Hazing In Sport – A Briefing

Hazing in sport has been an ongoing issue, from the youth to elite levels, for many years. As Dr. John Heil says, “any and all athletes are vulnerable to hazing” (Heil, 2016), and it can be a traumatizing experience for those involved. Many athletes refer to hazing as “team-building” and “tradition”, while studies have shown that hazing can decrease team cohesion rather than improve it (Van Raalte et al., 2007). Professionals, parents, coaches, and athletes all should be informed about how to recognize and prevent hazing, and how to reduce hazing in sport.

According to Waldron (n.d.), hazing can diminish an athlete’s confidence by promoting self-doubt, depression, low self-esteem, and in the worst-case scenario, suicidal thoughts.

Some athletes think that hazing creates a group identity.

Fact: Research shows that group identity is established when the athlete joins the team (Van Raalte et al., 2007). Hazing does not build attraction to the group.

Some athletes claim that hazing is a tradition that builds character (Smith & Stellino, 2007).

Fact: New players may feel pressured into hazing if they want to be accepted by the older players on the team. This may be driven by a “sport think” phenomenon cultivated by veteran players, producing fear and persuasion. Once the new players become veterans, they often maintain the perspective of valuing hazing and create the cycle of hazing.

Why Does Hazing Happen?

When new athletes are introduced to a team, promoting a positive and constructive environment is key to a fluid transition. When this outcome is not achieved, harsh exclusion and hazing may take place. Given the inherent need for belonging and acceptance by the “in-group,” athletes may be vulnerable to hazing (Maslow, 1971). Many may succumb to the hazing ‘sport think” phenomenon and overlook potential consequences and risks. To justify these hazing behaviors to themselves, individuals frame them in a positive way through displaced responsibility, attribution of blame, and diffusion of responsibility (Heil, 2016).

What You Can Do: Strategies to Reduce Hazing in Sport

(This briefing was originally published under the American Psychological Association Division 47 on the Virginia Commonwealth Games Sport Hazing Awareness Site.  For full literature, please visit their website.  Reprinted with permission.)


  • Hamilton, R., Scott, D., LaChapelle, D., & O’Sullivan L. (2016). Applying social cognitive theory to predict hazing perpetration in university athletics. Journal of Sport Behavior, 39(3), 255-277.
  • Heil, J. (2016). Sport advocacy; Challenge, controversy, ethics and action. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 5(4), 281-295.
  • Kirby, S. L., & Wintrup, G. (2002). Running the gauntlet: An examination of initiation/hazing and sexual abuse in sport, Journal of Sexual Aggression, 8(2), 29-68.
  • Maslow, A. M. (1971). The Farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking Press.
  • Smith, H., & Stellino, M.B. (2007). Cognitive dissonance in athletic hazing: The roles of commitment and athletic identity. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 29, 169-170.
  • Van Raalte, J.L. Cornelius, A.E., Linder, D.E., & Brewer. B.W. (2007). The relationship between hazing and team cohesion. Journal of Sport Behavior, 30(4), 491-507.
  • Waldron, J. Reducing hazing in sport teams, http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/resources/resources-for-coaches/reducing-hazing-in-sport-teams/.

ISCA Coach Education Program

We are thrilled that after about a year of production and development, the ISCA Education Program has officially launched!

The program is available online internationally and features evidence-based curriculum developed by sport scientists specifically for swim coaches. Our modern education portal is easy to navigate and secure, with transcript tracking and interactive course content.

ISCA Certification is available for coaches that are ISCA members and also complete the six core science-based courses (Biomechanics 101 & 102, Physiology 101 & 102, and Sport Psychology 101 & 102). The science behind swimming is something that all coaches need to understand to be effective and successful–and we look forward to providing this crucial piece of education to coaches around the world.

Get started today on the ISCA Education Portal: https://isca.courselaunch.com/

Learn more about ISCA Education: https://swimisca.org/education/

Get the details on ISCA Certification: https://swimisca.org/education/certification/

Demo an ISCA course: https://swimisca.org/courses/demo18/content/

Relay Starts: Technique and Championship Implications, Part II

Take Home Points
1) Male elite swim relay starts have consistently had faster relay exchanges than elite females
2) Relay exchanges are a skill that should be accompanied by measurement to optimize practice
3) Relay exchange time has been shown to be a more determining factor in female events than among males

With NCAA Championship season upon us (and the womens’ championship already complete), relay performance takes center stage more than any other domestic meet. Indeed, many teams are shaped with relays in mind due to the profound influence relays can have on overall standing (see NCAA Championship Relay Performances).

In previous posts we have addressed some key issues on relay performances. To recap some key points:
*Relay performance appeared more related to overall standing in the 2014 men’s championship than in the women’s meet
*Track to two feet jump start has been most common at by US Swimmers at international meets (Relay Starts and Championship Implications)
*The introduction of the kick plate to starting platforms has required technical modification to swimmers starting techniques. [C]onsidering a kick start technique in place of a traditional step-up relay start may lead to greater success for relay exchanges on these new starting platforms. (Omega Starting Blocks and Relay Performance)

One recent study from Saavedra (2014) has added to the body of literature on relay starts performance. Authors studied 827 relay performances at international competitions from a 13 year period in the 4 x 100 free, medley, and 4 x 200 free.

Some notable findings:
*Men’s exchange block times were shorter than those of the women
*Exchange block time was especially relevant for the women’s relay medalists in the 4 × 100-m freestyle and 4 × 100-m medley (this makes sense as we’d expect the start to be less important in a 200m event).
*The relationship between exchange time and placing for men in the 100m events was tightest among non-medalist teams

What to take home from this information? First, it may suggest there is more room for improvement among female swimmers in relay starts, as exchange time in relays is largely a matter of team coordination (a gender-neutral trainable skill). Another notable fact is how exchange times were more meaningful for the women’s races than for men. Interestingly, in our analysis of last year’s NCAA Womens Championship, U of Georgia captured the title despite performing worse than other teams on relay starts, though this may have been more a function of overall swimming performance than relay starts.

Future data collection should measure swim times in smaller chunks of each race to determine pace consistency. Now, this may be an inexact science without touch pads mid pool, but data may be useful to establish if swimmers are indeed approaching the wall at consistent paces. A good relay exchange not only includes a good exchange, but also a well swum race in which the swimmer paces himself/herself throughout the event to hold a consistent speed between the flag and the wall, rather than going out too hard any dying at the wall, no matter one’s best intentions to swim hard to the finish.

Relay Starts Summary

Relay exchanges are often overlooked in practice (much like starts in general) but can be the difference between winning and losing a race, especially in the shorter events. Though the swimming portions comprise a much larger percentage of the race, relay exchanges are more about skill and coordination between team members than physical capacity. Teams will have surely gained valuable experience with teammates during the regular season, but like any skill it must be practiced for constant improvement.


  1. Saavedra JM, García-Hermoso A, Escalante Y, Dominguez AM, Arellano R, Navarro F. Relationship between exchange block time in swim starts and final performance in relay races in international championships. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(19):1783-9. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2014.920099. Epub 2014 May 23.

Written by Allan Phillips is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and owner of Pike Athletics. He is also an ASCA Level II coach and USA Triathlon coach. Allan is a co-author of the Troubleshooting System and was selected by Dr. Mullen as an assistant editor of the Swimming Science Research Review. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at US Army-Baylor University.

The post Relay Starts: Technique and Championship Implications, Part II appeared first on Swimming Science.

SSP 012: Correcting Biomechanics, Louisiana Swimming, and Swimming Mentorship with Braden Holloway

This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Braden Holloway, the head coach N.C. State University. Braden and I discuss a wide range of topics, from common stroke corrections, Louisiana Swimming History, and swimming mentors.


  • Common swimming biomechanic flaws in college swimmers.
  • Louisiana swimming history.
  • Swimming mentorship.

Right click here and save-as to download this episode to your computer.



Thanks for joining me for this episode. I know the conversation broke up a few times and I apologize, I’m still very new with this! If you have any tips, suggestions, or comments about this episode, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below.

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The post SSP 012: Correcting Biomechanics, Louisiana Swimming, and Swimming Mentorship with Braden Holloway appeared first on Swimming Science.