Sociology of sports is an academic field that seeks to examine the many interpersonal and group phenomena that arise in relation to sports. Sports provide many different separate but mutually dependent groups for sociologists to examine with the aim of learning about human social behavior. Athletic teams, sports fans, and for-profit athletic companies all engage in overlapping social behaviors that researchers find to be very interesting. Practically, people in this field can look for better ways to motivate teams, strengthen the bond between teams and fans, and prevent discrimination in amateur and professional athletics. It is closely linked to other fields such as sports medicine, psychology, and social justice.
One of the aims of sociology of sports is to look at various groups in athletics as societies in and of themselves or as microcosms of society as a whole. A sociologist looking at the social phenomena that occur within a team, for instance, may be interested in the relationships between players of different skill levels, coaches and players, and players of different races. Power dynamics between different players or between the coach and the players can be particularly interesting when examined as social phenomena arising from the social structure of the team.
Another important subject in this field is the relationship between sports and the rest of society. Sports fans, for instance, often obsess over their favorite teams. This branch of sociology is also interested in the relationship existing between sports, the media, and the rest of society. In many cases, news media are the main mode of communication between the groups. Despite this "filter," professional sports teams, players, and events have a profound effect on popular culture and other social trends.
Sociology of sports is also interested in addressing some of the social problems that occur within athletic society and culture. Gender equality, for instance, is an important issue in both amateur and professional athletic circles. Girls tend to have fewer and more limited athletic opportunities than boys throughout their time in school, and female sports teams are often poorly funded in comparison to male teams. The same problems are also found in professional athletics, as female athletes generally are paid less and given fewer opportunities than male athletes. Researchers are also interested in issues related to race, ethnicity, and physical disability.