Scholar Spotlight - Angela Venus Sakuntala

Laidlaw Scholar, Angela Venus Sakuntala, explores how sports fandom drives physical activity among young adults.
Scholar Spotlight - Angela Venus Sakuntala

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Angela Venus Sakuntala, a Laidlaw Scholar at the University of Hong Kong, investigates the link between sports fandom and increased physical activity among young adults.

Research Title: The Impact of the Professional Sports Industry on Exercise Motivation and Physical Activity Engagement in Young Adult Sports Fans

“Do Ronaldo’s fans do sports more when they often watch Ronaldo playing football or hitting the gym?”

This was a question I answered in my research. It examines the relationship between the professional sports industry and the level of both motivation and physical activity among sports fans. It aims to provide evidence that sports as entertainment might potentially motivate sports fans to exercise. The results indicate that there is a positive relationship between the time spent, motivation, and physical activity engagement; the more time spent by sports fans engaging with their sports team, the more motivated they are and the more physically active they are. Interestingly, among the content shared by professional sports clubs on social media, team activities were said to be the most motivating content.

With obesity being a worldwide health issue, physical activity is widely linked to weight loss. But how could professional sports which have a lot of audience worldwide take part in overcoming this issue? We could observe that entertainment (e.g. on social media) often changes our behaviour such as imitating them. Thus through this research, answering the question of whether professional sports as an entertainment is associated with physical activities and which kind of approach is effective could assist professional sports to leverage its popularity to increase physical activities among the fans and subsequently contribute to overcoming obesity. As the research that intersects the fields of physical activity and sports business is still few, this research could serve as the preliminary/initial research that could be developed further. 

Where did your passion for this research originate?

I’ve always been a football fan. When I watched my favourite player, Suarez, playing football, I had the urge to go outside to do his football trick with my brother. When I saw Liverpool’s player hitting the gym, I started hitting the gym for a week. While pursuing a degree in business, I took courses in kinesiology which shed light on the alarming issue of obesity and the significant impact that physical activity can have in reducing its occurrence. 

I saw my curiosity as an opportunity to understand the relationship between professional sports and fans’ physical activity engagement. I thought, that if positive relationships exist, professional sports which have a large audience worldwide could (potentially) effectively incentivize their audience to be more physically active. 

Studying business strengthened my belief that nowadays, an increasing number of companies and investors seek to contribute to the cause they believe in. With this in mind, I believe that obesity is one of the urgent concerns and those in the professional sports industry would not hesitate to take part in overcoming it. Thus, with the opportunity from Laidlaw and HKU, I sought to understand if the behaviour I exhibited applies to others as well, and what kind of approach could professional sports implement to take part in overcoming the obesity health problem.

What is the most memorable moment from your Laidlaw scholarship experience so far?

Teaching students 16,016 kilometres away from my home country! Collaborating with the Timothy Smith Network and fellow Laidlaw scholars from different parts of the world to bridge the digital divide in Boston has brought me great joy. One unforgettable memory was seeing my students' growth from not knowing how to paint to confidently creating a website to display their artwork. It was a testament to their progress and development.

Another significant aspect was my personal growth during this journey. Immersing myself in a foreign country, far from my hometown, and engaging with people from diverse cultures enriched my experience in profound ways. Without the support and funding from the Laidlaw Foundation, this opportunity would have been nearly impossible for me to pursue (in the near future). The foundation helped me grow and achieve my goals much sooner. 

My first day of teaching students “Bridging Tech Divide” at Timothy Smith Network in Boston.

What is the biggest challenge you came across in your research and leadership journeys so far, and what did you learn from it? 

Working effectively with people from different backgrounds and experiences is essential in the international Laidlaw programme. While it may seem simple, achieving the best results through intercultural collaboration requires effort in understanding our colleagues. I used various methods like observing, asking questions, analyzing responses, and trial and error.

During my teaching at Timothy Smith Network, I encountered a different American classroom culture. It was challenging to know if the students were getting bored and losing focus on the lesson. I couldn't solely rely on their participation because many remained active even when bored. So, I started explicitly asking them if they were bored while also observing their expressions. Some students would be honest, while others showed hesitation when lying. This helped me change the atmosphere and dynamics at the right time.

These understanding and adapting methods were also valuable when working with other Laidlaw Scholars to plan our teaching modules and interact with people during the leadership programme. By actively using these strategies, I created an environment that encouraged meaningful engagement and productive teamwork, respecting and leveraging the diverse perspectives and backgrounds of everyone involved.

Which particular leaders inspire you the most and why?

A lot of leaders have influenced me, one of them is Amal Clooney. Her commitment to justice and her exceptional eloquence always inspire me. As a highly accomplished human rights lawyer, she utilises her expertise in law to champion causes that protect the rights of marginalised individuals. To me, she is a great example of a leader who supports the causes she believes in an eloquent way.

Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.

A world where people have the same opportunity to earn education and life opportunities. Although this might sound idealistic, with more people educated as future leaders (as what the Laidlaw Foundation invests in), this could be gradually achieved. I believe we as Laidlaw Scholars have the strong determination to share our knowledge with others and help others whether it is through research, enterprise, non-profit etc. As for me, I am now working on a project in which I taught graduate students with mental and/or physical disabilities to paint, sell their paintings, and give the profit to the orphanage they stay in. I believe that small changes matter and will grow into big ones.

What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?

Being a Laidlaw Scholar is both a gift and a responsibility that I deeply appreciate. It's a gift because I was given the incredible opportunity to conduct impactful research and enhance my leadership abilities. In a world where access to education remains out of reach for many, I am grateful to have received funding and support.

However, this gift also comes with a sense of responsibility that I am proud to embrace. I firmly believe that the opportunities bestowed upon me should be shared with others, allowing them to experience the same joy I felt when I received the acceptance letter to become a Laidlaw Scholar. Education is a fundamental right that should be available to everyone, and I am committed to contributing towards that vision.


Quick-fire Questions

🎥 Currently Binging: The Originals
The love portrayed in Mikaelson’s family makes me believe in love and inspires me to love (more) the people I care about.

📚 My top book recommendation: 

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

🎶 My anthem: Firework - Katy Perry
(When I doubt myself, I play this.)

🎵 Podcast obsession: 


🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: 

Realizing that life is learning and hitting the gym to better myself.

🎗️What message or cause would you like to champion?

I am now helping students with mental and/or physical disabilities sell their artwork. The profit goes to the orphanage they live in. If you are interested, please reach out to me @doravenus on Instagram.


You can find Angela on LinkedIn. If you want to learn more about Angela's work, explore Angela's research here.

Angela is a Laidlaw Undergraduate Leadership and Research Scholar at @The University of Hong Kong. Become a Laidlaw Scholar to conduct a research project of your choice, develop your leadership skills, and join a global community of changemakers from world-leading universities.

Find out more about the Laidlaw Scholars Undergraduate Leadership and Research Programme.

🔦 Discover more Scholar Spotlights: 

⚡️ Anuj (AJ) Manchanda, a Laidlaw Scholar at the University of Toronto, delves into how Environmental CSR initiatives shape consumer choices.

⚡️ Sebastian Glasper, a Laidlaw Scholar at the University of Leeds, explores social media’s role in mitigating loneliness among older adults.

⚡️ Sophia Waseem Khan, a Laidlaw Scholar at Durham University, champions sustainable agriculture through innovative ion recovery.

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