About My Experience At The Ohio State University

Table of Content

My experience at the Ohio State University is not your typical college experience. As a student athlete I am held to a different standard and have different expectations than a normal student would. Furthermore, I’m not just any student athlete, which can generalize athletes from many different schools, but I am a Buckeye. A status that, again, holds a different meaning and set of expectations than a student athlete from another university might have. Throughout this paper, I will demonstrate how two different paradigms of Sociology, Functionalism and Symbolic Interaction, apply to my experience as a student athlete at the Ohio State University.

Functionalism is the idea that every structure within a society serves an important purpose in order to keep society functioning properly and to maintain stability. According to functionalism, structures within a society like government, education, etc. are indispensable and cannot function properly without them. Furthermore, each of these structures has a positive function within society and helps move society towards higher stability.

College athletics is a structure within society. It serves many positive functions that contribute to the overall stability of society. For example, in order to be eligible to compete, I have to maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher. This teaches me along with all other student athletes to balance multiple aspects of our life so that we are getting a higher education as well. So, this example shows that athletics as a structure serves positive functions like educating people to balance things like work, stress, and living a healthy lifestyle therefore helping to create very high functioning members of society. Another example of how being a student athlete and more specifically a Buckeye serves to further stabilize society as a whole is that I am expected to win. This may seem small but if all Buckeyes are expected to win and achieve many accomplishments this allows for the Ohio State University to be able to be known as a high level, competitive school bringing more students in and creating a community and again help create well integrated members of society which keeps society functioning properly.

Symbolic Interaction within a society is the idea that social behavior is determined by how a person views symbols in their environment. Social Interaction describes how your sense of self develops through social interactions you have with other people and the result of those interactions depends on how you interpret different symbols. Culture is a big determinate of how people interact and interpret symbols. One sign or symbol might mean something completely different in one culture vs another. Not only can the meaning of symbols vary from culture to culture, but they can also change with time. A symbol might have meant something completely different 30 years ago than it does now. Overall, symbolic interaction is happening constantly and determines our views of people, places, and things, and guides every decision we make.

Symbolic interaction is very visible in the world of sports. From fans interacting with mascots to athletes looking to a coach for certain hand gestures, symbols and how people react to them impacts how games are played and how successful you can become as an athlete. A more specific example of this would be how I am coached in my sport of diving. If you had no experience around the sport of diving it would be extremely hard to understand the corrections my coach gives me because of the meaning of the words we use and hand gestures my coach gives. If my coach says “squeeze your ears” that might not make an ounce of sense to someone with no diving experience but to me that tells me I need to shrug my shoulders up more on the end of the dive as I go into the water so that I can make as little splash as possible. Another example of how the same symbol can have different meaning depending on how they are interpreted and the context of which they are given would be if someone does a good dive everyone claps because it was good. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if someone does a terrible dive and smacks on the water everyone claps when you get out of the water because you survived. Overall, the way athletes interpret symbols is very important within sports.

Functionalism and Symbolic Interaction both help to explain how society functions but differ in terms of how they view the makeup of society. Functionalism focuses on the structures of a society and how each structure serves a purpose whereas symbolic interaction focuses on more of the individual everyday experience a person has and explains decisions people make that ultimately affect the society through their experience with symbols they interact with. My experience as a student athlete can be looked at more broadly though the lense of functionalism and looking at athletics at Ohio State as a structure serving the purpose of creating high functioning people who help create a sense of community within Ohio State. My experience can be looked at through the lense of symbolic interaction with my everyday interactions with my coach and the different phrases he uses and hand gestures he makes that I interpret and then use to make a correction to get better at diving and contribute to the overall scores of my team.

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