The Evolution of Sport Management Research

Before diving into the state of sport management research today, it is crucial to define the landscape of sport management. According to DeSensi, Kelley, Blanton, and Beitel (1990), sport management encompasses a wide range of skills related to the organization and evaluation of activities within the context of sport and physical activity. This includes a variety of areas such as recreational sport programs, corporate-sponsored events, sports media, and academic programs.

The necessity for sport management was evident in 1957 when Walter O’Malley, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, raised concerns about the absence of individuals specifically trained to administer various activities and organizations related to sports and physical activity. This demand led to the establishment of one of the earliest sport management programs in the United States at Ohio University in 1966, followed by the formation of the North American Society for Sport Management during the 1985-1986 academic year. The Journal of Sport Management was subsequently published in 1987 to address sport management within the context of management theory and practice.

In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Sport Management, Zeigler (1987) discussed the past, present, and future of sport management as a field of study. He emphasized the need for qualified managers in the vast enterprise of sports and highlighted the potential conflicts between practitioners and scientists. Zeigler’s insights set the stage for a new era of productivity in the field.

Paton (1987) critically examined the progress of sport management research and highlighted the need to improve the theoretical base and make the knowledge more sensible and useful. Moreover, other scholars, such as James Weese (1995) and Trevor Slack (1996), stressed the importance of enhancing the practical implications of sport management research to better serve professionals in the industry and adapt to the evolving landscape of the sport industry.

Slack (1996) urged academic researchers to broaden their areas of focus and enhance the theoretical basis of their research to ensure the field of sport management does not remain limited and lacks generalizability.

Furthermore, Slack (1998) proposed creating a unique aspect within the field of sport management by being reflective and critical of personal scholarly research, identifying voids in the field, theorizing work, and broadening the types of sport organizations examined and the subdisciplinary areas of sport management education.

These insights and recommendations from prominent scholars have paved the way for advancements and improvements in sport management research, challenging academic programs to reconsider their approach and ensuring that the field keeps pace with the dynamic sport industry.

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