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
1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).
My name is Anne-Marie Elbe. I am an associate professor of sport and exercise psychology at the University of Copenhagen. Besides doing research on psychological aspects of elite sports I worked as an applied sport psychologist for many years. I am Vice President of the European Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) and section editor for the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.
Nikolai Nordsborg: I used to swim from age-group to junior level. I later obtained a one year competitive swim-coach education followed by five years at university studying exercise & sports science. During this period I also coached age-group and junior swimmers and was affiliated with the national Danish swimming federation. In my professional career I obtained my phd related to muscle fatigue in 2005 and now hold a position as associate professor in exercise and sport science. One branch of my research activities is related to swimming.
2. You recently published an article on high intensity swimming compared to traditional training regarding stress. Why did you decide to monitor stress and recovery?
When looking at the effects of new training methods it is important to not only focus on the effects it has on athletes’ performance, but also on how it affects their well-being. Some athletes do not pay enough attention to their recovery and a stress-recovery imbalance that lasts over a longer period of time can lead to overtraining.
3. What did your study look at?
We looked at two different types of swimming training and compared the psychological stress and recovery levels the elite swimmers experienced during these two training methods. One group of swimmers participated in high volume training, whereas the second group of swimmers participated in a reduced volume but high intensity training (HIT) over a period of 12 weeks. Stress and recovery was measured with the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for Athletes.
4. What do we know about stress, recovery, and performance?
Training stress is necessary in order to improve one’s performance. However, after training, sufficient recovery is necessary in order to be in an optimal state for the next training session or a competition. In addition, to the training load, athletes can experience a number of additional stressors outside of sports e.g. school pressure or relationship problems that can impact athletes’ overall stress level. Recovery can occur on different levels e.g. mentally, physically and socially. Only those athletes who are sufficiently recovered can show peak performance.
5. What were the results of your study?
Our study showed that a 12 week intervention of lowering the volume and increasing the intensity of the swimming training sessions had a positive impact on the athletes’ levels of general stress and general recovery. The swimmers that swam less distance, but at a higher intensity experienced significantly lower stress and higher recovery levels over the 12 weeks. A previously published study with this sample of swimmers could show that there were no performance differences between the two groups of swimmers.
6. What were the practical implications for coaches and swimmers from your study?
It is of practical importance to note that the distance reduction of 50% and a more than doubled amount of high intensity swimming training for 12 weeks did neither improve nor compromise performance or physiological capacity in the group of elite swimmers as reported elsewhere (Kilen et al., 2014). Together with the current findings, this suggests that a period of high intensity training for up to 12 weeks can be used to reduce athletes’ psychological stress levels and might have a preventative function with regard to overtraining.
7. Do you think the results would be different if you had older, younger, or less trained swimmers?
We can only speculate about this since we did not conduct the intervention on other groups of athletes. The assumption, however, would be that the results from this study can be transferred to other swimmers as well.
8. What do you think of other methods of monitoring stress, like HRV?
AM: I am not an expert on HRV but I know assessing HRV is a lot more complex than using a questionnaire. Questionnaires have shown to be very easy to administer and evaluate and are very reliable measures to assess stress and recovery. In comparison to HRV, the questionnaire used in our study can assess stress multi-dimensionally. This means stress is assessed from a physical, mental and social perspective. Furthermore, the questionnaire differentiates between general stress and sport-specific stress. This kind of information can not be retrieved by using HRV.
Nikolai: There are to date no convincing studies that demonstrate HRV measurements as a tool to predict training effects and performance changes.
9. What do you think is the ideal training strategy for minimizing stress and maximizing performance?
Not sure I can answer this one because it also asks about maximizing performance.
10. Should swimmers alter their swimming training during emotionally stress life events (like school exams)?
This depends on the individual swimmer and one can not give a general reply to this question. However, I would suggest to very carefully monitor stress and recovery states during stressful life events to ensure that the athletes are receiving sufficient recovery.
11. What makes your research different from others?
It is a study with a fairly large number of elite athletes that changed their training for a substantial amount of time. I think this is what makes this study quite unique.
12. Which teachers have most influenced your research?
The colleague that influenced me most in relation to this study was Michael Kellmann. When we worked together at the University of Potsdam, Germany he introduced me to the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for athletes, which he developed together with Wolfgang Kallus and taught me a lot about the importance of sufficient recovery for elite performance.
13. What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look from you in the future?
I am working on a number of different projects related to the health promoting aspects of team sports. Currently, I do not have any ongoing projects about swimming but a lot of studies on the health effects of football, for example.
This episode of the Swimming Science Podcast features Chris Plumb, head coach of the Carmel Swim Club in Carmel, Indiana.
Chris Plumb was named Head Coach of Carmel Swim Club in July 2006, but has been with the program since 2003. As Head Coach, Chris oversees all aspects of the club, and he coaches the Senior Group. He is a dynamic leader for our organization, and works tirelessly to push Carmel to be a model club both in the state of Indiana and nationally. Chris’s execution of his vision for Carmel Swim Club has pushed us towards recognition as a USA Swimming Gold Medal Club of Excellence in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Chris brings a wealth of swimming experience to CSC. Before joining the Carmel staff, the Indiana University graduate led the Cane Aquatics Club in Coral Gables, Florida. Chris also served as Assistant Coach at the University of Miami for four years, where he was involved in all aspects of a program that ranked among the nation’s top twenty every year. He cut his coaching teeth in Indiana, as Head Coach of the Bloomington South High School Boy’s Team. In his only year at the helm, Bloomington South’s swimmers all achieved best times.
When Chris took over as Head Coach of the Carmel Swim Club, there were zero Junior National or Olympic Trials qualifiers amongst our ranks. In the six years since Chris became Head Coach that has changed drastically. Carmel proudly took 17 athletes to the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. CSC has two USA Swimming National Junior Team Members (Lauren Stauder – 2009, Harrison Wagner – 2011). At Junior Nationals in 2009, the CSC girls finished fifth and broke a 17-18 National Age Group Record in the 400 Medley Relay. In 2010 Carmel finished seventh in overall combined team scoring and the girls won the 400 Medley Relay. At the 2010 Short Course Nationals in Columbus, Ohio Carmel finished sixth in combined team scoring. In 2011, CSC finished 12th in combined team scoring, and the girls finished eighth at Junior Nationals in Palo Alto, and Harrison Wagner was named the 18 and Under National Champion in the 50 Freestyle at Nationals. This week, as Carmel hosts Junior Nationals, 21 of Coach Plumb’s swimmers will take to the pool in the most elite 18 and under competition in our sport.
Chris is also the Head Coach at Carmel High School. He directed the 2012 Carmel Boys and Girls Swim Teams to IHSAA State Championship Titles. Coach Plumb has been at the helm for the last six of the Lady Hound’s 26 consecutive titles and this was his third consecutive title for the boys. He was inducted into the 2011 class of honorees in the Indiana Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame.
Coach Plumb also devotes his time and energy to both Indiana and USA Swimming supported camps. Most recently, Chris served as the Head Coach for the Indiana Swimming Olympic Training Center camp, which 14 Carmel swimmers attended. Chris was also the Head Coach for this camp in 2009. Chris has also served as an assistant coach for USA Swimming’s National Select Camp in 2009, the Head Coach of the Eastern Zone Select Camp in 2010, an assistant at the 2006 Central Zone Select Camp, and as an assistant coach for the Indiana Central Zone Team in 2005.Under Chris’s leadership, Carmel has made an impressive impact on the state level, as well. Coach Plumb works hard to direct the programming and curriculum of Carmel Swim Club towards a path of long-term developmental success. This was on fantastic display at the 2012 Indiana SwimFest State Championships a few weeks ago. At the SwimFest, CSC scored 3,883 combined team points. Notably, this score is higher than the total points earned by both the second and third-place finishing teams. More than 100 individual athletes contributed to the final team score, and CSC swimmers in each age group made an impact. Along the road to victory, CSC broke 11 more club records and established four new Indiana State Meet and Association Records.
Chris succeeds not just in inspiring his swimmers with his character and coaching, but also through his actions. Chris swam on relays at both the 2010 SCY and 2011 LCM USA Swimming National Championships. He embodies the mandate he gives to all Carmel swimmers: do not be afraid to dream and work towards the highest level of our sport. He works tirelessly to push Carmel Swim Club to the pinnacle of success and the way he has put his dreams and vision into reality have made this club a model for programs across the nation.
Chris lives in Carmel with his wife, Emily and sons William and Nicholas.
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.
If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.
The difference between long course and short course times remain consistent in different events (Free, IM, breast)
Gender differences decreased with distance in the IM (consistent with freestyle events) but increased with breaststroke
Research comparing those with dedicated short course seasons with those who focus on long course would provide more answers for optimal training
Comparing long course and short course swimming is always a popular topic here. Though many swimmers succeed in long course while training mostly in short course, most would agree events can be quite different when the pool length changes. This discussion is now timely with the end of short course scholastic championships and the transition into summer long course season (as hard as that may be to fathom with part of the US still dealing with snow!).
We have covered this topic in several posts, with Part I and Part II of this series, along with leading an interview from Dr. Knechtle, one of the leading researchers in this area. While our previous entries have focused on largely on freestyle swimming, recent research provides insight into differences in IM and breaststroke events.
In one recent study, Wolfrum (2014) studied over 26,000 swims by Swiss and international swimmers in the 200m and 400m IM events. Not surprisingly, short course times (SCM) were superior to long course times (4.3±3.2%). Other notable conclusions included:
Sex-related differences in performance by FINA swimmers were significantly greater in short-course events than in long-course events, while sex-related differences in performance of Swiss athletes were not significantly affected by course length
Sex-related differences in swimming speed decreased with increasing race distance
Swimming performance by international (non-Swiss) men competing in either course length and international females competing in 200 m and 400 m short-course events improved during 2000–2011.
Koch-Zeigenbein (2014) applied similar analysis to breaststroke events for both Swiss and international swimmers finding:
Elite breaststroke swimmers were ~3% faster on short course compared to long course.
The sex difference in breaststroke swimming speed from 50 m to 200 m events was ~11% (with significance at national level on 200 m long course and on international level on 100 m short course)
Sex difference appeared slightly greater in long course compared to short course
Note, the latter finding (greater difference in long course to short course) contrasts with other research in freestyle events showing that females close the gap as distance increases, though part of that result may be skewed by the addition of 400m and longer events in freestyle. In breaststroke, distance is capped at 200m and with potentially less depth in the female ranks (just a supposition, not a fact), gender differences may be more exposed in a less popular event like the 200m breaststroke.
One interesting line of research not yet pursued (to my knowledge) would be to assess performance of swimmers who prioritize short course swimming compared to those for whom short course is less important. In the US college system, short course can be THE priority even for international level swimmers, whereas short course is minor in other countries. For now, it is clear that despite mountains of data, there are still many unanswered questions in making an optimal transition between course lengths.
1) Koch-Ziegenbein P, Knechtle B, Rüst CA, Rosemann T, Lepers R. Differences in swimming speed on short course and long course for female and male breaststroke swimmers: A comparison of swimmers at national and international level. OA Sports Medicine 2013 Sep 01;1(2):18.
2) Wolfrum M, Rüst CA, Rosemann T, Lepers R, Knechtle B. The Effect of Course Length on Individual Medley Swimming Performance in National and International Athletes. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2014;42:187-200.
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.