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The main purpose of this study was to investigate the 'race' and ethnicity of female netball players in the First and Second Division of the English National Netball League during the 1999/2000 season. The secondary purpose was to compare the ethnicity of players to playing position. Consequently, this research will contribute to a better understanding of female ethnic participation in English netball, and also provide data that will facilitate a comparative analysis of participation rates by ethnic minorities in other sports in England, and with similar research on ethnicity in other countries. Data were collated from team rosters of all teams comprising the First and Second Divisions of the English National Netball League in the 1999/2000 season. The research was conducted over a season, in order to observe all of the teams, and to note the position of each player in the team. The 'race' and ethnicity of players ([N.bar] = 150) was established from individual players by administering a self-definition questionnaire at the end of each observed match.
Since Loy and McElvogue's (1970) pioneering research, numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to explain the phenomenon of stacking, that is the segregation of ethnic minorities into non-central positions, in certain team sports. Traditionally, non-central positions are characterized by player's possession of manual dexterity or physical attributes rather than leadership qualities. Most of these investigations have been conducted in the United States (US) with interest in the subject proliferating after black athletes became disproportionately over-represented in major team sports (Curtis & Loy, 1978; Eitzen & Furst, 1989; Leonard, 1978; Lavoie, 1989; Loy & McElvogue, 1970; McPherson, 1975; Smith & Leonard, 1997; Yetman & Eitzen, 1972). Evidence presented by Yetman and Berghorn (1993) showed that in basketball, for example, approximately 80% of players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), 70% of US professional boxers, 65% of players in the National Football League, and 25% of US track and field athletes, were black. In a more recent study, Margolis and Piliavin (1999) report that in the 1992 Major League Baseball season, 29.2% of players were African-American. These figures indicate some differences in the representation of black people across sports in the US with basketball having the highest representation from the black population.
Leonard (1998) maintains that blacks are concentrated in relatively few sports such as basketball, baseball, track and field, and boxing, and are poorly represented in other sports such as skating, gymnastics, sailing, horse-riding, swimming, golf, tennis, and hockey. He also maintains that if all sports are considered, and the percentage of black participants in each averaged, the overall proportion of top-level black athletes would be approximate to the proportion of black people in the US population. According to Leonard (1998) black people comprise 12% of the total population in the US, so black athletes were significantly over-represented in American football, basketball and baseball in proportion to the total population. Research in British basketball during the period 1977-1994 elucidated the gradual erosion of the dominance of white Britons who traditionally played basketball, and the increased involvement of black Britons in basketball during the period studied (Chappell et al, 1996). The researchers determined that 60.2% of British players in the English National Basketball League during the 1993/94 season were black. This percentage contrasts sharply with the 1.6% of the total population accounted for by blacks in Britain (Owen, 1994).
A dimension of racial integration of significant interest to sociologists is the assignment of playing positions on the basis of racial stereotypes, a phenomenon known as "stacking". It has been suggested that in sports such as basketball, black players were more suited to certain positions (Eitzen & Tessendorf, 1978; Loy & McElvogue, 1970). This was based on stereotyping of white and black players by coaches in terms of player's possession of manual dexterity or physical attributes rather than leadership qualities. For example, using data from 1970, Eitzen and Tessendorf (1978) concluded that blacks were over-represented or "stacked" in forward positions where the performance requirements were more dependent on physical rather than cognitive abilities. Conversely, blacks were under-represented among guards and centers, where leadership and outcome control were considered to be important. However, in subsequent studies (Berghorn et al., 1988; Yetman & Berghorn, 1993; Yetman et al., 1982), there was only slight evidence for positional discrimination in intercollegiate men's basketball, specifically that whites were more likely to play in the center position (Margolis & Piliavin, 1999).
The trend in British basketball, as in the US, has been towards an equal distribution of black players in all three playing positions. This indicated that the black male basketball player has not been subjected to positional assignment on the basis of racial stereotypes.
Black women and basketball
Research into racial indices for black women in basketball has been limited to relatively old studies by Berghorn et al. (1988), and Yetman and Berghorn (1993). Collectively, these studies indicated that in the 1988 season of intercollegiate women's basketball, 25% of players were black and stacking still existed to some extent. The researchers found a continuation of stacking with the white player imbalance greatest in the center position, but also to a lesser extent, in the guard position. Finally, as a comparison with racial integration in men's basketball, it was suggested that, "stacking for females in 1985 was far less pronounced than it was for males in 1970, the last year stacking was significant among males" (Berghorn et al., 1988, p. 123).
Similar research on participation rates for women in the British context has been conducted (Chappell & Karageorghis, 2000). Their research indicated that black British women players were over-represented in the English National Basketball League in the 1996/97, and there was an over-representation of black British players in the forward position. However, in general, research into racial participation within women's teams has been largely neglected. Recently, Melnick (1996) expressed the need for further research in this area when he stated that, "few studies have focused on female athletes in general, or female athletes …