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Sport as a Vehicle for Socialization and Maintenance of Cultural Identity: International Students Attending American Universities

Immigrants can utilize sport as a vehicle for maintaining cultural identity. Conversely, sport participation provides immigrants with opportunities for adopting an entirely new culture. Previous research also suggests that sport provides individuals with opportunities for attaining social capital. While this can be a beneficial situation for some individuals, sport is also promoting elitism and serving as a powerful mechanism for exclusion. Globalization has led large numbers of foreign nationals to seek educational opportunities in the United States. Due to the increase in the number of international students and the lack of empirical studies, the need to study their participation in sport is greater than ever. It is critical that sport managers ensure that these students are provided opportunities for socialization and cultural expression through sport. Thus far, there have been no holistic approaches that have examined international students with regards to socialization, cultural identity, and adaptation to multicultural environments through sport. The present study is grounded in sociological theories that are widely recognized. For the purpose of the study, a scale measuring cultural identity and adaptation to multicultural environments was developed based on literature review, exploratory factor analysis, and parallel analysis. The two factors retained; cultural maintenance through sport and adaptation to a multicultural environment through sport, were found to be valid and reliable measures of sport participation behavior among international students in the United States. A MANOVA test revealed that males scored significantly higher on the cultural maintenance through sport factor than females. Practitioners involved in campus recreational sport are encouraged to utilize findings from the current study to enhance their programming efforts for international students. Furthermore, implications for sport managers are discussed with regards to promoting cultural diversity and inclusion.