Health Sciences & Social Work

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High School Football as a Catalyst for Disaster Recovery: The Case of the November 17, 2013 Washington, Illinois, Tornado 

2014 Field Research In Progress  


This page highlights a research project currently in progress at the Western Illinois University Emergency Management Program.  This work is a joint graduate student & faculty project research project.  The project is now in progress with an expected completion in Fall 2014. 

The purpose of this research project is to explore one finite portion of the tornado disaster recovery taking place in Washington: How the High School football team contributes to community disaster recovery.

For Midwestern towns struck by tornadoes, there have been anecdotal accounts of how local high school football teams have served as focal points for recovery activities that contribute to boosting a community's spirit during tough post-disaster times. However, little social science research has actually been accomplished that documents and analyzes actual cases of how high school football teams have contributed to the social recovery of communities. This project attempts to address that gap.

Disaster recovery has both physical and social components which work together to complement one another. This project is focusing on better understanding social aspects of disaster recovery by using a high school football team in a disaster-stricken city as the unit of analysis.

The project team consists of Principal Investigator Nicholas Swope (Graduate Student in Health Sciences & Emergency Management, Peace Corp Fellow) and Co-Investigator Dr. Jack Rozdilsky (Assistant Professor of Emergency Management). 

Hypothesis and Research Question

In considering what entities have served as catalysts for Washington's disaster recovery, the researcher's hypothesis is that the Washington Panthers High School Football Team is playing an important role in city's tornado disaster recovery. 

The research question posed is: How has the Washington Panthers High School Football Team directly and indirectly contributed to the tornado disaster recovery effort?


This project will employ qualitative research methods to the test the hypothesis.  Specifically, those methods will consist of literature review, document analysis, field-based interviews with relevant stakeholders, and field observation of Washington's recovery effort.

The protocols for this research project have been reviewed and approved by the Western Illinois University Institutional Review Board under IRB ID#2892.

External Support

This project is supported by a grant from the Quick Response Program based at the Natural Hazards Center of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Proposed Project Outcomes for the Work in Progress

This project can contribute to the creation of new knowledge as related to:

  1. Lessons learned from Washington's tornado disaster recovery
  2. Better understanding social aspects of disaster recovery
  3. Better understanding post-disaster community development
  4. Documenting a case of how a high school football team contributes to disaster recovery


This page was last updated in July 2014.
For more information on this project contact: Dr. Jack Rozdilsky at