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

Rob Lake

Douglas College
Nationalism at War: Conflicting Narratives of Tennis, 1914-18
Nationalism at War: Conflicting Narratives of Tennis, 1914-18
This presentation aims to shed light on the often overlooked role of sport during times of war, focusing on a critical examination of conflicting narratives about tennis in Britain during the Great War (1914-18). Through a detailed narrative analysis of magazine articles from Lawn Tennis alongside leading British newspaper articles throughout the four-year conflict, a study is undertaken of the various ways in which lawn tennis players and officials responded to the ensuing conflict as the war progressed. Debates about whether it was appropriate to continue to play lawn tennis and how British players should understand and respond to their German rivals both on and off the tennis court were mixed with anecdotes about the cessation of tournaments and restricted play, alongside the use of creative outputs – for example, through humour and poetry – to express key nationalistic/political sentiments. Narratives were diverse and conflicting, which reflected the precariousness of the ‘national situation’, as players and officials sought to use their experiences and understanding of lawn tennis to make sense of the broader conflict, and indicative of ongoing confusions expressed publicly about what role amateur sport should play as a site of political and nationalistic expression.