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Geography students explore ‘Proud to Play New Zealand 2016’ 

Senior geography students from UOW have been given a rare opportunity to explore sports in the lives of participants involved in ‘Proud to Play New Zealand 2016’ as part of Auckland Pride. 

Proud to Play New Zealand was organised for the first time as part of Auckland Pride this year. Proud to Play NZ is open, on a user-pays basis, to encourage active participation from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) communities who want to compete in range of individual and team sports. 

The list of sports include roller derby, bridge, tennis, ten-pin bowling, swimming, touch-rugby, sport dance and road-running. 

One of the organisers behind the student social sciences internship program, Professor Gordon Waitt from UOW’s School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, said it was important to remember that national sports events like the Olympics or the AFL Grand Finals create sites where socially approved ideas of ethnicity, gender, sexuality and nation intersect. 

“Further, it is worth reflecting that sports fields are often a training ground in conventional ideas of masculinity, femininity, and heterosexuality. Proud to Play NZ is one example of an increasing number of international sports events that reflect the desire to create new sports cultures and move beyond narrow definitions of masculinity, femininity, and sexualities in sport,” Professor Waitt said. 

The GEOG 392 Social Science Research Internship were designed to give students applied research skills. The Internships were made possible through a collaborative project between Craig Watson of Proud to Play New Zealand 2016, Lynda Johnston and Phoebe Balle of Waikato University as well as Professor Waitt from UOW. 

The students interviewed people who gave their consent to participate in the project which provided a mechanism for students to ground abstract ideas about physical culture including embodiment, competition, gender norms, inclusiveness and access to sport facilities. 

Students spoke of the internships as providing a great opportunity for them. They said 'Proud to Play’ created a platform for many people to compete in a sporting event without feeling judged or marginalised. 

"We had the privilege of hearing their stories and to some extent being part of their experience,"  students said. 

One student pointed out: ”To be out in the thick of it and involved in a real research project has created tangible memories”. 

They highlighted how they moved from roller derby to swimming carnivals, to tenpin bowling to touch football, and were lucky enough to have many of the participants get involved and share their stories through semi-structured interviews. 

Students soon learnt that by embedding themselves within the community they were researching, that they could really become part of it and realise that their experiences and biases could inform the research that they were doing. 

For some students it was the first time they conducted qualitative research – experiencing things they would never have learnt in the classroom. It also taught them to develop their social, communication and research skills – including assembling a research diary. 

They enthused how beneficial it all was to be pushed out of their normal comfort zones. 

Photo caption: Professor Gordon Waitt (far right) pictured with UOW geography students researching the ‘Proud to Play New Zealand 2016’