ – Professor David Andrews, University of Maryland, US


My book and I

eDebate: International Sports for Development post-2015

I was honored to be invited as one of twelve experts participating in the 2013 Sport and Development e-Debate. Over the past month or so, each of the e-debaters was asked to respond to the same three sets of questions about the role of sport and development community in the lead up to the post-2015 development goals currently being discussed by the United Nations and various other groups and organizations. You can read my contributions to the following topics:

Round 1: Reflecting on the evolution of the S&D sector and its contribution to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Round 2: Discussing the role of S&D in post-2015 development and its inclusion in the policy-making process.

Round 3: Envisioning the future of the S&D sector.

Throughout this e-Debate, my aim was to encourage a more critical and sociological perspective, and to raise some different questions among the sport and development community.

You can follow this link for summaries of each round or perspectives from other e-Debaters.

Overall, it has been a very enjoyable process responding to the various questions and engaging with the diverse perspectives from other e-Debaters and others in the Sport and Development community. I look forward to ongoing conversations about the potential of Sport and Development as we lead up to the 2015 development goals and beyond.


ASDP: Action Sports for Development and Peace Building

A few months ago I wrote a report for the Commonwealth Advisory Board of Sport (CABOS) titled ‘Maximizing the Potential of Action Sports’. Since presenting this work to the CABOS Committee, I have had a seven part series published on the Sport and Development website, you can read the seven short articles at the links below:

1. The growth of action sports for development (23 July 2013)

2. Action sports gain increasing recognition for role in development (30 July 2013)

3. Impact through action sports (7 August 2013)

4. Action sports and gender (16 August 2013)

5. Using action sports in SDP: A potential for risk? (22 August 2013)

6. Action sports for development: Lessons from grassroots groups (4 September 2013)

7. Incorporating action sports into SDP (18 September 2013)

About my Book: A Podcast Interview on The Society Pages

I was recently interviewed on The Society Pages (a great sociological website) about my book Snowboarding Bodies in Theory and Practice (2011). You can listen to the full podcast here. I am grateful to Kyle Green for the opportunity to speak about my book in this way. Now, just to finish the next one :)

Recent publications: Youth, action sports and political agency in the Middle East

A paper inspired during my work at Georgetown University and following the Doha GOALS Forum last year, has now been published online first in the International Review for the Sociology of Sport. The paper titled ‘Youth, action sports and political agency in the Middle East: Lessons from a grassroots parkour group in Gaza’ was co-authored with Nida Ahmad, a Masters student at Georgetown. I met Nida following a guest lecture I gave in the Sport for Development Masters course at Georgetown, and we immediately struck up a connection with our shared interest in action sports, new media, and the Middle East. It was a pleasure working with Nida who is now in the final stages of completing her Masters Degree.

Parkour in Gaza paper


Another recent publication is the chapter by Christina Ryan and myself titled ‘Athlete’s Careers in Aotearoa/New Zealand: The Impact of the Graham Report and the Carding System’ in Tatiana Ryba & Natalia Stambulova’s (2013) edited book Athletes’ Careers across Cultures, published by Routledge. Tina is in the final stages of completing her PhD.

book cover

National Radio: The Olympics, Media, and Sport Participation

I got a call yesterday lunchtime from National Radio inviting me to join The Panel discussion a few hours later to discuss an article that appeared in The Independent about the decrease in adult sport participation in the UK following the London Olympics. The Panel was interested to talk about media coverage of sport and whether this leads to decreased participation. You can listen to the discussion here. I haven’t seen any research that supports such a causal relationship.  However, I was happy to use this opportunity to raise some questions about the assumption that mega sports events automatically contribute to increased sport participation (as this is often used in the justification of such events). As various sport scholars have argued, the ‘trickle down’ benefit from mega-sports events like the Olympics are not automatic. Unless such events are embedded in a longer term development strategy, it is unlikely they will have any significant impacts on sports participation. It is not sufficient to assume that watching sports on television will lead to behavior change, but for some watching sport on television can inspire participation. Indeed, my 85 year old grandfather spends half his day watching golf on tv and the other half playing golf.

I also tried to make the point that media consumption patterns are changing, and to connect with youth there is much potential in using new media in more effect ways to help inspire participation. This has been a big part of my recent research, and also features strongly in my third year paper on sport and the media. I believe there are lots of exciting opportunities for using new media for inspiring youth participation, but first we need to understand how youth are currently using new social media (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc). My research on youth media consumption and production in action sport cultures has revealed that many youth are both active media consumers and producers. New technologies also mean that we can watch sport ‘on the move’, on the way to a soccer practice, to the gym, or while skateboarding, so the idea of the sports fan/couch potato needs to be revised. An important question is: How might we better utilize new media media to inspire active sporting participation among those who are not already physically active?

After the interview I realized I hadn’t made a point that I really wanted to raise. The article in The Independent did mention a slight increase in female sport participation, which could be a result of increased visibility of female athletes at the London Olympics. Oh well, I only had a couple of minutes… maybe next time. Although the discussion was a bit fragmented, it is always fun trying to (subtly) raise some critical questions about sport among broader audiences.