Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Getting personal: Sports geography

Image above: Aussie Rules at the MCG. A great source of personal sport geography

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Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

Personal Sport geographies

A raging debate during the development of the Australian Curriculum: Geography has been the place of personal geography in the curriculum. Personal geography is ill-defined in much of the literature and often associated with a student studying their local environment and locale. However I see the potential to expand the term to everything that a young person comes into contact with in their everyday life, including their immediate locale. Many aspects of their daily life can be turned into a geographical study. For example, the geography could be based on their clothing, food they eat, material purchases, music preferences, stamp collection and as this posting will highlight, their sporting life and interests. Sports geography is a legitimate field of geographical study around the world. Here are just some examples of sport geography in action and its application to the classroom.

Major sports catchments areas in the US

Major League Baseball and the National Football Leagues are similar in that both leagues have two major conferences that span from one coast to the other. However, when it comes to dividing the teams, the two leagues have very different ideas on geography.

Using Facebook to map sports geography
Facebook is one of the most comprehensive samples of sportsfanship ever collected.  As the map below shows, more than 1 in 10 Americans have declared allegiance to one NFL team or another. Using Facebook, this is a US county-by-county map of NFL fandom in the United States . Another great example of personal sports geography, this time using social media data.

Another fun visualization about the geography of sports fans, specifically where can you get a radio signal for games for the Red Sox or Yankees games.  

And yet athers

Some Australian students examples

In fact, way back in 2002 I had my geography students at Findon High develop personal geography sports maps using GIS in an attempt to engage them in studying geography. The students undertook two projects on sport. One was creating football team allegiance maps based on conducting geo-references surveys of students in the school and the other was on AFL recruiting, collecting recruitment data from the AFL team websites. These projects enable the students to personalise the geography for themselves and to see that geography can relate to all aspects of their life, even sport.

The Olympics and other sporting events
Traditionally the Olympics has been a perfect time to do some sports geography. Over the years, materials have been produced by AGTA and the Geography Association (GA) in the UK to bring home the personal geography message to students. The GA Planet Sport Website is full of great activities related to the Olympics and World Football events.
Personal geographies does have a place in the Australian Curriculum: Geography and we must make sure the opportunity is there for teachers to develop engaging units to connect with a young persons life, whether it is connecting with football, clothes, festivals, music, sport, their local area or whatever else makes up their world and everyday life.

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