We acknowledge that we live and work on unceded Indigenous territories and we thank the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for their hospitality.


Playing for Change: The Continuing Struggle for Sport and Recreation

By Russell Field, editor

Review By PearlAnn Reichwein

May 2, 2017

BC Studies no. 194 Summer 2017  | p. 238-239

Rarely does a book cover depict a Canadian athlete with claims to a major role in academic life and advocacy politics, but this is no ordinary cover. The front of Playing for Change depicts young Bruce Kidd, British Empire and Commonwealth Games champion, future Olympian, and later dean of the University of Toronto’s School of Physical and Health Education, vice president of the University of Toronto, and warden of Hart House, among many other roles. Kidd’s classic The Struggle for Canadian Sport (1996) and his other scholarly work set the pace for many to follow. A marathoner and athlete activist as much as engaged academic, Kidd (born 1943) continues to inspire many as public intellectuals and advocates for change through sport, physical education, and recreation. These, broadly, are the subjects of this book.

Russell Field presents fourteen significant essays by Canadian scholars in sport, recreation, and physical culture studies arising from a 2010 Toronto gathering and festschrift in honour of Kidd. Together they suggest a broad-reaching and self-reflexive rethinking of the tradition of scholarship and social activism pioneered by Kidd as a public intellectual and critical scholar. Contributors to this book believe that, in a climate of neoliberalism, calls to produce critical scholarship with timely and relevant contributions to social change and communities are all the more important.

A number of chapters examine Olympic and professional male sports, notably hockey and baseball, where Kidd and MacFarlane’s The Death of Hockey (1972) and Gruneau and Whitson’s Hockey Night in Canada (1994) left off. Questions of public access to recreation are also emphasized. Notably, Kidd’s The Struggle for Canadian Sport highlighted “BC Pro Rec” [BC Provincial Recreation programs] as an interwar public recreation innovation copied by several provinces across Canada, and McDonald’s Strong, Beautiful, and Modern (2013) recently situated it within an international realm of dominion fitness programs. Similarly, chapters in Playing for Change by Parissa Safai on urban Toronto, Robert Pitter and Glyn Bissix on Nova Scotia trails, Vicky Paraschak on the Northwest Territories, and Nancy Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank on Hamilton harbour cover public access to recreation and physical activity in other parts of Canada.

Chapters by Russell Field on Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics and Patricia Vertinsky on physical cultural studies in North American research universities reflect on knowledge in a post disciplinary academy. Field critiques the inequities and politics of the Vancouver winter games that promised much but whose legacies are costly to a public good. Vertinsky reflects on future directions in academe with proposals for physical cultural studies as an inclusive advance, a topic also embraced by Kidd as a longstanding university dean. Vertinsky emphasizes UBC’s own history of physical education and health, manifest in the architectural heritage of the War Memorial Gymnasium as a reminder of physical education, especially dance and movement for young women, along with analyses of changing structural and administrative politics that shape such knowledge (see Disciplining Bodies in the Gymnasium, 2003, edited by Vertinsky and McKay).

Advocacy is a signature for the writers presented here and a subject that incudes their calls to serve as public intellectuals. Researchers will find prime reading for sport and physical culture studies and related philosophies of knowledge, and other readers will welcome the history of sport, recreation, and the body.


Gruneau, Richard, and David Whitson. 1994. Hockey Night in Canada: Sports, Identities and Cultural Politics. University of Toronto Press.

Kidd, Bruce. 1996. The Struggle for Canadian Sport. University of Toronto Press.

Kidd, Bruce, and John MacFarlane. 1972. The Death of Hockey. New Press.

McDonald, Charlotte. Strong, Beautiful, and Modern: National Fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, 1935-1960. UBC Press.

Vertinsky, Patricia and Sherry McKay, editors. 2003. Disciplining Bodies in the Gymnasium: Memory, Monument, Modernity. Routledge.

Playing for Change: The Continuing Struggle for Sport and Recreation
Russell Field, editor
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016, 480 pages. $49.65 paper