Summit meeting: highlighst from the 2001 Leisure Research Symposium in Denver

Summit meeting: highlighst from the 2001 Leisure Research Symposium in Denver – Research Update

Mark Havitz

Editor’s note: This special issue of Research Update highlights six of the 33 research sessions at last year’s NRPA Congress. See the reference listing at the end of this article for information about the full book of abstracts from the Research Symposium. You’re invited to attend SPRE Research events at this year’s Congress in Tampa. The 2002 Research Roundtable, “Assessing and Evaluating Recreation Programs and Services,” will take place Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 8:00-11:15 a.m. The opening session of this year’s Leisure Research Symposium will begin later that day at l:00 p.m. For more information go to

The social meaning of leisure and the significance of place have been of longstanding interest to leisure researchers. In its various forms, leisure connects people to places, and helps to imbue places with functional and symbolic meaning that define and shape leisure, thus suggesting important and dynamic relationships between leisure and place. Recently, an increasing number of scholars and practitioners have become intrigued by the political and contested nature of these relationships. Questions have included:

* How does leisure structure places so that places take on one set of meanings and not another?

* How does leisure transform places, leading to empowering certain individuals, groups and communities but not others?

* Who decides how particular place meanings are valued?

* What kinds of policy questions emerge from an understanding of these connections?

Symposium keynote, William Riebsame Travis, of the University of Colorado’s Department of Geography, tackled these and other issues. This session drew attention to the social and political implications of the leisure-place nexus, and stimulated dialogue about the role of leisure in the politics of place as a topic for research. Three leisure studies academics, Patricia Stokowski, Leo McAvoy and Daniel Williams, served as respondents to Travis.

Managing Change

One of the more provocative sessions in the general program, “Leisure Meaning: Place, Community and Conflict” built on themes developed in the keynote session. Diane Samdahl traced the historic rise and demise of American Beach, an African-American resort located along the northern Florida coast, “an important piece of history not often addressed in our literature–the development of segregated recreation sites during the days of Jim Crow.” Although the resort of choice for many African-Americans in the mid 20th century, American Beach is today relatively impoverished and surrounded by large upscale resorts on the Sea Islands. Economic pressure to develop this property is intense. The recreation and leisure literature is relatively devoid of history related to Jim Crowera leisure programs. Samdahl called for more sensitivity and attention to these issues from commercial recreation professionals, public sector planners, and faculty and students in academic recreation and leisure studies programs. Acknowledging the considerable support in the literature for the value of high investment leisure activities as sources of self-enhancement, Susan Hutchison and Doug Kleiber nevertheless made a case for the meaning of causal leisure, such as that which occurs when reading a newspaper or playing with a pet. Juxtaposing casual leisure with currently more-popular concepts, Hutchison and Kleiber argued that “ordinary moments of enjoyment are important for their ability to connect people with their past, and to symbolize ways of being in the world that affirm personal values and possibilities for the future.” In marked contrast to Hutchison and Kleiber’s presentation, Heather Gibson and colleagues from the University of Florida explored the “serious leisure” attributes of college football fans. They argued that, far from being easily dismissed as a casual pursuit, fandom is characterized by perseverance, career, personal effort, unique ethos and group membership; these are characteristics of more widely recognized serious leisure pursuits such as model railroading and contact bridge.

Questions emerging from this session included:

* To what extent should recreation professionals and leisure researchers be proactive with respect to historic preservation of leisure-based facilities and places, especially if that preservation potentially limits or infringes on current leisure amenity development?

* How should we react when the rights and sensibilities of disadvantaged communities come in conflict with mainstream development and relative economic privilege?

* Is it possible that recreation professionals and leisure researchers are predisposed in favor of providing, facilitating and studying serious and enduring leisure contexts to the relative exclusion of informal day-to-day occurrence?

Recreation Delivery

At least a half-dozen papers focused on professional issues related to recreation and leisure services delivery. Jo An Zimmerman and Larry Allen argued that objective agency descriptors, such as type of administrative authority, administrative pattern, funding sources, and number and type of areas and facilities, are of limited value to many professionals seeking advice and counsel. Instead, they argued, cultural perspectives are much more promising. They discussed several organizational culture models that may be useful to inform professional practice. In contrast, Cheryl Estes examined outcomes related to leisure, recreation, play and freedom. Estes argued that “leisure, in post-modern culture, is not time-, place- or activity-dependent, but rather, experience engaged in the context of freedom that generates meaning for the individual and/or community. This model has the potential to clarify the role of the leisure services professional and guide them in their daily practice in ways that facilitate the creation of a better society.”

Questions emerging from this session included:

* Is there professional value in periodically revisiting basic terms like leisure, recreation, play and freedom? How might such reflection improve professional practice?

* Is it possible to recreate without experiencing either leisure or freedom?

* Can developing a broader understanding of agency culture and professional values facilitate agency problem solving to a greater extent than can objective knowledge related to agency scope, administrative type and funding sources?

Professional Preparation

Using data from the 2000 SPRE Educational Resources Survey, Deb Bialeschki and Jessica Irven examined professional preparation issues. They concluded that North American recreation and leisure service academic departments have been reasonably stable with respect to students’ gender and area of concentration (administration, therapeutic recreation, outdoor recreation, etc.), but that we “continue to be challenged with the low representation of people of color.” Bialeschki and Irven also speculated that “the inability to replace faculty from decreasing numbers of doctoral students may put additional strain on already-stressed curricula concerned with increasing financial and faculty challenges.” Charlsena Stone echoed some of Bialeschki’s and Irven’s concerns about lack of ethnic diversity within the profession and provided data suggesting that many therapeutic recreation specialists are in the “unconsciously incompetent” level with respect to recognizing and addressing cultural concerns among the participants they serve.

Questions emerging from this session included:

* How can the profession help meet the challenge of a shortage of doctoral candidates?

* How can we increase the representation of people of color in leisure service academic departments?

* By what means can the therapeutic recreation field enhance its ability to recognize and address ethnic diversity?

Participant Satisfaction

Building on more than a decade of leisure-based service performance research, Jim Petrick presented evidence supporting the validity and reliability of the SERV-PERVAL scale, an instrument that allows managers to measure participants’ perceived value of services. He argued that “by understanding how perceived value is formed, and how it is related to satisfaction and repurchase intentions, managers will be better equipped to best allocate organizational and marketing resources.”

In the same session, Stacy Tomas and several colleagues attempted to sort out the complex relationships between an agency’s service performance and participant satisfaction. They found that, although the two constructs were correlated, an agency’s service performance is a necessary but not complete predictor of overall visitor satisfaction, because the latter is also a function of various personal characteristics and social circumstances. Po-Ju Chen and her colleagues also tested an expectancy disconfirmation model. Although finding expected support for the positive relationship between individuals’ satisfaction and future participation intentions, Chen and colleagues found that participants’ past experiences moderated the relationship between expectations and satisfaction, and questioned whether the model was complete, especially in tourism-related leisure contexts.

Questions emerging from this session included:

* Have quantitative service performance measures evolved to a point where they are readily accessible to, and useful for, recreation professionals?

* If service performance and participant satisfaction are conceptually linked, but not identical constructs, should recreation professionals attempt to measure and manage for both?

Leisure and Health

In one of several sessions focusing on leisure and health, Paul Heintzman and Roger Mannell made a case for paying more attention to the processes that link leisure with spirituality. Their empirical exploration suggested that, although participants often saw leisure as providing time and space for spiritual well-being, leisure contexts that were overly busy and noisy were detrimental to spiritual well-being. They argued that their leisure spiritual processes scale was valid and reliable, and may facilitate more direct testing of leisure and spirituality relationships.

With respect to serious medical issues, Bryan McCormick and Janet Funderburk collected qualitative and quantitative data that, taken together, suggested that the everyday lives of people with severe and persistent mental illness provide little challenge, and that leisure activity designed to heighten challenge could improve overall mood states and increase the likelihood that recreation participants with severe and persistent mental illness experience flow. Marieke Holt and her colleagues interviewed several heart transplant patients and found that lack of perceived freedom, decreased mood states and increased levels of stress and boredom were important issues faced by this population. This was the first study to raise issues related to perceived freedom and boredom among this category of heart transplant patients.

Questions emerging from this session included:

* How might recreation professionals effectively serve participants who are limited physically and also simultaneously stressed and bored?

* Should recreation professionals be legitimately concerned with spirituality and leisure? If so, what political and social issues must be addressed by leisure professionals seeking to improve linkages between spirituality and leisure participation?


Bialeschki, M. D., & Irven, J. (2001). The status of professional preparation curricula in parks, recreation, and leisure studies in the United States and Canada in 2000 (p. 104).

Chen, P. J., Kerstetter, D., & Fu, Y.Y. (2001). An assessment of visitors’ satisfaction and behavioral intent using an extended expectancy disconfirmation model (p. 70).

Estes, C. (2001). A synthesis of leisure-related concepts: A model for informing the leisure services profession (p. 92).

Gibson, H., Holdnak, A., Willming, C., King, M., Patterson, T., & Copp, C. (2001). “we’re Gators … Not just a Gator fan:” Serious leisure, social identity, and University of Florida football (p. 100).

Heintzman, P., & Mannell, R. C. (2001). Leisure-spiritual health processes: A social scientific study (p. 85).

Holt, M., Ashton-Schaeffer, C., & Sears, S. F. (2001). Leisure related needs of Status One B heart transplant patients (p. 86).

Hutchison, S. L., & Kleiber, D. A. (2001). Creating meaning from casual leisure (p. 101).

McCormick, B., & Funderburk, J. (2001). Boredom and anxiety in the daily life of community mental health clients (p. 87).

Petrick, J. (2001). An analysis of cruise passengers’ perceived value utilizing the SERV-PERVAL scale (p. 72).

Samdahl, D. M. (2001). Race, class, and conflict at American Beach (p. 102).

Stone, C. (2001). Exploring cultural competencies of certified therapeutic recreation specialists: Implications for education and training (p. 105).

Tomas, S., Scott, D., & Crompton, J. L. (2001). An investigation of the relationships between quality of service performance, benefits sought, satisfaction, and future intention to visit among visitors to a zoo (p. 71).

Zimmermann, J. A., & Allen, L. (2001). Understanding the nature of park and recreation agencies: A cultural perspective (p. 93).

Note: All references may be found in M. E. Havitz & M. F. Floyd (Eds.) Abstracts from the 2001 Symposium on Leisure Research. Ashburn, VA: National Recreation and Park Association.

Mark Havitz and Myron Floyd co-chaired the 2001 Leisure Research Symposium. Havitz is a professor of recreation and leisure studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. He is a fellow in the Academy of Leisure Sciences. Floyd is associate professor of recreation, parks and tourism at the University of Florida.

Research Update is edited by Cheryl A. Estes, Ph.D., assistant professor in recreation and leisure studies at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

COPYRIGHT 2002 National Recreation and Park Association

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