Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

A Model for Commodity Intensive Serious Leisure

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

A Model for Commodity Intensive Serious Leisure

Article excerpt


Serious leisure, "the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer activity sufficiently substantial and interesting for the participant to find a career there in the acquisition and expression of a combination of its special skills, knowledge, and experience," (Stebbins, 1993, p. 23) has grown significantly. As underemployment and early retirement increase, more people may seek life satisfaction through serious leisure experiences. The current model of serious leisure developed by Stebbins (1968, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1992, 1993) provides valuable insight into the multi-dimensional nature of this special type of leisure. This study compared the commodity intensive sport of tournament bass fishing with the conventional model of serious leisure, investigated the relationships among groups and examined the roles of participants in the activity.

Serious Leisure

Drawing on various biographies and his own ethnographic research of musicians, thespians, archeologists, baseball players, astronomers, magicians, and stand-up comics, Stebbins (1968,1977,1982,1992) has developed theory that contrasts serious leisure to casual or non-serious leisure. Other researchers have undertaken mostly ethnographic studies that support and extend serious leisure theory. Bishop and Hoggett (1987) explored volunteer activities in several sports in Great Britain, Mittelstaedt (1995) examined American Civil War reenactors, Yair (1990) explored long distance runners, Olmstead (1993) studied hobbyists, Hamilton-Smith (1993) explored Australian bushwalkers and Juniu, Tedrick and Boyd (1996) compared amateur and professional symphonic musicians.

The serious leisure model consists of three functionally interdependent groups-amateurs, professionals and publics. Amateurs are created by the emergence of professionals in recreation activities. Stebbins (1992) noted, "the part-time pursuit of an activity is reshaped in the sense that increasingly, it is modeled after its new professional counterpart" (p. 15). Professionals impose a level of excellence previously unknown within the activity. Participants may choose to meet the new professional standards and thereby become amateurs; they may continue with limited involvement and thereby become dabblers; or they may cease involvement completely.

Amateurs approach their activity with great passion and commitment, but they are not recognized as professionals. Lacking an understanding of the activity, outsiders may place amateurs "on the margin of modern leisure" (Stebbins, 1992, p. 56). This marginal position includes several potentially problematic areas. Misunderstandings about the activity occasionally place amateurs in awkward and sometimes oppositional positions to friends and relatives. While amateurs' spouses have the most potential to be negatively impacted by the activity, they may also moderate the conflict through their support of the activity (Goff, Fick, & Oppliger, 1997). Feelings of inferiority may appear as participants strive to meet the highly visible standards of performance established by their professional counterparts. The chances of attainment of the new activity standards are remote as amateurs usually lack necessary time, skills, training and, in some cases, equipment.

Publics, the third group in serious leisure activities, are, "sets of people with a common interest; people not served by, but rather informed, enlightened, or entertained by professionals or amateurs, or both, and who make active demands on them" (Stebbins, 1992, p. 59). Publics contribute to professionals and amateurs by providing financial support, feedback on performances or products and role support.

At the social psychological level, several interrelated qualities of serious leisure are displayed by amateurs (Stebbins, 1992). They demonstrate a willingness to persevere through adversities ranging from extreme weather conditions to rowdy audiences. …

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