A case study of the equestrian sport of polo: An integrative approach to issues of structure, function, and interaction

Date of Completion

January 2004


Sociology, Theory and Methods|Sociology, General|Sociology, Social Structure and Development




This dissertation discusses a case study of the equestrian sport of polo conducted using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The goal of the dissertation is to describe and analyze: (1) Both the formal and relational structure of polo as a team sport and an equestrian sport, (2) The place and functions in those structures of the actors who affiliate themselves with polo in various capacities as players, spectators, and nonparticipating supporters, and (3) The interactions between participants, primarily, the negotiation and competition for actual playing resources, and for resources in the form of status as athletes, players, and polo affiliates. ^ The structure of competition in the equestrian sport of polo and the processes by which players negotiate access to resources and opportunity in the sport are examined using a mailed survey which is exploratory in nature. Attention is paid to the criteria concerning the evaluation of a player as legitimate and how this affects an individual's access to playing opportunity and status as an athlete. Also of concern are the theoretical positions, which align sport with ritual and the process by which players of any status make a ritual commitment to the sport. The methodology employed uses qualitative investigation to discover what polo means to participants, and quantitative investigation in the form of a mailed survey to explore and describe the behaviors and attitudes of the group studied. The survey addresses three tasks: the network analysis of the social structure of competition; the measurement of ritual commitment and ritual action; and the effects of gender, age, and class on participant opportunity and skill assessment. ^