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The Corporal Dimension of Sports-based Interventions: Understanding the Role of Embedded Expectations and Embodied Knowledge in Sport Policy Implementation

The aim of this paper is to show how the corporal character of activities commonly provided in sports-based policy interventions has implications for the results of policy implementation. By employing the theoretical concepts of embedded expectations and embodied knowledge, this paper examines how expectations embedded in such activities interact with experiences embodied by the participants and combine in availing or restricting the possibilities for participation – thereby affecting the outcome of policies for increased participation in organised sport. The paper builds on data from a case study of a sports-based intervention that aimed to usher so-called un-associated youth in to participation in regular sport-club activities by offering ‘organised spontaneous sports’ in ‘drop-in’ sessions that focus on the intrinsic characteristics of non-competitive sports and participants’ wishes. Findings from interviews, the intervention’s internal documentation, and observations show how expectations embedded in these activities require a very specific embodied knowledge of the individual participant. Instead of challenging dominant notions of what sport ‘is’ and ‘can be’, the activities reproduce existing preconceptions and, in extension, existing patterns of sport participation instead of supporting the formation of new ones as aimed for by policy makers. The findings are discussed in relation to the wider discussion about policy implementation in sport and highlight the necessity for understanding the content of the activities offered in sports-based interventions relative to the previous experiences of the pronounced recipients.