Being a sports fan… it’s a family thing!

Here at Quincy University, sports are ingrained into every student on campus and is a vessel for many students to obtain their education. With students continuing to pursue and excel in their sport, their passion for the game would be considered a high level, but where did this love and commitment come from?

Through my last senior project I pursued the varying factors that affect individuals’ behaviors to the sports they choose to prefer and the teams they support from their experiences. While factors of favorite players, story lines, geographical location, and sports marketing all have has impact on the teams we support, I figured that our parent-child relationships had the greatest effect on our personality and behavior surrounding our favorite teams. 

From initial findings it became clear from my participants that sports viewing had a large influence in their personal lives, as all 38 participants answered they actively follow sports through TV or social media, while 49% stated they correlate their favorite team directly with their personal identity. 

These findings can be attributed to further results that 73% of participants stated their parents cheered for the same teams. While these were supportive for my hypothesis, there was still further discussion needed for the factors addressed by the survey. Through this process I developed a focus group to ask more personal questions from the users to gather conclusions. 

Throughout the discussion there was strong correlation between the positive childhood experiences the participants received with early childhood sports viewing with their family members. 

“I started liking UW (University of Washington) because my uncle went there for school, we would always visit with him during alumni weekend and was a highlight of my year to go with him. After that it became a no-brainer that I would cheer for them,” one study participant said. Participants were given anonymity during the study.

Further discussion found an outlier from the 64% of participants that stated they cheered for the team closest to them geographically. This participant supports teams in Detroit, where he has not lived since birth, rather than teams he can cheer for in Texas.

“My dad was a Lions fan, and I remember going to games with him when I was little, so there’s always a little nostalgia for my dad and I to cheer for the lions,” another participant said. 

An argument to my hypothesis could be the growing industry of sports media marketing and the reach that individuals are able to obtain thanks to the internet, but one older participant chimed in on this aspect.

“When I was growing up, sports marketing kind of just began with the culmination of team mantras like the 85’ Bears or the “bad boy” Pistons, and these story lines became ingrained in us and increased our love for these teams. Now that we are the older generation, I think we tend to share these same stories to our children for nostalgia and brings us closer to the appreciation of sport. While sports media has given us the opportunity to cheer for other teams outside of our market, we still cherish having similar interests as our parents,” a third participant said.

Lastly, debate arose from the Likert scale where participants were answered to ask 1-5 on how likely they would switch their favorite team based on the situation. Situations included ethical scandal, loved ones cheering for another team, or if you moved across the country. Results from these showed only 8% of participants said they would be willing to change from any of the above situations proving that many individuals’ first introduction to the sport is what resonates the most in their growth for personal identity.

These findings can be misrepresented by a focus group full of student athletes, who have carried values of loyalty and dedication throughout their playing career and can hold these values important in the teams they support. Nonetheless, the data received kept circling back to participants’ initial childhood introduction to sports as the strongest indicator of the teams they choose to support. 

While we all like to think during this time in college that we generate our own personality and behavior, for some of us, it will always come down to our moments as children that we will never forget. 

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