Faculty member’s communication research informed by love of sports honored with early career award
Greg Cranmer has the cover of a local newspaper from the early 90s framed in his office. He’s featured in the top right, a four-year-old wearing wrestling head gear and a singlet. His lip is poked out, and he’s visibly upset while a referee cautions him against locking hands.
The picture was taken during Cranmer’s first match; he says he was so young he didn’t understand the rules against locking hands and the match had to be stopped multiple times before it was completed. The experience certainly didn’t put him off of sports, as Cranmer would go on to play football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, and track throughout adolescence and school.
It would be hard for him to quantify the positive impact sports have had on his life. He admired many coaches along the way, and it was a coach that told him to approach academics with the same mindset he had used on the field. It wasn’t until graduate school that Cranmer began to recognize just how formative sports had been in his life, or that they might be the key to his career in academia going forward.
“Sports were always just there. It was while I was pursuing my Ph.D. that I realized just how much coaches had structured my life and helped me develop as a person,” Cranmer says. “I decided to rededicate my entire line of research to how athletes develop as a result of coaches and the sporting environment.”
Cranmer’s many coaches would be proud; not even four years after earning his Ph.D., he’s being recognized by the International Communication Association for exemplary scholarship by untenured faculty related to sport and communication. The association’s sports communication division has recognized him with its Early Career Research Award.
Cranmer serves as an assistant professor in Clemson’s communication department, and his research focuses on how sports organizations and the leaders within them act to socialize and develop athletes. While many sports communication scholars study larger sports narratives or sports media, Cranmer said he is more interested in the everyday interactions around sport that shape people from youth to professional athletes.
“Somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of people play organized sports across their lives; it socializes us, gives us resources to grow and helps us define our morals,” Cranmer says. “I believe this line of study can help our field form a more holistic understanding of human interaction within sport.”
Cranmer has just finished a detailed written study that examines athletic coaching from a communicative perspective. The book, which should be available fall 2019, makes the case for coaching as a communicative act while exploring what it means to be an effective coach from an interpersonal perspective. Cranmer hopes the book will serve as a foundation or launching point for other scholars in his subfield of sports communication.
Cranmer is also continuing research on coach confirmation, which is an examination of how coaches recognize, endorse and validate athletes and how this has an effect on an athlete’s development of identity and various sporting experiences. Cranmer says the act of coaching and communicating effectively with players goes far beyond yelling and whistle blowing; it’s about leveraging interpersonal relationships to further athlete development and task accomplishment.
“Coaches confirm by either accepting and praising existing performance, or they can challenge, which is when a coach recognizes and endorses what an athlete can become,” Cranmer says. “I’m finding that challenge and how it is communicated with players seems to be the key mechanism to coaching effectiveness. Endorsing another’s potential is a powerful interaction with real implications for development.”
According to Joseph Mazer, chair of Clemson’s communication department, Cranmer has served as a prolific researcher since joining the department and is highly deserving of the association’s Early Career Award. Mazer said there are only a handful of sports communication scholars dedicated to the interpersonal side of sports communication, making Cranmer a true pioneer in the field.
“Recognition from the International Communication Association is a major accomplishment for Greg and, by extension, our department,” Mazer said. “An award like this can truly pave the way for a faculty member’s career and a line of research, so we’re excited to see where Greg will take this research next.”
Cranmer is a fellow of the Clemson University Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute. He earned a Ph.D. in sport communication and a master’s degree in communication theory and research from West Virginia University. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from West Virginia University.
Clemson University Department of Communication
Clemson’s communication department offers bachelor’s degrees and minors in communication and sports communication, a graduate certificate in health communication and a master’s degree in communication, technology and society. The department also serves the university through two introductory general education communication courses that serve over 3,000 students each year. The department is affiliated with Clemson University’s Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute, a multi-disciplinary platform for the academic study of sport sciences across the University, and houses the Charles Campbell Professorship in Sports Communication. The department is also home to several facilities and co-curricular activities including WSBF 88.1 FM, The Tiger newspaper, Tigervision TV network, the Social Media Listening Center, Communication Center and Research Lab, a nationally and internationally-recognized debate team and student study abroad programs. Visit the department’s website for more information.
The International Communication Association
The International Communication Association is the largest international academic association for scholars interested in the study, teaching, and application of all aspects of human and mediated communication. The association began more than 50 years ago as a small association of U.S. researchers and is now a truly international association with more than 4,500 members in 80 countries.