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On the markets at midafternoon (ET):In Toronto, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 45.68 points to 15,999.19.The Dow Jones industrial average was down 70.29 points to 23,363.90.The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 12.23 points to 2,572.67.The Nasdaq composite index was up 139.90 points to 6,689.03.The Canadian dollar was trading at 77.92 cents US, up from Friday’s average price of 77.68 cents US.
Emily Thomas completely understands the euphoria that the Toronto Blue Jays are creating with baseball fans.As a hockey fan, she’s come off a winning NHL season with her beloved Chicago Blackhawks crowned 2015 Stanley Cup champions.More than that, she’s a Brock MBA student who has a research interest in the how being a fan contributes to childhood development.The 26-year-old St. Catharines resident was recently awarded a prestigious Ontario Graduate Scholarship to support her study titled, “The development of a fan: Examining the value of sports engagement in diverse contexts.”Thomas, who graduated from Brock with an honours bachelor degree in Psychology, is looking at how children, as young as four years old, start showing signs of affiliation with a team, and what that fan loyalty means as they get older. She’ll be conducting her study with assistance from Psychology Professor Linda Rose-Krasnor.Thomas says there are studies that tell us a lot about the positive affect that participating in sports has on children. There’s also research that focuses on the adult fan experience, particularly from a marketing angle.But there’s not a lot of research, if any she says, about children and youth from the sideline perspective of being a fan and how it may lead to better mental health, a feeling of belonging and community, and the development of better social skills.Looking at the existing research on the participation of youth in sports, Thomas believes there are a number of connections that can be made to studying young fans.“There are several reasons to believe that youth who engage in sports as fans may experience many of the same positive developmental outcomes as youth who engage in sports as athletes,” says Thomas.“When you look at studies about benefits from youth participating in sports, not all of those benefits are directly related to the physical nature of the activity. For example, sports involvement has been demonstrated to decrease risk-taking behaviours which is a benefit associated with sports engagement that is not exclusive to athletes.“Also, studies that analyze the contextual features of sports settings have shown that young athletes may gain developmental benefits due to contact with positive social environments that help build resiliency, as well as general positive mental and emotional health outcomes.”Thomas says research on adult sports fans suggests that being a spectator, regardless of age, presents opportunities to be engaged in positive social interaction that bring about feelings of community and acceptance.Thomas will be collecting additional research data by conducting online surveys with youth who will be identified based on the level of their fan engagement as high, moderate or being a non-fan.She hopes those involved in youth development work will recognize the potential implications the research has in their field.“I hope the research can demonstrate how the activity of being a sports fan can provide youth with ways to adopt socialization techniques as well as contribute to well-being in terms of positive emotions and personal self-esteem,” she says.