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Race and Athletic Identity Louis Harrison, Jr., Associate Professor The University of Texas at Austin Gary Sailes, Associate Professor Indiana University.

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Presentation on theme: "Race and Athletic Identity Louis Harrison, Jr., Associate Professor The University of Texas at Austin Gary Sailes, Associate Professor Indiana University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Race and Athletic Identity Louis Harrison, Jr., Associate Professor The University of Texas at Austin Gary Sailes, Associate Professor Indiana University Willy K. Rotich, Doctoral Candidate The University of Texas at Austin

2 Why Study Race? Race is a prominent organizing principal in memory categorization (Hewstone, Hantzi, & Johnston, 1991) Race is a social variable that denotes a common socio- political history (LaVeist, 1996).

3 People of different races: experience different world views experience different opportunities take on different identities and status demonstrate different behavior

4 Development of Competence Possess and display abilities or skills, then construct perception of competence from knowledge of exhibited skills Perception of competence may organize actions to attain desired abilities even when the skill is not present initially Perceptions serve as a catalyst to develop skills and abilities viewed as self-defining. ( Cross & Markus, 1994; Markus, Cross, & Wurf, 1990)

5 Race-Sport Research Different perceptions of suitability for sport activities (AA basketball, football, track, etc.) ( Different perceptions of suitability for sport activities (AA basketball, football, track, etc.) (Harrison, 1999). Strong evidence for the persistence of racial stereotypes in sport (Harrison, 2001; Hodge et al., in press; Sheldon, Epstein & Petty, 2007) Endorsement of self-descriptive information for sport and by race ( Endorsement of self-descriptive information for sport and by race (Harrison, Lee, & Belcher, 1999).

6 Race-Sport Research Expectations, practice frequency and aspirations in sport differ by race ( Expectations, practice frequency and aspirations in sport differ by race (Harrison, Lee, & Belcher, 1999). EAs steered away from high level sport aspirations ( EAs steered away from high level sport aspirations (Harrison, Azzarito, & Burden, 2004). Years of speculation and theorizing regarding the natural abilities of AA athletes have forged the thinking of entire populations (Hoberman, 1997)

7 Race-Sport Research It is unlikely that a uni-dimensional theory will account for the disparity in sport performance and participation between A A and EA athletes. Differences in levels of athletic identity adds still another dimension to this complex dialogue.

8 Athletic Identity The degree to which an individual identifies with the athletic role. Individuals make a social statement about themselves by choosing to engage in particular sport or physical activities (Brewer, Raalte, & Linder, 1993)

9 Athletic Identity Benefits Development of a salient self-identity and confidence building Positive effect on athletic performance Narrowing of external activities to focus on athletic performance

10 Athletic Identity Potential Risks Difficulties dealing with sport career or status changes Emotional difficulties in dealing with injuries Difficulty adjusting after the end of the athletic career because of a lack of other sources of self-worth Less likely to include alternate career or educational options (Booby Myles)

11 Method 109 NCAA Division I football athletes from a large predominantly White southeastern U.S. university. The athletes self identified racial categorization was 67 African Americans and 42 Caucasian Americans. Administered the Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (AIMS) (Brewer et al., 1993)

12 AIMS Strongly Disagree Uncertain Agree Strongly Disagree Agree 1. I consider myself an athlete. 2. I have many goals related to sport. 3. Most of my friends are athletes. 4. Sport is the most important part of my life. 5. I spend more time thinking about sport than anything else. 6. I need to participate in sport to feel good about myself. 7. Other people see me mainly as an athlete. 8. I feel bad about myself when I do poorly in sport. 9. Sport is the only important thing in my life. 10. I would be very depressed if I were injured and could not compete in sport.

13 ANOVA Analysis of Variance for Athletic Identity Total Score SourcedfMn SqFp Btwn Grps Wthn Grps Total

14 AIMS Results * * *

15 Discussion These results point to another socio-cultural factor in the race/athletic performance debate Since AI is important in performance (Horton & Mack, 2000), racial differences in AI should be considered factors in performance differences The AIMS items that display significant differences are notable. –5. I spend more time thinking about sport than anything else. –7. Other people see me mainly as an athlete. –9. Sport is the only important thing in my life.

16 Discussion #5 - I spend more time thinking about sport than anything else. Suggest that AA athletes had more internal focus on their sport –Complexity of football makes focus necessary to recognize and react –Possibly more mental rehearsal

17 Discussion #7 - Other people see me mainly as an athlete. Conspicuous in PWU; large body –Value at game time; handicap in class Unfavorable faculty attitudes (Baucom & Lantz, 2001; Engstrom, Sedlacek, & McEwen, 1995) Unfavorable peer academic attitudes (Engstrom & Sedlacek, 1991; Sailes, 1993; Simons et al., 2007) Damaging to the athletes self esteem and academic identity

18 Discussion #9 - Sport is the only important thing in my life. Lowest score but most prominent difference Identity foreclosure - making a commitment to identity role without exploring other role possibilities (Murphy, Petitpas, & Brewer, 1996; Lally & Kerr, 2005)

19 Confluence of Influence on Af. Am. Athletic Identity Development Home School Community MediaPeer Culture Dominant Culture History Stereotypes Radial IdentityAthletic Identity

20 Suggestions Frank discussions of race to dispel myths and stereotypes Dont channel African American males away from sport; socialize investment in education with the same enthusiasm. Challenge the beliefs of all stake holders Highlight African American athletes success in the academic realm (Paul Robeson; RRM)

21 Pinar (1994) We say "we are what we know." But, we are also what we do not know. If what we know about ourselves--our history, our culture--is distorted by delusions and denials, then our identity--as individuals, as Americans--is distorted (p. 245).

22 References Baucom, C. & Lantz, C.D. (2000). Faculty attitudes toward male Division II studentathletes. Journal of Sport Behavior, 24, Brewer, B. W., Raalte, J. L. V. & Linder, D. (1993). Athletic identity: Hercules muscles or achilles heel? International Journal of Sport Psychology, 24: Cross, S. E., & Markus, H. (1994). Self-schemas, possible selves, and competent performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(3), Engstrom, C. M., Sedlacek, W. E., & McEwen, M. K. (1995). Faculty attitudes toward male revenue and non-revenue student-athletes. Journal of College Student Development, 36, Harrison, L. Jr. (1999). Racial attitudes in sport: A survey of race-sport competence beliefs. Shades of Diversity: Issues and Strategies, A Monograph Series, 2. Harrison, L. Jr., Lee, A. & Belcher, D. (1999). Race and gender differences in sport participation as a function of self-schema. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 23(3), Harrison, L. Jr. (2001). Understanding the Influence of Stereotypes: Implications for the African American in Sport and Physical Activity Quest, 53, Harrison, L. Jr., Azzarito, L., & Burden, J. Jr. (2004). Perceptions of Athletic Superiority: A View from the Other Side. Race, Ethnicity, & Education, 7, Hoberman, J. (1997). Darwins athletes: How sport has damaged black america and preserved the myth of race. New York: Houghton Mufflin. Hodge, S. R., Kozub, F. M., Dixson, A. D., Moore, J. L. III, & Kambon, K. (in press). A comparison of high school students stereotypic beliefs about intelligence and athleticism. Educational Foundations. Markus, H., Cross, S.,&Wurf, E. (1990). The role of self system in competence. In R. J. Sternberg & J. Kolligan, Jr. (Eds.), Competence considered (pp ). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Murphy, G. M., Petitpas, A. J., & Brewer, B. W. (1996). Identity foreclosure, athletic identity and career maturity in intercollegiate athletes. The Sport Psychologist, 10, Sailes, G. A. (1993). An investigation of campus typecasts: The myth of black athletic superiority and the dumb jock stereotype. Sport Sociology Journal, 10, Sheldon, J. P., Jayaratne, T. E., & Petty, E. M. (2007). White Americans genetic explanations for a perceived race difference in athleticism: The relation to prejudice toward stereotyping of Blacks. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, 9 (3). Simons, H., Bosworth, C., Fujita, S., & Jensen, M. (2007, June). The athlete stigma in higher education. College Student Journal, 41(2),


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