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Temporalities and sports

Temporalités et sports

"Temporalités" Journal no. 25 (2017/1)

Revue « Temporalités » n°25 (2017/1)

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Published on Tuesday, August 02, 2016


Be it from a regulatory perspective or through a specific schedule of events, sports are related to different kinds of temporalities. From there, one can classify competitive sport along three different types of relationship to time. But may there be temporalities specific to sport or to different practices of sports, and if yes, how can these be characterized? Beyond the « temporalities of sports », all the links between « temporalities and sports » are indeed to be questioned, including historical time (Elias), biographical time (the learning, the mastering of differents sports, careers in sports), institutional time (implying homogenisation through world-scale timetables), media time (and its economic calculations), etc.




Be it from a regulatory perspective or through a specific schedule of events, sports are related to different kinds of temporalities. From there, one can classify competitive sport along three different types of relationship to time: sports for which time is systematically measured but does not determine how the contest is completed (running, cycling – with the exception of time trials – swimming etc.), sports in which a set time determines the completion of the event (football, rugby, basketball etc.) and sports for which time is not a factor (volleyball, golf, shot put, etc.) (Martínková & Parry 2011: 27-28). In this last category, the event in itself serves as time unit, while still taking part, in the same way as the other types of sports, in a larger frame of a timetable of events (sports seasons, championships, olympic games, etc.) (Kretchmar 2005: 47, note 6).

More generally, « modern » sports, as they are labelled, as having been structured since the end of the XVIIIth century (Darbon 2014) seem to have adapted to a linear and quantifiable time (Martínková & Parry 2011: 23). Although, this interpretation deserves some questioning against empirical evidence. The different kinds of relationships between sports and « temporality regimes » (Dubar 2004) are thus to be tackled. Can particular affinities between certain sports and certain temporality regimes be spotted, which may condition a special relationship of spectators with some particular sport, or which may facilitate the practical apparatus in which one sport is practised within a given context? How do athletes manage the various temporalities they might face while practising their sport? Can sport-specific temporality regimes be spotted?

May certain prevailing concepts of time (linear, circular, etc.) influence the affinity that exists between an individual or a group of people and a specific sport with its own temporal device, or serve as a discursive argument to justify the preponderance of some sport within a society (Soldani 2011)? For instance, one may compare sports that are limited in time with sports that are not, in order to point out the implied structural differences as well as the incurred relationship to temporality. Some basketball or football fans dismiss base-ball as « too slow », « lacking in action » or even « boring » (Kretchmar 2005: 45). Although cricket, its distant cousin, is equally unlimited in time, it might disturb base-ball fans, with several days long test matches ending one out of three times in a tie between the two teams, while a base-ball match can only end by designation of a winner (Darbon 2007). Moreover, sports events lacking a fixed time limit cause practical problems linked to live broadcasting, public transportation for supporters after events, etc. How are these issues dealt with, according to context?

The question of the perception and management of time also has to be addressed by practitioners, to a variable extent. First and foremost is the management of time during competition, whether football players have to preserve an advantage over the other team by waiting out the clock, or an athlete aims at beating a record on a racing track. This aspect echoes the growing importance of the quantification of time in sports and the underlying technological development (chronometers, photo finish, etc.) (Vigarello 1988, Woodward 2013). In a far less visible and measurable way, many athletes describe moments of unmoving time (an illusional phenomenon known as « chronostasis », see Hagura et alii. 2012), of perfect attention, during which their actions follow one after the other without a hitch. This state, described by Mihály Csíkszentmihály (1990), the Hungarian pyschologist, as the « flow », is sought after by athletes as a necessary condition to perform (Demontrond & Gaudreau 2008). The ability to accomplish the right move at the right time and to synchronise movements is only acquired through years of practice and demands restless repetition in order to become an automatism and to avoid the loss of reflexes. The longest time in sport, therefore, is not that of competition, but of training.

High performance athletes are taught sport-specific temporalitites - including the management of physical capital over a season as well as over the scale of a career - within specialized training structures, without much space left for idleness (Viaud & Papin 2012). What kind of devices do these structures use to make the most of time? How do sportsmen cope with a tight and often crammed schedule, with little time left for rest or family life? Are additional activities practised outside exercise time (Darbon, 1995)? How do sportsmen adapt their own perception of time to the temporalities of sport and of their own practice (Hentati 2013)? More generally, while policies tend to encourage sports for sanitary reasons, how do individuals who dot not have sports as a profession, make time for exercise (Pfister 2011)?

Biographical trajectories equally make for a relevant introduction to temporalities inherent to sports. Whether they are straightforward or winding, regular or erratic, these trajectories tell a great deal about possible developments in athletic careers, and more widely still, about the life of athletes and their living conditions. The emergence, and today the prevalence of professionalism in most sports on the international scene, has created the perspective of social and economical promotion for athletes and has lead to an important migratory flow (Bale & Maguire 1994, Lanfranchi & Taylor 2001, Maguire & Falcous 2011). How are these mobilities crucial to an sportsman’s career? How does the succession of periods of success and periods of failure affect the trajectories of athletes? How does remembrance stand in biographical or autobiographical accounts of sportsmen’s lives? Are their stories told along specific narrative modes? What distinguishes the biographical trajectories of sportswomen from those of their masculine counterparts (Saouter 1995, 2016)?

May there be temporalities specific to sport or to different practices of sports, and if yes, how can these be characterized? From the point of view of a spectator or of an occasional practitioner, time devoted to sports appears as a break from everyday life, opposed to work, but also as a time of intense activity (Vigarello 1995: 2015). To a professional, sport time is normal, part of the ordinary. How does this distinction between two points of view, from the outside and from the inside, affect the relationship to the temporalities of practices, to the cyclical nature of the succession of sports events (matches, seasons, tournaments, etc.), to the way they are accounted for and remembered? Each sport appears to have built its own schedule, planning events throughout the year or over several years, in a cyclical manner (continental or world football cups, for instance), according to its own logic (Chartier & Vigarello 1982: 38). This secular timetable, with no relation to religious calendars or community temporalities, signals a break with « traditional » athletic games, as opposed to « modern » sports (Guttmann 2006). From this point of view, does delineating the field of sports temporalities not help delineate the field of sports in itself, in other words help characterize it? Does breaking with the temporal demands of one sport not equal transforming it drastically and making a physical activity with a completely different stake out of it? Beyond the « temporalities of sports », all the links between « temporalities and sports » are indeed to be questioned, including historical time (Elias), biographical time (the learning, the mastering of differents sports, careers in sports), institutional time (implying homogenisation through world-scale timetables), media time (and its economic calculations), etc.

The articles expected within this call should deal with one or several of the proposed axes and levels (in a non-exhaustive way), while taking care to analyse the way in which the various temporalities of sport are arranged together, disposed together or confront themselves. Particular attention should be payed to how game rules and temporality regimes relate to each other. Works may fall under various fields of social sciences and humanities, be it anthropology, sociology, history, philosophy or psychology, as well as economics, political science, and of course, physical activities and sports sciences and technologies. Pluridisciplinary perspective is also welcome. Contributions can either come in the form of studies or empirical research made in France and/or abroad. The temporalities of research about sports may also be questioned.


Papers will be selected on the basis of proposals (maximum length 5000 characters), which need to reach the volume’s editors, François-Xavier Devetter (francois-xavier.devetter@telecom-lille.fr) and Jérôme Soldani (jeromesoldani@hotmail.fr), as well as the journal’s secretary (temporalites@revues.org) by September 15 2016.


Temporalités is a peer-reviewed journal (editorial board) for which the scientific choices are made every year by an scientific orientation board (scientific board). cf. http://temporalites.revues.org/683

Boards : http://temporalites.revues.org/533

Schedule and deadlines

  • Deadline for the reception of proposals (5000 characters maximum): September 15 2016

  • Responses: October 15 2016
  • Deadline for reception of papers (50, 000 characters maximum): December 15 2016
  • Deadline for referee reports: February 1 2017
  • Deadline for revised papers: April 1 2017
  • Publication: June 15 2017 


  • François-Xavier Devetter (Clersé, UMR 8019 Lille 1- CNRS)
  • Jérôme Soldani (Academia Sinica, Taïwan)


  • Bale John, Maguire Joseph A. (dir.), 1994. The Global Sports Arena. Athletic Talent Migration in an Interdependent World. Londres, Frank Cass.
  • Chartier Roger, Vigarello Georges, 1982. « Les trajectoires du sport. Pratiques et spectacle », Le Débat, « L’âge du sport », 19 : 35-58.
  • Csíkszentmihályi Mihály, 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, Harper and Row.
  • Darbon Sébastien, 2014. Les Fondements du système sportif. Essai dʼanthropologie historique. Paris, LʼHarmattan.
  • Darbon Sébastien, 2007. « Sports “modernes”, sports “archaïques” ? À propos de quelques oppositions entre baseball et cricket », Loisir et Société, 29-2: 449-477.
  • Darbon Sébastien, 1995. Rugby, mode de vie. Ethnographie dʼun club Saint-Vincent-de-Tyrosse. Paris, Jean-Michel Place.
  • Demontrond Pascale, Gaudreau Patrick, 2008. « Le concept de “flow” ou “état psychologique optimal” : état de la question appliquée au sport », Staps, 79: 9-21.
  • Dubar Claude, 2004. « Régimes de temporalités et mutations des temps sociaux », Temporalités, 1: 118-129.
  • Guttmann Allen, 2006 [1978]. Du rituel au record. La nature des sports modernes. Traduction française par Thierry Terret, Paris, L’Harmattan.
  • Hagura Nobuhiro, Kanai Ryota, Orgs Guido, Haggard Patrick, 2012. “Ready steady slow: action preparation slows the subjective passage of time”, Proceedings of Royal Society, online: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/09/04/rspb.2012.1339
  • Hentati Abdelaziz, 2013. “Perceptions of Time and Adaptive Strategies in Sport Competitions”, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, 2-7: 29-38.
  • Kretchmar Scott R., 2005. “Game Flaws”, Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 32 : 36-48.
  • Lanfranchi Pierre, Taylor Matthew, 2001. Moving with the ball. The Migration of Professional Footballers. Oxford, Berg.
  • Maguire Joseph A., Falcous Mark (dir.), 2010. Sport and Migration. Borders, Boundaries and Crossings. Londres et New York, Routledge.
  • Martínková Irena, Parry Jim, 2011. “Two Ways of Conceiving Time in Sports”, Acta Universitatis Palackianae Olomucensis. Gymnica, 41-1: 23-31.
  • Pfister Gertrud, 2011. “Is Time a Problem? The work-life-leisure balance and its impact on physical activities: A case study in Denmark”, Staps, 94: 7-23.
  • Saouter Anne, 2016. Des femmes et du sport. Paris, Payot.
  • Saouter Anne, 2000. « Être rugby ». Jeux du masculin et du féminin. Paris, Éditions de la Maison des sciences de lʼhomme.
  • Soldani Jérôme, 2011. « Pourquoi les Taïwanais jouent-ils au baseball? Étude diachronique d’une diffusion réussie », Ethnologie française, « La diffusion des sports », 41-4: 677-689.
  • Viaud Baptiste, Papin Bruno, 2012. « Temps sportif, santé du champion et logique de lʼurgence », Staps, 96-97: 9-27.
  • Vigarello Georges, 1995. « Le temps du sport », in Corbin Alain (dir.), L’avènement des loisirs (1850-1960). Paris, Aubier: 193-221.
  • Vigarello Georges, 1988. Une histoire culturelle du sport. Techniques d’hier... et d’aujourd’hui. Paris, Robert Laffont.
  • Woodward Kath, 2013. Sporting Times. Basingstoke, Palgrave.


  • Thursday, September 15, 2016


  • sports, temps, temporalité, jeux, calendrier, compétition


  • François Théron
    courriel : francois [dot] theron [at] uvsq [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • François Théron
    courriel : francois [dot] theron [at] uvsq [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Temporalities and sports », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, August 02, 2016, https://doi.org/10.58079/vit

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