Given that people engage in sporting events for a wide range of reasons, the authors assert that it is time for athletes to develop a moral code that embraces higher standards of conduct that will help reverse these recent trends and once again provide American sports with a sense of fair play and respect.
Fredenburg, Karen, Rafer Lutz, Glenn Miller et al. (2005). "Dismissals and Perceptions of Pressure in Coaching in Texas High Schools: Similarities and Differences with Previous Studies Show the Contemporary Face of Coaching Pressure." JOPERD-- The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 76(1):29.
In this essay, the authors report that there have been a number of recent studies and reports that suggest that the pressure in high school sports is growing, rather than declining. The authors cite an article in Sports Illustrated that described the alarming trends of parental misbehavior at youth sport events. The president of the National Alliance for Youth Sports reported that the incidence of parental misconduct at youth athletic events rose from 5% in 1995 to 15% in 2000; further Staffo (2001) (reviewed below) has reported numerous incidents of criminal violence by athletes in recent years. The authors provide some insightful observations through a survey of 229 high school principals. This survey determined that coaching is not a secure profession, and that the pressure to win may translate into more violent behaviors on the playing field.
Karen, David and Robert E. Washington. (2001). "Sport and Society." Annual Review of Sociology 187.
According to Karen and Washington, in spite its economic and cultural importance in American society, sports remain a relatively neglected and undertheorized area of sociological research. Sports represent a major part of the U.S. economy, the authors note, with expenditures in 1998 for commercial sports totaling $17.7 billion and an additional $21.4 billion being spent on physical fitness, golf, bowling, and sports and recreation clubs. "From our perspective," they say, "social class is a key component of our understanding of sports. It is important to understand what connects particular groups of people to particular sports activities and what role these play in the reproduction of inequality in a given society" (187). The authors conclude that sports must be regarded as a separate "field" of study with its own dynamics, history, and chronology that is relatively autonomous from the society of which it is a part. This last point was perhaps the most interesting since most of the sources reviewed consistently made the analogy that sports are largely a reflection, or a "mirror" of the larger society in which they take place.
Lance, Larry M. And Charlynn E. Ross. (2000). "Views of Violence in American Sports: A Study of College Students." College Student Journal, 34(2): 191.
As noted above, because sports are to some extent a reflection of the society that fosters them, and since violence is increasing in society, the authors suggest that it is reasonable to assert there should be more violence in sport; in this regard, past studies have shown that the causes of sport violence perceived by students are provocation, encouragement by coaches, peer pressure, the desire to win (because this is an implicit part of the game), revenge and retaliation, and as the result of role models. Emphasis on winning at any cost has resulted in an increased acceptance of violence as way of achieving that goal.; indeed, Lance and Ross suggest that violence has a high probability of occurring when its use represents the difference between winning and losing, as well as when there is weak officiating, sanctions are not severe, coaches are not willing or able to control their players, or even encourage them to break laws. Furthermore, Lance and Ross point out that among males, some are influenced by the macho image in society. For instance, an elbow thrown requires an equally physical reaction; many fail to accept that not to retaliate is the most courageous response. Competitors also increasingly provide what fans like -- a situation that is exacerbated by media influences.
The authors report that this study was conducted to investigate perceptions of violence in sport in general and perceptions of violence in intramural sports for university participants in intramural sports in particular.
The presence of violence in sports was investigated using both social learning theory and social exchange theory to identify and account for factors that could be responsible. The authors used a 4-page questionnaire that was administered to the respondents as a group; the questionnaire collected data from 200 university intramural sports participants. The analysis of the resulting responses supported both the social learning theory and social exchange theory; in addition, the authors found significant support for the perception that "weak" officials who do not take complete control of player violation contribute to violence in sports for both intramural sports and sports in general. The authors add that significant support for the perception that violence in sport is likely to result in personal injury was also found.
The Lance and Ross study was determined to be valuable for two reasons: 1) the researchers were able to collect a large number of survey responses upon which to formulate their findings; and, 2) the thesis that there may be undue pressure being exerted on collegiate athletes to win: "To summarize," they say, "player violence takes place within as well as outside the roles. Pressure to win appears to be the major factor for sports violence" (191).
Rudd, Andrew and Sharon Kay Stoll. (1998). "Understanding Sportsmanship." JOPERD --The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 69(9):38.
In this essay, Rudd and Stoll report on the rising tide of unsportsmanlike conduct, violence and disrespectful attitudes among professional and collegiate athletes in recent years. "The pandemic spread of unsportsmanlike conduct is currently denigrating all levels of American athletics," they note. "It does not seem to matter where one looks, unsportsmanlike conduct appears to be the norm in America rather than the exception. A quick review of any sport page will reveal unethical behaviors including tantrums, hijinks, biting, assault and battery, head butting, ad infinitum" (38). The authors suggest that administrators at all levels have failed to address the underlying nature of the problem by oversimplifying it; they recommend that: 1) those who would seek to teach a sense of sportsmanship to students must understand what the concept means, and 2) any regimen of instruction must take into account the personal aspects of the players to help them develop a sense of fair play and morality that will be taken onto the playing field.
Shields, David Lyle Light. (1996). "Sport, Militarism and Peace." Peace and Conflict 2(4):369.
According to Shields, there is a well-established connection between militarism and sports in the United States. "Sports are an important dimension of adolescent life. Perhaps there is no more ubiquitous symbol of high school existence than the football field, complete with snarling players acting out charades of male toughness, scantily clan cheerleaders hyping a subordinationist model of femininity, and bleachers filled with envious classmates and admiring parents" (369). In this regard, the author reports that one of the major factors that contributes to aggression and violence in sporting events is the social construction of masculinity that takes place on the playing field and its environs. "Especially in the highly commercialized male sports, a form of 'masculinity' is acted out and celebrated that is premised on patterns of domination and subordination" (369). In high school and collegiate sporting events, Shields suggests that male students learn how to use their bodies in "forceful and space-occupying ways," and that they learn to associate acts of intimidation, threat, and violence with "being a man" (369). The author concludes that despite its ability to promote a sense of camaraderie and fellowship among players, mere participate in a sporting event is not sufficient to promote a sense of fair play. Rather, he suggests that an emphasis should be placed on making the sport a context for learning that requires the active participation of parents, teachers and student-athletes alike.
Shields, Edgar W. Jr. (1999). "Intimidation and Violence by Males in High School Athletics." Adolescence 34(135):503.
According to Shields, violence is far too common in many sports and represents a serious problem; furthermore, he notes that intimidation is also widespread. Coaches and physical education teachers are increasingly being held responsible for this trend. In fact, Shields reports that some coaches have even suggested that violence is good as long as it "does not go too far," while still others have maintained that the fighting and slashing in ice hockey, spearing and late hits in football, and beanballs in baseball are already too harmful (135). To this end, the Shields' study examined verbal intimidation (VI), physical intimidation (VI), and physical violence (PV) in high school athletics, by both program and by sport. The identified antecedents included contextual setting, attitude, pressure, and coaching; a multiple regression analysis was used to assess relationships between…