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.)

References:

  • 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!

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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/

Differences Between Summer League Swimming and Year Round Swim Training

Differences Between Summer League Swimming and Year Round Swim Training Take Home Points

1. Summer league swimming can be an effective feeder system for year round swimming
2. With burnout a major problem in the sport, summer teams can help foster enjoyment at the grassroots level
3. It is important to strike a balance between enjoyment and building fundamentals

With summer only weeks away, country clubs, rec centers, and even full time swim programs anxiously await the influx of summer swim kids. Summer programs and year round programs have an interesting coexistence, where sometimes the only thing is common is the fact they involve swimming. At the extreme, summer teams are sometimes perceived as one step above Marco Polo games, while year round programs can seem like strict para-militaries to outsiders. In reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and can vary greatly depending on the team. Despite these differences, many of the sport’s elite have begun their careers as purely recreational summer league swimmers before gradually increasing their commitment to the sport.

Most important with summer teams is to encourage fun. In general, summer teams do this very well, with the sheer numbers of participants as evidence. This fact is especially important with burnout as one of the biggest challenges in the sport. Modern literature and anecdote has shown that long term results are best when kids are allowed to diversify sports. Summer league swimming allows kids to pursue other athletic endeavors at early ages.

But there is also a flip side to remaining in summer swim, namely the difference in mindset. Now, most would agree that having 10-11 year olds swim doubles and 40-50k per week is a bit excessive. While it may teach hard earned lessons of commitment and dedication, it can also cause burnout and injury. But we also cannot avoid the positives that come from an environment of dedication, specifically those intangibles that we all see but sometimes struggle to articulate.

Chambliss (1989) conducted a lengthy study of elites and noted, “Olympic champions don’t just do more of the same things that summer league country club swimmers do. They don’t just swim more hours, or move their arms faster, or attend more workouts. What makes them faster cannot be quantitatively compared with lower level swimmers, because while there may be quantitative differences, these are not, I think, the decisive factors at all…

The best swimmers are likely to be strict with their training, coming to workouts on time, carefully doing the strokes legally… Their energy is carefully channeled. Diver Greg Louganis practices only three hours each day, divided into two or three sessions. But during each session, he tries to do every dive perfectly. Louganis is never sloppy in practice, and so is never sloppy in meets.”

Ultimately one of the challenges in transitioning from summer league swimming into a full time program is a shift in mindset. While fun is the priority at the youngest ages, we also don’t want bad technical habits to develop. “It’s only summer league,” while maybe not explicitly stated, is often implicitly stated and may hold kids back who may consider a transition to a year round program. It is a delicate act to balance seriousness with enjoyment. Yet also consider that seriousness and enjoyment can also be one in the same…

As Chambliss continues, “The very features of the sport which the C-level swimmer finds unpleasant, the top level swimmer enjoys. What others see as boring, they find peaceful, even meditative, often challenging, or therapeutic….No amount of extra work per se will transform a C level swimmer into a AAAA swimmer without concurrent qualitative change in how that work is done. It is not by doing increasing amounts of work that one becomes excellent, but rather changing the kinds of work.”

Summer League Swimming Versus Year Round Swim Training Conclusion

Too often, people focus on volume, numbers of practices, and the fact that a team practices year round as the main discriminators between summer leagues versus full time swimming. Instead, it is a subtle difference in mindset that can distinguish the two cultures. But rather than being simply an academic discussion, recognizing this distinction can help coaches effectively transition kids from summer to year-round if they make that additional commitment.

Reference

1. Chambliss, D. The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers, Sociological Theory, Vol 7, No 1, (Spring 1989), 70-86.

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.

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