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Special Issue "The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2021).

Special Issue Editors

PD Dr. Hagen Wäsche
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute of Sports and Sports Science, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany
Interests: sport and physical activity behavior; sport development; physical activity and public health; management of sport; physical activity, and health; network science
Dr. Annika Frahsa
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social and Health Sciences, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Institute of Sports Science Eberhard Karls, University of Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany
Interests: physical activity promotion; health promotion; social network analysis; walkability; physical activity policy; community-based participatory research; sociology of health and physical activity
Prof. Dr. Ansgar Thiel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social and Health Sciences, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, Institute of Sports Science Eberhard Karls, University of Tübingen, 72074 Tübingen, Germany
Interests: sociology of health; sociology of sport and physical activity; health promotion; biopsychosocial factors of physical activity; activity biographies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Our world is connected. Each person or organization is embedded in a network of social relations and interactions. Social networks constrain and facilitate social actions and processes. They provide access to resources and organize exchange, communication, and cooperation. Social norms affecting attitudes and behaviors are acquired in, and generated through, networks. As such, social networks also play a critical role for sport and physical activity. On a micro-level, sport- and health-related norms and values, but also the willingness to be physically active, are ‘transmitted’ from person to person in social networks. On a meso-level, physical activity programs in schools, sport clubs, or at the workplace depend on intra-organizational and inter-organizational networks. On a macro-level, physical activity promotion in neighborhoods, communities and regions can only provide comprehensive opportunities for sport and active living of all population groups if relevant organizations cooperate.

With this Special Issue, we aim to provide a platform for studies that focus on the role of social networks for sport and physical activity. Studies that apply formal methods of Social Network Analysis (SNA) and utilize qualitative methods of SNA, as well as reviews and methodological papers on the topic are welcome.

PD Dr. Hagen Wäsche
Dr. Annika Frahsa
Prof. Dr. Ansgar Thiel
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2300 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Sport
  • Physical activity
  • Health promotion
  • Network theory
  • Social network Analysis
  • Relational structure
  • Social capital
  • Social contagion
  • Group cohesion
  • Interorganizational relationships

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Identification of Network Promoters in a Regional and Intersectoral Health Promotion Network: A Qualitative Social Network Analysis in Southern Germany
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(16), 8372; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18168372 - 07 Aug 2021
Viewed by 723
Abstract
Health in all policies is a key approach to promote health and calls for cooperation between diverse levels of government and different sectors. In this paper, we analyze how a network called ‘Healthy Region Plus’ in Southern Germany addresses intersectoral cooperation at city [...] Read more.
Health in all policies is a key approach to promote health and calls for cooperation between diverse levels of government and different sectors. In this paper, we analyze how a network called ‘Healthy Region Plus’ in Southern Germany addresses intersectoral cooperation at city and county levels. We aim to analyze the different roles of actors involved in the network based on the promoter model. We conducted two socio-material network mappings based on the Net-map approach by Schiffer and Hauck. The analysis followed three steps: data visualization, descriptive analysis of network properties, and interpretation of findings. Our findings reveal a complex intersectoral cooperation structure, with county and city level clusters, with network members who act as diverse power, expert, process, or relationship promoters. We also identified certain relevant sectors not to be part of the network. We discuss that the success of the network depends on the members’ active participation in and their outreach beyond the existing network, between city and county levels, and across sectors to promote health and build health-promoting structures in the region. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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Article
Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Impact of Social Networks on the Choice to Play for a National Team in Football
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(15), 7719; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18157719 - 21 Jul 2021
Viewed by 659
Abstract
In the course of their careers, elite athletes are faced with crucial decisions. This applies particularly to adolescent athletes who additionally have to cope with a variety of age-related developmental tasks. For young top football players with a migrant background, this can be [...] Read more.
In the course of their careers, elite athletes are faced with crucial decisions. This applies particularly to adolescent athletes who additionally have to cope with a variety of age-related developmental tasks. For young top football players with a migrant background, this can be even more challenging as they often attract the interest of national associations. From a network-theoretical perspective, it can be considered likely that the decision to join a top national association is not taken independently of the players’ networks. This article addresses the role of network actors within the players’ decision-making process. Our analysis is guided by constructivist network theory and based on a qualitative research approach that used guided expert interviews as its core research tool. Ten interviews with German-born youth internationals with a migrant background were conducted. The present analysis reveals several network actors such as family, coaches and players’ agents involved in the ‘national team question’. Evidently, most relevant networks of players with a migrant background are sports-related. These networks turned out to be highly functionalized and leave only limited room for manoeuvring. At the same time, the interviews reveal ‘structural holes’ within the players’ networks and indicate a considerable need for the optimization of talent counselling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
Article
Co-Attendance Communities: A Multilevel Egocentric Network Analysis of American Soccer Supporters’ Groups
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(14), 7351; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18147351 - 09 Jul 2021
Viewed by 679
Abstract
The growth of professional soccer in the United States is evident through the rapid expansion of franchises and increased game attendance within Major League Soccer (MLS) and the United Soccer League (USL). Coinciding with this growth is the emergence of European-style supporters’ groups [...] Read more.
The growth of professional soccer in the United States is evident through the rapid expansion of franchises and increased game attendance within Major League Soccer (MLS) and the United Soccer League (USL). Coinciding with this growth is the emergence of European-style supporters’ groups filling sections of MLS and USL stadiums. In this study, the authors utilized an egocentric network analysis to explore relationships among supporters’ group members for two professional soccer clubs based in the United States. Egocentric network research focuses on the immediate social environment of individuals and is often viewed as an alternative approach to sociocentric (i.e., whole network) analyses. This study employed hierarchical linear modeling as an example of multilevel modeling with egocentric data, using ego- and alter-level variables to explain the strength of co-attendance ties. The results indicate the perceived commitment of fellow fans to the team, shared membership in a supporters’ group, age, and interactions with other fans in team settings related to higher levels of co-attendance. The outcomes of this study are both theoretical, as they advance an understanding of sport consumer behavior within soccer supporters’ groups, and methodological, as they illustrate the unique value of employing egocentric network analysis in sport fan research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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Article
How Do Networks Reflect Collaborative Governance? The Case of a Sport Policy Program
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(14), 7229; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18147229 - 06 Jul 2021
Viewed by 672
Abstract
This study examines the extent to which collaborative governance thinking is realized in a government-funded sport policy program. Our main argument is that this conversion requires the analysis and interpretation of meso-governance and related networks. In the analysis of meso-level sports policy governance [...] Read more.
This study examines the extent to which collaborative governance thinking is realized in a government-funded sport policy program. Our main argument is that this conversion requires the analysis and interpretation of meso-governance and related networks. In the analysis of meso-level sports policy governance networks, we apply social network analysis and theme interviews. The empirical analysis conducted in this study involves the network-based structure of the Finnish Schools on the Move (FSM) program, which was implemented in Finland from 2009 to 2018. Our research questions are as follows: (1) How have the nature and network structure of the program changed throughout the implementation of the program? (2) How is the collaborative governance thinking reflected in the design and implementation of the FSM program? This study shows that the network is the most significant intermediary structure at the policy and organizational levels. Particularly, it was important in the start-up phase of the program, when the main task of the network was to bring together different actors and to generate a common vision. By the end of the program’s funding, the structure of the network became centralized, with decreasing density. However, the analysis shows that collaborative governance thinking is mainly reflected in implementation, rather than in the genuine joint planning of activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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Article
Supporting Cross-Company Networks in Workplace Health Promotion through Social Network Analysis—Description of the Methodological Approach and First Results from a Model Project on Physical Activity Promotion in Germany
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(13), 6874; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18136874 - 26 Jun 2021
Viewed by 858
Abstract
Cross-company networking and counseling is considered to be a promising approach for workplace health promotion in small and medium-sized enterprises. However, a systematic and empirical approach on how such networks can be developed is lacking. The aims of the present paper are to [...] Read more.
Cross-company networking and counseling is considered to be a promising approach for workplace health promotion in small and medium-sized enterprises. However, a systematic and empirical approach on how such networks can be developed is lacking. The aims of the present paper are to describe the approach of a social network analysis supporting the development of a cross-company network promoting physical activity and to present first results. In the process of developing the methodological approach, a common understanding of the nodes and edges within the project was elaborated. Based on the BIG-model as the theoretical framework of the project, five measuring points and an application-oriented data collection table were determined. Using Gephi, network size, degree, and distance measures, as well as density and clustering measures, were calculated and visualized in the course of the time. First results showed a continuous expansion and densification of the network. The application experience showed that the application of social network analysis in practical cross-company network development is promising but currently still very resource intensive. In order to address the current major challenges and enable routine application, the development of an application-oriented and feasible tool could make an essential contribution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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Article
Friendships in Integrative Settings: Network Analyses in Organized Sports and a Comparison with School
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6603; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126603 - 19 Jun 2021
Viewed by 766
Abstract
Social networks affect health. In this empirical study, friendship networks in integrative organized sports were examined and then compared with friendship networks in integrative school. Relevant factors for friendship network formation were investigated, with a particular interest in the relevance of intellectual disability. [...] Read more.
Social networks affect health. In this empirical study, friendship networks in integrative organized sports were examined and then compared with friendship networks in integrative school. Relevant factors for friendship network formation were investigated, with a particular interest in the relevance of intellectual disability. Advanced social network analysis was performed using exponential random graph modeling (ERGM) on individual attributes and dyadic factors, while controlling for network structures. A meta-analysis of estimated ERGMs in each setting, organized sports and school, was conducted. When controlling for all other included factors, intellectual disability is not relevant for friendship networks in organized sports. Athletic ability and gender homophily are relevant factors, while language and similarity in athletic ability are not. Contrary to the results for organized sports, intellectual disability and speaking a foreign language at home are negative factors in friendship networks at school. Athletic ability is important in both settings. Regarding dyadic factors, gender homophily is important in both settings, but similarity in athletic ability is not. To foster the psychosocial health of children with intellectual disabilities, they should be encouraged to participate in integrative organized sports as, there, they are part of friendship networks in a manner equal to their peers without an intellectual disability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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Article
Friends in Sports: Social Networks in Leisure, School and Social Media
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(12), 6197; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126197 - 08 Jun 2021
Viewed by 982
Abstract
Young athletes value their social relations in sports, and these social relations can have consequences when it comes to joining, continuing, and quitting sports. Yet the important question of how social relations in sports develop has not yet been adequately answered. Hence, we [...] Read more.
Young athletes value their social relations in sports, and these social relations can have consequences when it comes to joining, continuing, and quitting sports. Yet the important question of how social relations in sports develop has not yet been adequately answered. Hence, we investigated how athletes’ social relations in sports depend on social relations outside of sports: in leisure, school, and social media. A total of 387 athletes (aged 16–19) from 30 Norwegian sports groups completed a survey on electronic tablets. We asked how social relations in leisure, school, and social media—through the social mechanisms of contact, homophily, and contagion—influenced social relations in sports. We also controlled for the effect of exercise frequency and duration (years) of contact in sports. Exponential random graph modelling (ERGM) analyses showed that first and foremost, relations from social media and leisure, but also school networks and exercise frequency, influence sports networks. This study shows that social relations in sports are diverse and depend on social relations outside sports. We discuss how this has ‘counterintuitive’ consequences for sports participation, particularly the importance of supporting athletes’ social relations outside of sports for the strengthening of social relations within sports when addressing challenges concerning recruitment, continuation, and dropout from sports. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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Systematic Review
Interorganizational Networks in Physical Activity Promotion: A Systematic Review
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(14), 7306; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18147306 - 08 Jul 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 781
Abstract
Public health challenges such as physical inactivity are multiplex and cannot be effectively addressed by single organizations or sectors. For this reason, public health policies have to involve various sectors and foster partnerships among organizations. Social network analysis (SNA) provides a methodological toolkit [...] Read more.
Public health challenges such as physical inactivity are multiplex and cannot be effectively addressed by single organizations or sectors. For this reason, public health policies have to involve various sectors and foster partnerships among organizations. Social network analysis (SNA) provides a methodological toolkit that enables the investigation of relationships between organizations to reveal information about the structure and cooperation within networks. This systematic review provides an overview of studies utilizing SNA to analyze the structure of networks that promote physical activity, including the structural set-up, types, and conditions of cooperation, the existence or absence of key actors, the characteristics of organizations working together, and potential barriers limiting collaboration. In total, eight eligible studies were identified. To evaluate the quality of these studies, a quality assessment tool for SNA was created. Relevant aspects from each study were systematically outlined using a data extraction template developed for network studies. The studies reported low to moderate density scores with many ties not being realized. Organizations tend to work side by side than as real partners, whereas organizations of the same type are more strongly connected. Most of the studies identified governmental health organizations as key players in their networks. Network maturity influences network outcomes. Shared goals and geographic proximity are potential facilitators for network development. For future research, more sophisticated methods and longitudinal studies are required to describe how networks, with the aim of promoting physical activity, develop and change to identify predicting factors for an effective network structure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Role of Social Networks for Sport and Physical Activity)
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