Sport as an Emerging Area of Social Work Practice: New Playmakers in the Athletic Arena


  • Tarkington Newman University of New Hampshire
  • Katlin Okamoto University of Minnesota
  • Carlyn Kimiecik Purdue University
  • Erica Magier The Ohio State University
  • Lauren Beasley University of Tennessee - Knoxville
  • Lauren Shute Louisiana State University
  • Megan Knuettel University of New Hampshire
  • Cecelia Tarr University of New Hampshire
  • Anita Tucker University of New Hampshire



Sport has been recognized as a setting for social work practice for decades, with social workers practicing in diverse sport systems, from community recreation to professional sport. However, as an emerging area of practice, little is known about these social workers. The current study aims to understand how social workers who work in sport understand their own role in this area of practice. Fifteen social workers – who had on average 12.7 years of experience and were employed in a variety of sport systems and settings – participated in individual semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis revealed that although social workers viewed themselves as distinct from other service professionals, their sense of a professional identity was still evolving. Additionally, findings indicate that other social workers and sports professionals had a general lack of understanding about their role(s). Ultimately, there is a need to expand upon research informing formalized social work education.


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