2008 C. H. McCloy Lecture Social Psychology and Physical Activity: Back to the Future

By Gill, Diane L. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, December 2009 | Go to article overview
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2008 C. H. McCloy Lecture Social Psychology and Physical Activity: Back to the Future

Gill, Diane L., Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

In the early 1970s, both my academic career and the psychology subdiscipline within kinesiology began as "social psychology and physical activity. "Since then, sport and exercise psychology research has shifted away from the social to a narrower bio-psycho-(no social) approach, and professional practice has focused on the elite rather than the larger public. Psychology can contribute to an integrative and relevant professional discipline by going back to the future as social psychology and physical activity and by incorparating three of C. H. McCloy's themes (a) evidence-based practice, (b) beyond dualisms, and (c) commitment to public service. Our scholarship must move beyond dualisms to recognize complexities and connections and be truly scholarship far practice. Social psychology and physical activity can serve the public by advocating for inclusive, empowering physical activity programs that promote health and well being for all.

Key words: complexity, dualisms, evidence-based practice, public service


It is an honor to present the 2008 C. H. McCloy lecture, and I must begin with Thank you, to the Research Consortium for inviting me to give the 2008 lecture and to the 28 previous McCloy lecturers--I have listened to many of the lectures, read them, and drawn from them-it is an honor to join you. I thank my immediate McCloy predecessor, Maureen Weiss, who helped me shape my ideas about sport and exercise psychology and envision this lecture; the next most recent McCloy lecturer, Cathy Ennis, who offered advice and an invaluable picture of McCloy--I needed that--and special thanks to the 1991 McCloy lecturer, Bob Christina, who not only provided a great model in his paper but also his consistent positive support over many years. If I follow Bob's model and activities since he retired, it can be translated to mean it's time to move on to the "really important stuff." Bob has certainly done that, and although I am not on the verge of retirement, I am trying to move on to the really important stuff--in my career, and in this lecture.

This lecture begins with a customary and certainly well deserved tribute to C.H. McCloy. As an added bonus, the tribute sets the main themes for this lecture. After setting the framework with the integrative themes, I will cover the main topic--social psychology and physical activity from 1972 to 2008--which is essentially a summary of my research and scholarship. I will make that journey in stages. First, I will describe the development of sport and exercise psychology through those years, and then I will focus on my own research. Finally, I will go back to the future and discuss how the key themes of social psychology and physical activity can take our psychology subdiscipline into the future. Through all phases of the journey, I'll be cycling and recycling the following integrative themes: scholarship farpractice, beyond dualisms toward complexities, and real world (social) relevance.

Let me add one note of caution. This lecture is not linear; there is no line of research, and no data will be presented. In his 1991 lecture Bob Christina (1992) noted that he was asked to "provide unified in-depth coverage of a research topic." He did, and so did other McCloy lecturers; I won't. I do not have a line of research; neither my scholarship nor this lecture is linear, and I will not present data (however, data and complete references are available on request). As I recycle through the themes, I will try to be unified and cover the "really important stuff."

Tribute and Guidance From McCloy

McCloy spent most of his academic career at Iowa (1930-59), where I also spent several years (not overlapping). He was truly a pioneering scholar in kinesiology and physical education who blended research, teaching, and service. In researching McCloy, I found the themes that serve as a framework for this paper. First, he clearly called for evidence-based practice at a time when evidence for physical education practice was limited at best.

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2008 C. H. McCloy Lecture Social Psychology and Physical Activity: Back to the Future


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