The cultural transition of Indigenous Australian athletes into professional sport. Sport, Education and Society.
This article reports on a study that inquired into the journeys of sixteen Indigenous Australian athletes from their first touch of the footy to the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) that identified two distinct stages of their journeys. These were: (1) the development of expertise and of a distinctly Aboriginal style of play from their first touch of a footy to around the age of thirteen and, (2) a process of cultural transitioning toward and into the AFL and NRL. This article takes an interdisciplinary approach to focus on the second stage of transitioning into the world of professional sport and sport as business. Identifying this as a process of cultural transitioning from local Aboriginal culture to the culture of professional sport provided insight into this transitioning process while illuminating the profound importance of culture in this process. It also helped identify the ways in which tensions between local approaches to ‘footy’ as play and cultural expression and professional sport as work, within the global culture of sport-as-business, were manifested in the challenges that the participants had to overcome. This article thus contributes to knowledge about Indigenous development of sporting expertise, of the specific challenges they face in transitioning into the global culture of commodified sport and how they succeed from a cultural perspective.