Leisure, as defined by my peers, means many different things. It can be a state of mind or simply being in the moment. It can be classified as unstructured play or just being relaxed. It can be self-expression or having freedom and choice. Leisure meant something different to each one of us — what does it mean to you?
Past research describes leisure as a personal experience. There is a focus on choice and freedom, which can reinforce the emphasis on individual benefits. There are also certain perspectives of leisure that are connected to the process of development and change. Social, economical and political factors can determine whether individuals are controlled or empowered, liberated or repressed, in regards to their leisure. Leisure activities, defined by the participant, allow individuals to feel intrinsically rewarded through directed action. This attitude they experience is either a temporary feeling or a way of life.
Essentially, there is one common theme that emerged in past definitions of leisure and activities: it is completely and totally individualized for the participant.
Greenwood-Parr and Lashua (2004) used what they found in past research to develop their own study: What is Leisure? The Perceptions of Recreation Practitioners and Others. They sent a number of questionnaires out to two different types of organizations, trying to capture how a citizen defines leisure. One group of participants were Recreational Practitioners, working closely in leisure, while members of the other group had little to no experience working closely in, with or around, leisure.
In their questionnaire the researchers used true and false questions, a free list section and a demographic section to gather information from the participants. They built their survey on research and leisure studies textbooks, using common themes and ideas that they came across.
Upon analyzing the responses to their questionnaire, Greenwood-Parr and Lashua found, that for the most part, the respondents answered each question within their groups the same. In the true and false section, the respondents agreed strongly in questions relating to the multidimensionality of leisure and the idea that there is a range of interpretations of leisure. Questions relating to women and leisure, priorities relating to work and leisure and the relationship between television and declining American Culture saw the most disagreement between the two groups. In the free list section, the top three words associated with Leisure were passive/relaxation, enjoyment/fun and activities. The bottom three were choice/freedom, state of mind/experience and community.
In their results, the researchers were not surprised to learn that the Recreational Practitioners had a little more knowledge and knew something different, when compared to the Non Recreational Practitioners.
With their results, Greenwood-Parr and Lashua implicated that their definition of leisure, it being enjoyable, relaxing and free-time activities, reinforces a consumer model for service delivery. They believed that it was the responsibility of the leisure professionals to provide the consumer with a variety of programs and services to choose from. They also mentioned using the marketing model to better understand the consumers and to develop specific groups or segments to target in the market. By using these factors, the leisure professionals could build and connect the services already available, and include any new developments. This would ensure that the proper programs were implemented for the right individuals and would allow the leisure professionals to further their knowledge and connection within the field, to avoid just “managing the free time business”.
In my personal analysis of the article, I found that there were several limitations present, in relation to the participants. Although the researchers went to two different groups of people, the individuals within each group came from very similar backgrounds, which did not offer any considerable diversity. In the future, to build on this study, researchers should consider more culturally diverse groups. By extending their participant pool to new individuals, it would allow researchers to expand their knowledge of how the average citizen views leisure.
Another limitation I looked at was the layout of the questionnaire. Although they did not specify the exact order of the questions, I am going to assume they were presented as they are in the study, true and false questions, followed by the free list section, followed by the demographic section. In my opinion, because the true and false questions occur before the free list section, the participants can draw from what they have previously answered, in the true and false, for the free list section. In this layout, the results may be significantly altered in favor of the words already mentioned, which have the potential to occur more frequently.
One of the questions the researchers included in their marketing model was asking individuals what they wanted in their leisure programs. After discussing this concept with my peers, it was evident that we believed this question would result in very little success, in terms of determining what to offer. It was brought up that these days, you no longer hear “What do you want”, as the consumer has taken control and it has become “Give me what I want”. In today’s society, if an individual desires to participate in a certain activity that is not offered, they will take matters in to their own hands to create a program or have someone create one for them. Although this works for some individuals, it does not work for all and, as a result, leisure professionals still play an important role. They are still essential in providing the resources and opportunities for programs and services and developing new ones to keep up. As we know, leisure can mean many different things to many different individuals and it is the professional’s job to determine how to adapt to each new situation and individual.
After discussing leisure for an entire seminar, my peers and I had some very different thoughts and ideas about what leisure meant to us. In some cases, our “words” changed, as we dove deeper into the complexity that makes up leisure.
Think of the word you associated with leisure earlier on, would that still be your word now? When you think of that word, do you associate it with a particular, favorite leisure activity? Although you may have changed your mind about leisure over a short period of time, whether you expanded your knowledge or not, there is one thing that will never change: Leisure will always be as unique as the individual participating.