2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Alex Manning

University of Minnesota
Interrelated Spaces of Youth Soccer in the United States: Group Identity, Sporting Development, Competition, and Community

Youth Soccer in the United States is a social formation and an intersectional contested field of social reproduction with implications beyond the soccer field. I demonstrate how various spaces of youth soccer in a Midwest metropolitan city form a contested social-cultural field. It is a field that is very much structured by socio-economic inequality, racial segregation, and an increasingly privatized and specialized youth sports system. Through targeted ethnography, participant observation at four different youth soccer organizations, and interviews with parents, coaches, and players, I deeply explore the interrelated idiocultures of the sport. 

In this presentation I discuss the varying philosophies of sporting and social development embedded within each soccer space. I analyze how discourses of community and family are prevalent across different soccer communities and situate these discourses with how youth players, coaches, and parents interact in these social settings. Then I discuss how dimensions of race, class, and immigrant status are especially relevant to how different soccer communities construct and understand their group identity and youth soccer culture as a whole. To conclude, I cover how competition, influences not only group identity, but also shapes opportunities and forms of participation, and influences how different soccer communities interact with one another.