Sports play an important role in many cultures across the globe. The sports that are valued by specific cultures depend on many variables. Society and culture are powerful influences on how valuable sports are perceived to be, what sports are the most important within a community and what teams the general population cheers for. Society also influences the changes in popularity across different sports and players.
Many societies value competition as part of their culture. Competition is used to encourage people to constantly improve their skills so they are able to achieve what they want out of life. Sports play into this because most are highly competitive and are only available to a select few. During childhood, the good players are often identified quickly and are able to make the team consistently. Competition drives these players to continue improving their skills, particularly if they wish to join the elite few that make up professional sports teams. Competition also comes into play for fans who root for and against certain teams playing for coveted championship titles. Certain societies encourage rivalries between fans and teams as part of their cultural norms.
Sports players are often revered, in certain societies, as having hero status. The sheer amount of money paid to many professional sports players supports the notion of importance these individuals play in society. The "International Review for the Sociology of Sport" notes that sports players can have enormous influence on the values of individual cultures. Sports players also become a product of certain cultures based on what they value as talent. In cultures that value sports and competition, sports players are often hailed as being some of the best of what each society has to offer.
The influence of individuals within a society plays a role in the importance of sports. When young children are exposed to sports by their parents, either by playing or through fan behavior, they are more likely to enjoy sports as well. The journal "Perspectives in Public Health" reports that peers also have a powerful influence on the acceptance and value of sports during childhood. When a society values physical activity, more sports opportunities are available, which might also influence how likely individuals are to value sports. In communities with professional sports teams, sports might become even more valuable and influential.
Societal customs play another key role in the acceptance and value of sports. When sports become part of everyday culture, they become more important within a certain society. Baseball is considered "America's pastime," and has become an identifying factor within American culture. Similarly, football, called soccer in the United States, plays an important role in the customs of England, Spain and Mexico. Many cultures center social activity on participation in sports, so weekends might be spent playing or watching sports with friends or family.