Don't mistake an athlete for a 'toxic jock'

Jun 01, 2009
Don't mistake an athlete for a 'toxic jock'
The difference between an "athlete" and a "jock" is substantial, says Kathleen Miller.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A rose by any other name is still a rose, but is an athlete by another name... a jock?

"The terms 'athlete' and 'jock' are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are really descriptions of two distinct sport-related identities," says University at Buffalo researcher Kathleen E. Miller, Ph.D. "In terms of goal orientations toward sports and conformity to gender norms, these two identities represent very different perspectives and may be associated with different behaviors."

Miller, a research scientist at UB's Research Institute on Addictions, explained that the differences between the jock identity and the athlete identity may have implications for health-risk behavior. To some extent at least, jocks may constitute a specialized -- and problematic -- subset of athletes. Research by Miller and others is exploring a "toxic jock" model that links involvement in high-status, high-profile sports with rigid adherence to stereotypical expectations of masculinity, a tolerance for risk and health-compromising behaviors such as substance use and unsafe sex.

The practical implications of these findings are clear: developing ways to help sports participants generate "athlete" (rather than "jock") identities could potentially help buffer adolescents and young adults against health-compromising behaviors.

Miller's Athletic Involvement Study surveyed 581 college students with histories of organized sports participation to rate how strongly they saw themselves (or believed others saw them) as athletes or as jocks. Only 18 percent of students strongly identified with the identity of "jock," while 55 percent strongly identified with the identity of "athlete." In fact, students were twice as likely to reject the jock label.

Self-identified athletes tended to be task-oriented; they defined sport success in terms of skills development and mastery and the pursuit of personal excellence, Miller found. Jocks were more ego-oriented; they defined sport success by comparing their own performance to that of others.

Endorsement of stereotypical masculine norms in the study was also stronger among jocks than among athletes. Students who identified strongly as jocks were likely to support "masculine" attitudes about violence, sex, winning, dominance and risk-taking; those who identified strongly as athletes supported some of these attitudes (commitment to winning) but actively rejected others ("playboy" attitudes about sex) and were neutral on the rest (propensity for violence, dominance and risk-taking).

Both sport-related identities were stronger among men than among women. Two thirds (68 percent) of men and 39 percent of women surveyed identified themselves as athletes. Twenty-five percent of men and only eight percent of women identified themselves as jocks.

More information: These results were published in the March 2009 issue of the Journal of Sport Behavior.

Source: University at Buffalo (news : web)

Explore further: What to do with kidneys from older deceased donors?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Female teen steroid use not limited to athletes

Jun 05, 2007

Researchers from the Division of Health Promotion & Sports Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University have found steroid use among teen girls is not limited to athletes and often goes hand in hand with other unhealthy ...

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.