Sit in on: Sports, Media, and Society

For our series on great Bradley courses, this month we take you to the world of sports communication and the student who found her voice.

You’re taking: Sports, Media, and Society, a survey of the sports landscape from many different angles (sociological, financial, mythical, political, historical, etc.).

Joshua Dickhaus illustration

Your professor is: Joshua Dickhaus, associate professor of sports communication

You’ll gain an intro to: the intersection of sports and race, gender, business, politics, identity and more. Those intersections are complicated and overlapping, but this survey-style class is a way to dip your toe into some tumultuous waters.

And there’s no shortage of current events to help contextualize each topic. Whether it’s NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem or testosterone levels in female track & field athletes, real issues are front and center in this course. “We hit all the significant landmines along the way,” said Dickhaus.

You’ll learn to: speak up in class discussions. “Being one of four females in a classroom full of males, this class helped me to find a new confidence in sharing my opinion,” said Taylor Zabrocki ’20. “I think there’s a stereotype in society of men knowing more about sports than women, and I wanted to prove that wrong.”

Taylor remembered being intimidated at first, until she realized she had a unique perspective to share. “The big three sports in the U.S. are football, basketball, and baseball. I’m not as knowledgeable in those, but I found my voice in being able to share my knowledge about the soccer world, especially European soccer.”

A lifelong player, Zabrocki is a big soccer fan — the sport Europeans call football — and was the resident “football” expert when she took Sports, Media, and Society. “I watch a lot of pro soccer on TV, especially a lot of European teams because that’s where the game is played at its best,” she explained.

You’ll produce a: sportography. Each student chooses a live sporting event to attend, taking detailed notes throughout the experience. Dickhaus wants his students to go deeper than what’s happening in the game, match or meet. The best sportographies he’s read offered up details on visitor interactions, arena promotions, marketing strategies, advertisements and other materials designed to engage fans.

This course may cause you to: rethink your career plans. It’s never Dickhaus’ intention to turn anyone away from a career in the sports world, but talking about real issues occasionally makes students think twice about the glamorous side of the industry. “Some students have this idea that sports are ‘pure,’” Dickhaus said. “I just laugh at that. I hope students get a better understanding of the kinds of issues they’ll face in their career, whether they go into broadcasting, administration, journalism or sports management.”

You’ll learn to look beyond: your favorite sport. There’s no need — and indeed, it would be a detriment early in your career — to focus on one team or even one sport. “If you want to be a sports journalist, for example, you need to know how to cover cricket,” Dickhaus said. “You’re not going to tell your employer, ‘No thanks, I don’t like cricket.’”

When the course ends, you’ll be able to explain: why sports are a worthy topic to study. “Sports are a reflection of society,” Dickhaus said. “It’s this great arena of people doing things together, but at the same time, it shows our hypocrisy.” Dickhaus also said sports can be a foreshadowing of where society is headed. He pointed to Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball in 1947, seven years before Brown v. Board of Education ruled against segregation in schools.

You’ll be treated to: words of encouragement from your professor. “This industry is growing,” Dickhaus said. “There are jobs out there, and our graduates are getting them, but you’ve got to go for it. You’ve got to want it. Nobody’s going to knock on your door because you’re so great. You have to make this happen for yourself.”