The ‘Varsity Player’: The Interplay of Culture, Control and Resistance around the Consumption of Alcohol at a New Zealand University Sports Club
The consumption of alcohol has a strong association with sport. Its’ appeal is based on a belief that consuming alcohol can prove the commitment of an individual to their team, bring about team cohesion, and provide a rite of passage through which an individual can be accepted. However, sports’ relationship with alcohol is problematic, with research identifying a number of detrimental physiological, psychological, and sociological effects this relationship can have on both individuals and society. This thesis explores these dynamics through a case study analysis of a university sports club. It draws on Barker’s (1993) concept of normative control to examine the connections between the use of alcohol and the development and control of the club’s culture. Using data collected from semi structured interviews with club members, findings are presented that illustrate how alcohol consumption is used as a cultural practice to educate, reinforce, and discipline club members to conform to a desired identity, known as the ‘varsity player’. The application of normative control is a novel contribution to the sport and alcohol literature. The thesis also seeks to contribute to the literature on normative control by examining the way in which club members resisted aspects of the club’s cultural practices around alcohol and facilitated change.