Professor Holly Thorpe

Holly Thorpe

Qualifications: PhD

About Holly

Holly is a Professor in Te Huataki Waiora / School of Health at the University of Waikato.

An award-winning sociologist, she is a recipient of both Fulbright and Leverhulme Fellowships. In 2018, Holly was awarded the Royal Society Early Career Research Excellence Award for Social Sciences, and made a Fellow of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport.

Her research interests include:

  • Action sports and youth cultures
  • Women, sport, fitness and gender
  • The health and wellbeing of sportswomen
  • Social media and new media technologies
  • Critical Sport for Development Studies, and sport for recovery.

Professor Thorpe is passionate about doing research that meets the demands of understanding sport, health and wellbeing in a rapidly changing world. She continues to seek new innovations in social theory, qualitative methods, and strives to work across the disciplines to better understand the complexities of moving bodies and sporting cultures.

Holly is driven to do research that has real work impact and she works closely with an array of international and national sports organizations (e.g., International Olympic Committee, High Performance New Zealand, Sport New Zealand) to inform new practices, processes and policy development.

Books and Edited Books

Co-edited Books

Editorial Roles

Holly is co-editor with Toffoletti and Francombe-Webb of a new series with Palgrave Macmillan titled New Femininities in Digital, Physical and Sporting Cultures She currently serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of Sociology, and is on the editorial board for the International Review for the Sociology of Sport and Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health.

A Selection of Recent Projects

In 2016, Thorpe won a three year Marsden Fast-Start grant focused on youth engagement with informal sports in sites of war, conflict and disaster. As part of this project she developed the Action Sport for Development and Peace organisation, an online community for those working in ASDP NGOs and projects around the world. That same year she also gave a TedX talk on the topic of 'Action Sports for a Better World'.

She was recently co-Primary Investigator with Professor Belinda Wheaton on an International Olympic Committee Advanced Research Programme Grant  exploring youths' attitudes towards the Olympic Games, with a focus on action sports. Thorpe presented their findings at the IOC in Switzerland 2016 and has been invited to speak at various other IOC-related events. This collaborative work with Wheaton went on to play an important role in informing the IOC's inclusion of surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Thorpe and Wheaton are currently writing a book based on this research, and continuing to explore the effects of Olympic inclusion on action sport cultures and industries.

Another key strand of Holly's research has been the health and wellbeing of sportswomen, and has organized two national interdisciplinary Female Athlete Health Symposiums (2015, 2017). Holly is an inaugural member of the High Performance Sport WHISPA (Women's Health in Sport) working group, and continues to explore transdisciplinary approaches for new ways of understanding the health of women in sport and exercise.

Recently, Holly has collaborated with Dr Nida Ahmad on a project with Sport New Zealand (Dr Justin Richards) and Sport Waikato (Dr Amy Marfell) focused on Muslim women in sport and active recreation. This research resulted in the report "Building Cultural Inclusion in Sport: Insights from Muslim Women in Sport and Active Recreation" and a symposium bringing together Muslim sportswomen and the sports sector. Listen to Holly and Nida discuss this research on RNZ.


Holly is passionate about working with graduate students at Masters and PhD levels, particularly those interested in sport and gender, new approaches to understanding the complexities of embodied sporting and fitness experiences, youth sport, action/extreme sports, and/or Sport for Development and Peace Studies, innovations in social theory (i.e., new materialisms) and qualitative methods, and welcomes enquiries.

Papers Taught

Research Supervised



Project Title / Topic

Year Completed

Hamish Crocket*


Playing with ethics? A Foucauldian examination of the construction of ethical subjectivities in Ultimate Frisbee


Anna-Liisa Ojala


The Experiences of Finnish Snowboarders


Amy Marfell*


Understanding the 'National Sport for New Zealand Women': A Socio-Spatial Analysis of Netball


Karen Buckley


Sport in the Waikato c1897-1974: Narratives of Play, Identity and Belonging


Tony Ryks


Supportive environments for active living? A case study of local government discourses of the built and social environments and physical activity


Melissa Thomas


Young women’s negotiation of multiple fields of femininity and physicality in physical activity and Physical Education in an international school in Taiwan


Amy Marfell*


Netball in the lives of New Zealand women: An intergenerational study


Mihi Nemani


Getting Deep: Experiences of New Zealand Bodyboarders


Sophie Watson*


Understanding female secondary school students’ experiences of outdoor education in Aotearoa New Zealand


Nida Ahmad*


Topic: Muslim sportswomen's use of social media


Grace O’Leary*


Topic: New Zealand sex workers experiences of sport and fitness


Rodrigo Hill*


Topic: Photography, place-making and the Te Awa River-Ride


Neftalie Williams*


Topic: Skateboarding and the experiences of Black and Minorities in the United States of America


Damien Puddle*


Topic: Glocalization and Parkour in New Zealand


Allison Jeffrey*


Topic: The Yogic Lifestyle in Contemporary Society


Katie Schofield*


Topic: Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) in Elite Athlete Populations


Julie Brice*


Topic: Athleisure and Feminist New Materialisms


John Macfarlane*


Topic: Management strategies towards legitimate action sport federations: a national structure for Skateboarding New Zealand.


Mihi Nemani**PhDTopic: The Role of Physical Activity in the lives of Young Māori and Pasifika WahineCurrent

* = University of Waikato Scholarship

** = Sport New Zealand Scholarship

Recent Publications

  • Thorpe, H. (2020). Informal sports for youth recovery: grassroots strategies in conflict and disaster geographies. Journal of Youth Studies. doi:10.1080/13676261.2020.1763936

  • Toffoletti, K., & Thorpe, H. (2020). Bodies, gender, and digital affect in fitspiration media. Feminist Media Studies. doi:10.1080/14680777.2020.1713841

  • Clark, M. I., & Thorpe, H. (2020). Towards Diffractive Ways of Knowing Women’s Moving Bodies: A Baradian Experiment With the Fitbit–Motherhood Entanglement. Sociology of Sport Journal, 37(1), 12-26. doi:10.1123/ssj.2018-0173

  • Thorpe, H., Brice, J., & Rolleston, A. (2020). Decolonizing Sport Science: High Performance Sport, Indigenous Cultures, and Women's Rugby. Sociology of Sport Journal, 37(2), 73-84. doi:10.1123/ssj.2019-0098

Find more research publications by Holly Thorpe


Advertising and Sport; Children's and Youth Sport; Culture; Extreme/Alternative Sports; Gender; Globalisation; Health; Race and Gender in Sport; Social Issues in Sport; Social Science Research; Sociology; Sports; Tourism; Women and Gender Studies; Youth

Contact Details

Email: [email protected]
Room: TT7.08
Cellphone: 021311143