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Reducing Hazing in Sport Teams

Jennifer J. Waldron, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa

What is Hazing?

Hazing is any activity expected of athletes joining a sport team that humiliates or abuses them. These activities are considered hazing whether the athlete wants to participate or not.

Examples of hazing activities include:

  • Being thrown in water or mud
  • Eating disgusting things
  • Wearing embarrassing clothing
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Destroying property
  • Being beaten

Psychological Effects of Hazing

Because hazing includes humiliating, degrading, abusive, and dangerous activities, athletes who have been hazed may have negative psychological experiences. These psychological experiences will differ based on the athlete, the hazing activity, and the environment – some psychological experiences may last a short period of time whereas others may be longer lasting.

Psychological effects of hazing includes:

  • Decrease in confidence
  • Self-doubting
  • Depression
  • Helplessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts

These psychological experiences may result in athletes feeling like they are unable to be friends with people on the team and may even result in athletes quitting their sport. Additionally, these psychological experiences will probably affect other areas of athletes’ lives, such as school and family.

Deterring Hazing

Schools and athletic programs have the responsibility to have policies in place to discourage hazing. Two ways to help deter hazing is implementing a policy and creating alternative team bonding activities. Three steps should be used when creating a policy.

  1. The zero-tolerance policy should be written in clear and simply language so that teachers, coaches, administrators, students, and parents understand the policy. Consequences for breaking the policy should also be included.
  2. At the pre-season meeting for all sport teams, administrators and coaches need to explain the zero-tolerance policy to students and parents. After reviewing the policy, students should sign a student contract stating they understand the policy and will respect the policy or meet the consequences.
  3. If hazing occurs on a sport team, administrators and coaches need to immediately investigate the incident. If students did violate the zero tolerance policy for hazing, strong action consistent with the policy needs to be taken.

Coaches and administrators should also encourage and assist team captains and team leaders to create positive, alternative team building activities. These team-building activities can establish team identity and cohesion without forcing athletes to engage in risky and dangerous behaviors.

Team-building activities may include:

  • Team dinners
  • Organizing a skit night
  • Participating in community service
  • Completing a ropes course
  • Team trips