Sport & Society International Award for Excellence

The International Journal of Sport and Society offers an annual award for newly published research or thinking that has been recognized to be outstanding by members of the Sport & Society Research Network.

Award Winners for Volume 11

Dropping Your Guard: The Use of Boxing as a Means of Forming Desistance Narratives amongst Young People in the Criminal Justice System

This article discusses the relationship between the sport of boxing and desistance from crime. Working with young men in the English youth justice system, we co-developed a boxing workshop to explore the ways in which boxing creates avenues for the accomplishment of masculinity, and how these masculine scripts map onto desistance narratives and vice versa. We suggest that the sport of boxing is beneficial as an engagement tool, and demonstrates the power of sport in working with young men at risk of, or currently entrenched in criminal justice systems. We propose that the development of desistance narratives allowed the young men in this study to situate their masculine accomplishments in a hyper-masculine sport, and construct a narrative identity that reflected an openness to change. We propose that while boxing can be a beneficial vehicle for change, youth justice systems and funders of boxing programs need to think more strategically about the use of the sport.


Deborah is the Head of Youth Justice for the Manchester Centre for Youth Studies and has over 15 years’ experience of working in youth justice as both a practitioner and service manager. She has implemented sporting programmes such as Positive Futures, and was the recipient of a Winston Churchill Memorial Fund scholarship evaluating the impact of sporting programmes on communities in the USA. Her current research focuses on youth justice and sport criminology, and Deborah has a particular interest in the impact of boxing on serious youth violence and sexual exploitation. She has published extensively in the field of sports criminology and is the grant holder and Principal Investigator for the Comic Relief funded project - Getting out for Good: Preventing Gangs Through Participation. She is also the Co-investigator alongside Professor Hannah Smithson on Kicking Crime into Touch; a Sport Relief project funded in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University Sport and England Rugby.

Professor Hannah Smithson has worked within the field of criminology for over 20 years and specialises in the area of youth justice. Hannah is the co-convenor of the award winning Greater Manchester Youth Justice Partnership - a partnership between Man Met and each of the 10 Greater Manchester youth justice services. The partnership has led to the creation of a transformative new framework: Participatory Youth Practice (PYP). PYP is the first framework to be co-created with justice-involved children based on their lived experiences. PYP has had an impact on youth justice practice, on national and international youth justice strategies, and, most importantly, on justice-involved children themselves. Hannah works collaboratively with a variety of local, national and international communities and stakeholders, including professionals, activists and third sector organisations. Her research has been instrumental in shaping agendas in research and policy across the interconnected areas of: youth justice, serious youth violence and child criminal exploitation. She has written extensively on the problematic reductionism of SYV to involvement in gangs. Her most recent publications explore the benefits and challenges of participatory practice with justice-involved children. She is currently leading a UKRI funded project, in partnership with the Alliance for Youth Justice, exploring the impacts and implications of Covid-19 on the youth justice system and justice-involved children.

Past Award Winners

Volume 10

Repudiate or Replicate: The Delegitimization of Soccer in Australia: 1880–1914

Andy Harper, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp. 11-28


Volume 9

Female Athletes, Olympic, and Non-Olympic Online Sports Coverage in Australia: Raising the Bar or Performing below Par?

Chelsea Litchfield, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp. 35–51


Volume 8

Boys Will Be Boys: Assessing Attitudes of Athletic Officials on Sexism and Violence against Women

Dessie Clark, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp. 1–11


Volume 7

The Rink and the Stage: Melodrama, Media, and Canadian Hockey

Taylor McKee, The International Journal of Sport and Society: Annual Review, Volume 7, pp. 1–11


Volume 6

Australian Football, Masculinity, and the Acceptance of Pain and Injury as a Career “Norm”

Deborah Agnew and Murray J. N. Drummond, The International Journal of Sport and Society: Annual Review, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.9–23


Volume 5

Athletes with Disabilities: Where Does Empowerment End and Disempowerment Begin?

Deborah L. Rivel, The International Journal of Sport and Society: Annual Review, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.1–10


Volume 4

Discourses of Social Exclusion in British Tennis: Historical Changes and Continuities

Robert Lake, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 4, Issue 2, 1–11


Volume 3

Black, White and Read All Over: Institutional Racism and the Sports Media

John Price, Neil Farrington, Daniel Kilvington, and Amir Saeed, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 3, Issue 2, 81–90


Volume 2

Older Athletes’ Perceived Benefits of Competition

Rylee A. Dionigi, Joseph Baker, and Sean Horton, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, 17–28


Volume 1

And the Crowd Goes Wild: Fan Participation as Epideictic Rhetoric

Jeremy Schnieder, The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, 253–62