Is Watching Football an Occupation?

Date 7 December 2022

While eager eyes across the planet monitor the action from the World Cup, how useful and valuable is watching football? Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy Nicola Cumbleton blogs about whether spectator sport is an occupation.

Nicola Cumbleton

With the World Cup in full swing, it’s hard to avoid people filling their days with watching or researching football scores or discussing the scores and performances. It’s certainly occupying time in my household!

But can watching football be considered an occupation?

Occupational therapy is a profession built around the interests and hobbies of people (occupations), and those interests and hobbies can vary immensely. What you enjoy and value, the next person may detest, making occupational therapy an amazing profession with a wide variety of options.

By acknowledging the importance of watching football in an individual’s life, we can use the things that motivate an individual experiencing challenges (physical, cognitive or psychological) to achieve their goals. We all work hard if the things we’re working towards are things we want.

This topic is explored further within our MSc when we complete the Occupation for Occupational Therapists module. This module explores our understanding and application of the concept of occupation and enables us to critically evaluate the use of occupation within practice. Using this learning, we can challenge our understanding of the changing occupations of society and individuals.

This doesn’t apply to just watching football.

All involvement in sport can be considered an occupation. Marco Pastori, one of our past MSc Advanced OT students, saw the importance of football for people when he set up a football club for children with learning disabilities in Italy.

Ready2Play enabled improvements in expected areas such as physical health and wellbeing, as well as developing their cognitive skills (such as awareness of time) and personal independence in tasks such as getting dressed. It also helped them further social skills in areas such as respecting rules.

These skills weren’t all learned on the playing field. The whole experience developed skills such as the locker room discussions before and after the game and interactions between players and adults. This shows that as well as playing football being an occupation, the lifestyle, the values and past times associated with football can be considered as occupations if a person values them.

So, for all of you thinking that watching football has no value as an occupation, consider how you could use the World Cup to help enrich your time.

Could talking to a relative about the games help build and strengthen social relationships? Could calculating the league tables and adding up the team scores be used to help work on mathematical skills?

Could explaining (or learning) the offside rule be a way of helping someone understand the importance of rules in society by looking at the impact of the rule on the game?

Watching football may be of more value than you first thought!

Nicola Cumbleton, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
Nicola Cumbleton

Nicola Cumbleton is a Senior Lecturer in BSc Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton