Belonging to a community-based football team: An ethnographic study Academic Article uri icon


  • PURPOSE: This study considered the benefits derived from participation in a community-based Australian Rules Football league in Melbourne, Australia. The RecLink league deliberately tackles the social and occupational disadvantages associated with mental illness, addictions, unemployment and homelessness. METHODS: An ethnographic methodology was used to study one team from the RecLink football league throughout an entire season. Fieldnotes were written following participant observation at training, games and events, and five in-depth interviews were conducted and transcribed. A constant comparative approach to data analysis was adopted. RESULTS: Three major themes were identified: a spirit of inclusion, team-building and meaning of team involvement. The first describes how members were accepted, welcomed and given the opportunity for team involvement, with the expectation that they 'had a go', and 'tried their best'. The second illustrates how the team collectively fostered a culture of friendship, cooperation and support. The third examines the significance of being part of the team, incorporating personal contributions and gains, and meanings attributed to team involvement. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrated how football can be used as non-clinical, community-based occupational therapy: enabling participation in a personally meaningful and culturally valued occupation. Occupational therapists are challenged to explore further how such community-based sports programs may complement existing clinical and welfare-based approaches to social disadvantage.

publication date

  • August 2009