June 2, 2009

Many athletes reject ‘jock’ description

The terms athlete and jock are sometimes used interchangeably, but many athletes do not see themselves as jocks, U.S. researchers said.

University at Buffalo researcher Kathleen E. Miller said many think athlete and jock mean the same thing, but they are really descriptions of two distinct sport-related identities that may have implications for health-risk behavior.

Miller's 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.

Eighteen percent strongly identified with the identity of jock, while 55 percent strongly identified with the identity of athlete.

The 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, but jocks were more ego-oriented and defined sport success by comparing their own performance to that of others.

The study, published in the Journal of Sport Behavior, found that students who identified strongly as jocks were likely to support masculine attitudes about violence, sex, winning, dominance and risk-taking; while those who identified strongly as athletes supported some of these attitudes -- commitment to winning -- but actively rejected others such as playboy attitudes about sex and were neutral on the propensity for violence, dominance and risk-taking.