Making the Team: Threats to Health and Wellness within Sport Hazing Cultures

By Jessica W. Chin and Jay Johnson.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Though involvement in team sports is often encouraged for its health-inducing benefits, this encouragement generally comes without consideration of the initiation rituals oftentimes required for full team membership. In years past, hazing practices were typically considered harmless, comical pranks associated with young men in college fraternities. However, hazing extends far beyond college fraternities and is experienced by both males and females in school groups, university organizations, athletic teams, military, and other social and professional organizations; research shows that these initiation rituals cause emotional and physical harm and sometimes even lead to death. While specific behaviors or activities related to initiation rituals vary widely among participants, groups, and settings, the number of harmful and degrading practices far outweigh the number of positive team-building activities (Hoover, 1999). Burgeoning evidence suggests that hazing fractures team relationships instead of building cohesion and that adopting more inclusive team building practices can facilitate a movement to more positive, healthy initiation experiences (johnson, 2009; Van Raalte, Cornelius, Linder, & Brewer, 2007). This study thus investigates the negative impact initiation ceremonies such as hazing have on the health of athletes and teams in general. Suggestions for policy changes with the potential to shift initiation rituals to more healthful, team-building activities are included.

Keywords: Hazing, Initiation Rituals and Ceremonies, Sport, Team Building

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.29-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.154MB).

Dr. Jessica W. Chin

Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology, San José State University, San Jose, CA, USA

Jessica W. Chin is an Assistant Professor in the Kinesiology Department at San José State University, USA. Her teaching and research interests include cultural studies of sport and physical activity, with a special focus on socio-cultural examinations of health, fitness, and the construction of female bodies in postcommunist Romania. A recent graduate of the Physical Cultural Studies Program at the University of Maryland, she is particularly interested in critical examinations of the active body and its use in the negotiation of power and identity in various sporting contexts.

Dr. Jay Johnson

Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology, San José State University, San Jose, CA, USA

Dr. Jay Johnson is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at San José State University and holds a doctoral degree in education, sociology and equity studies from the University of Toronto. Jay’s current interdisciplinary research explores child labor issues and body fascism of triathletes, the impact of climatic change on our physical experiences and the interface of sport, physical activity and the environment. He has published extensively on issues regarding initiation and hazing practices in varsity sport in addition to the effects of body-based harassment on girls’ and boys’ body image and participation in physical activity.