Our research grants support scholars with original research. Here, Alec Hurley (University of Texas at Austin) reflects on the work and research experience we helped to facilitate.
"Earlier this year I was awarded the Post-Graduate Research Grant by the British Society for Sport History. Aside from being honored and humbled by the notice, I was also excited. The award was my ticket home. As I imagine happened with many scholars, the on-going pandemic increased feelings of isolation already common among us in the humanities. Prior to receiving the award, I had altered the focus of my dissertation to center on my hometown of Rochester, New York. My reasoning was that – if nothing else – at least I could engage in research surrounded by family and friends.
"Not only was I fortunate enough for that part of my plan to come to fruition, but the generous funds granted by the BSSH reinvigorated my research. I was initially apathetic about my subject area. I had never before seriously studied urban growth, nor immigrant populations, nor Geographical Information Systems. Thanks to the support of the BSSH, I found myself engaged in endless conversations with local archivists, historians, and community leaders. On multiple occasions, Brandon Feff – the head of the Rochester Library archives and labor historian – and I skipped over multiple meals as we discussed the evolution of city patterns as the early German and Irish immigrants, and their sport clubs, gave way to the later arrivals of the Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, and Jews. Conversations with him opened doors, both literal and figurative. In follow-up conversations he brought out collections of hundreds of detailed maps of the city at various points during the thirty-five-year span of my stated research period (c.1880-1915). These maps – at least some – will provide the foundation for the digital portion of my dissertation which will present a dynamically mapped expression of the evolution of sport clubs and available access in the various and ever-changing ethnic wards of Rochester from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries.
"The funding also indirectly supported my attendance at a national conference in Indianapolis. My presentation at the German Studies Association in early October highlighted a lesser-studied aspect of my dissertation. It explored the importance of folklore to sport and its impact on traditional ethnic constructions of masculine and feminine space – particularly as those ideas clashed with those of their new American neighbors. I was also able to plumb the depths of the national Turner archives at IUPUI while I was there. The combination of receiving feedback and conversing with leading German-American scholars along with a fulfilling archival visit has only buttressed the depth and richness of my opening content chapter.
"I would be remiss, of course, to leave out the generosity of my parents, with whom I continue to impose on as I extend every penny of the BSSH’s generous grant by staying at their house rent-free (I manage some of the cooking). I could not have made the progress necessary for my dissertation without the support of the BSSH and I hope to repay their kindness with an in-person appearance at their 2022 annual conference.
"Until then, from Rochester, New York, I send a sincere and heartfelt thank you."
Alec S. Hurley
Kinesiology & Health Education
University of Texas at Austin