Joseph O’Rourke’s MSc Thesis Proposal

Title: “Street Soccer in Vancouver: An Exploration of Social Identity, Sport, and Homelessness”

Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Mark Beauchamp
Committee Members: Dr. Andrea Bundon, Dr. Guy Faulkner

Abstract: The social and economic inequalities derived from homelessness have consistently been found to be related to depleted physical and psychological health (Stafford & Wood, 2017). Social connectivity and social identity (i.e., a sense of ‘us’) are increasingly recognized for their capacities to help people address a range of health challenges (e.g., chronic mental health conditions, addiction, social isolation; Beauchamp & Rhodes, 2020; C. Haslam et al., 2018). Purpose: My thesis will explore how the Vancouver Street Soccer League (VSSL) program potentially contributes to participant social connection, social identity, and well-being. The VSSL provides an inclusive soccer program aimed at people experiencing homelessness, marginalization, and addiction. Objectives: In my thesis project I will look to (1) understand the experiences of participants in the VSSL; and (2) understand how participants experience social connectivity and social identity in the VSSL and their potential associations with health and well-being. I will also explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on participants’ involvement with the VSSL. Methods: This qualitative study seeks to explore participants’ experiences (in their own words) by combining two approaches, namely Social Identity Mapping (SIM) and semi-structured interviews. SIM is a useful tool for allowing participants to map out their various social groups and to reflect on how the quality of connection to those groups may contribute to their health and well-being (Bentley et al., 2020). The results of this research have the potential to inform the programming and community outreach of the VSSL and other street soccer interventions, as well as initiate knowledge mobilization designed to foster social identity and well-being through soccer participation.