Research Project Proposal

My research project will be focused on exploring the place competitive sports has in the culture of Chinese Universities, and role these sports play in the lives of students. My plan is to do so by examining the Tsinghua University fencing team.

One of the biggest problems I’ve had with perusing the idea of studying fencing in China is the lack of substantial English language information that doesn’t focus on China’s Olympic performance. As a result I decided on this approach so that if I find out that there are significant obstacles to interacting with the fencing team, I will have an easier time switching my focus. The main driving question behind this research idea then is what place does college athletics have in both Chinese sports culture and the academic environment of universities. I think this is very interesting seeing how China seems to be shifting in its views towards greater approval for college athletics.

The Fencing team’s information is contained on the Tsinghua University’s website, but other than establishing that there is a team and that it uses the Tsinghua’s Sports Center’s facilities to train in, detail is scarce. Information on contacting people is also difficult to find. I’ve talked to Fang Lao Shi though and he has told me he will try to get me information on the team through his friends. Finding out if I can practice with the team, and whether or not I need to bring my own equipment are the two biggest questions to get answered before I leave for China. I’m also working on attempting to contact the team through the school itself in case direct contact isn’t forthcoming. The Sports Center is the fallback route of contact if neither one of these prove fruitful, and is my planned avenue right now for directly getting in touch with the team once arriving in China.

I plan on using several different approaches in order to carry out the research. One is actually practicing and training with the team. I want to do this in order to get a feel for the time commitment, and intensity involved. In order to capture this, notes about length of practices and their frequency and intensity will be needed. So is recording interviews with the coaches in order to get a feel for their perspective and philosophy towards training and insight into how the institution views the role of sports. Recorded interviews with students who are members of the team will also be important. Finding out how they balance sports and academics and what do they regard as important about both will give insight as to the student’s view of athletics in the academic environment. The final focus of research would be attending actual competitions themselves. Interviewing competitors and even coaches from other schools or clubs will help provide additional perspective and context to the information I gather from Tsinghua students. The tournament environment will also provide insight into the competitive culture of college sports in China what kind of focus is placed on it. The nature of this research will depend a lot on the interviews gathered, and so a portable audio recorder and camera (both of which I already own) are the best ways I think to easily capture the most amount of useable data for the project.

A significant amount of the information related to the fencing team I have right now is disappointingly vague, but by focusing the project on the sports culture in Chinese Universities I think that even if what I do know ends up being a loose end, I can shift my focus to another sport, while keeping the same main topic in mind. It might also be interesting to get interviews from other people outside the team anyway to see what various opinions in the student body are towards athletics. The Sports Center would provide a good setting for asking other athletes, and perhaps the library or other social spaces on campus could be used to find out people to interview who aren’t involved in athletics. Over all, I think this topic shows much promise in examining a changing piece of modern Chinese culture.