The Team-building and Initiation Activities section of the survey read: "There are positive and negative ways to bring new players onto a team. Which of the following activities have you done as part of team-building or initiation for any team on your campus?" A list of initiation activities followed. At the end of the list were three open-ended response items asked athletes to specify other team-building, embarrassing, or dangerous activities. The results of those three open-ended questions are summarized below.
Other team-building activities athletes reported
Food-related events: banquets, dinners, picnics, barbecues, team lunch tables, breakfast clubs, ice cream runs.
Team gatherings or outings: day trips, overnights, bonfires, clinics, movies, beach trips, camping, wilderness activities, visiting coach's house, off-season conditioning, training camps, biathlons, triathlons, weight lifting, running, recreational sports, ultimate Frisbee, mixers, co-ed workout, scavenger hunts, cheers, chants, songs, hair dyeing, muscle posing, inspirational quotes, devotionals, Bible study groups, charity race, team meetings.
Miscellaneous: Trust activities, seminars, workshops, speakers, problem-solving and goal-setting sessions, after-practice discussions, team study halls, mini-Olympics among teams, house-building for Habitat for Humanity, fundraisers, providing security at other sport events, parade float building, secret Santa gift exchange, True Colors (getting to know different personalities), mentoring arrangements for freshmen with upperclassmen, secret buddies, big /little sister or brother programs, player of the week awards, and escorting recruits to lunch and on campus tours.
Other embarrassing activities athletes reported
Nudity (streaking, mooning, stripping, skinny dipping, stealing clothing, "elephant walks"); sexual storytelling or jokes; pornography; running in jockstraps, underwear, or diapers; embarrassing singing or dancing; wearing bad make-up in public; writing on or applying gross things to skin; being pushed in a pool, ocean, creek or dirty pond; dumping water in a dorm room; purchasing or carrying embarrassing items; scavenger hunts; going house to house asking for milk; putting a pig's head in a football helmet; urinating in lockers; being forced by administrators to squeeze into a box-sized locker; and "heading" eggs (hitting eggs with their heads), tossed by the coach to the freshmen.
Other dangerous activities athletes reported
Various forms of alcohol consumption (chug runs, drink-till-you-puke, shot-gunning); exposure to extreme cold; being buried naked in sand; being given wedgies; being thrown with full gear into a pool; being forced to take steroids and ephedrine; being forced to exercise until they passed out; being forced to inflict pain on oneself; and cruelty to animals.
Many athletes directly challenge attempts to stop hazing. Several student respondents made pleas for compromise; others deny it happens. Both reactions will be major barriers to hazing prevention among athletes. Some comments:
Don't prevent it. Hazing does and should happen as a part of team chemistry. It makes you stronger...builds mental toughness. It is a valuable and important part of both growing up as a person and as a team.... I don't think that any drastic measures need to be taken considering hazing. Most hazing is done out of fun and games. It is not done in order to hurt anyone, only to continue a tradition of respecting the upperclassmen and sharing an experience.... There is not too much hazing at my school and no one objects. I don't think it should be prevented.... What really should happen is that the definition should be loosened and people involved should take it.... Hazing is a common occurrence that brings a team closer together, which you can get in trouble for therefore it is kept quiet. People will haze regardless.... On our team it's doing stupid things like having to sing in front of people, nothing to hurt or endanger our new players. Let it be! ... Hazing will never stop. There is always a closed door. It is a horrible thing, but so many kids go through it that they don't know the difference until they are done, and the hazing is finished. Hazing is never going to be completely stopped, so alternatives just to major hazing should be used. For example, less harmful hazing like dressing funny. ... If no one is hurt to the point that they need medical attention, just leave it alone. All the kids get accepted when it's over and everyone is done with it. Ninety percent of the time it's a one-time deal and it's over. Leave it alone.
Several athletic directors and coaches directly denied the need to discuss hazing or its prevention. Their comments included:
This is a non-issue! ... We don't have a problem with hazing. We have never had an incident at this campus. ... Sorry, but this is one of the more ridiculous questionnaires I've ever been asked to complete.
It's not an issue, it doesn't happen here.... Over the past decade it's never come up at any meeting in student life committee. If it happened, it would be an isolated case.... If it is done, the department doesn't know about it or it's done off campus.... I've never been exposed to any incidents where hazing would have been harmful. I have only heard of football players hazing in my 18 years as a coach on this campus.... Raising it as an issue could create the problem. It's a fraternity and sorority problem, not a NCAA athletics problem, why are you wasting our time?
Some administrators expressed a concern about not singling out athletes from the rest of the student body. Other administrators and coaches took legalistic approaches, denied their role, or tried to shift the problem to someone else:
Senior Student Affairs Officer
Please note that the athletic department has no special policies and procedures for hazing. Should this happen, we would follow university policies and procedures. The university, through policies and student affairs regulations, enforces hazing prevention. Problems of and discipline for hazing is handled by upper administration, the same as for all students.
The Greeks are the only ones who haze. Remove houses that promote such behavior.
If a social fraternity or sorority hazing interferes with our practice and/or competitions, I will blackball the organization.
Everyone agrees that hazing is highly secretive. As one coach put it: "The rules as they are now are good rules. The problem is that we know hazing occurs but we have no proof. No one will come forward so it is not punished. You can't enforce a rule based on hearsay."
Respondents were asked the open-ended question, "What other alternative bonding and recognition activities or other hazing prevention strategies do you consider most effective?" The primary themes in their responses are:
- Send a clear message.
- Model standards in personal relationships.
- Provide opportunities to develop a sense of belonging.
Send a Clear Message
Most respondents say that sending a clear message, being specific about what is acceptable and what is not; outlining the consequences of violating the policy, and then truly enforcing the consequences, was primary. Send a strong message that hazing is not acceptable! No activity dangerous or demeaning to student athletes will be tolerated. The student affairs office needs a code of student conduct that clearly states what constitutes hazing and its consequences.
Athletic directors and coaches felt that the most effective method was a clear message, a strong department anti-hazing policy, and 100 percent support of the coaching staff to enforce it. Their comments included: If coaches don't send a clear message, the department policy will fail, so ensure that all staff understand the policy and only hire coaches that concur with it. Hazing and alcohol go hand in hand; make the campus dry or make a second alcohol offense grounds for suspension. Enlist the help of the athletes' council every year to monitor and discourage hazing. Have an anti-hazing contract all student athletes must sign with very clear, strict consequences. Discuss hazing annually at the NCAA Eligibility Meeting-every athlete must attend-and clearly outline all definitions, expectations, and consequences. Follow up in team meetings at pre-season, mid-season, and post-season to assess athletic and non-athletic short- and long-term goals that include no hazing. Have speakers with real-life experience talk to athletes. Require an education series for all athletes and have alcohol and hazing awareness programs integrated throughout the campus. Coaches added: strictly maintain the rule to conduct oneself as a gentleman both on and off the campus. Simply don't tolerate poor behavior and hold coaches accountable for not allowing any form of hazing to go on!
Many coaches and athletes added a concern about educating athletes on what hazing is and why it is wrong in a real-life way with details and descriptions, even requiring team members to give talks to high school athletes.
Good definitional work is not easy. Hazing means many different things to different people. One athletic director said: "Meet with your athletes, explain the good and bad about hazing." Did he mean explain the good and bad about initiation? Or did he really believe that humiliating or endangering a team member can be good sometimes and bad sometimes? A fuller understanding of respondents' perceptions requires qualitative study.
Make it safe for people-athletes and recruits-to report hazing, then take action. One athletic director commented: "I threaten the seniors with not playing in the first game if there is ANY hazing-so far, so good. "Athletic directors and coaches commonly mentioned athletic consequences: if the whole team is involved, forfeit the next game; if individuals are involved, remove them from the team, revoke their scholarships, suspend them from school, file a police report. One athletic director recommended stages: 1st offense is suspension for a game, 2nd offense off the team for a year, 3rd offense off team forever. Coaches said to hold the head coach responsible for any hazing activity. Some students were the toughest, making comments such as: "Report all fights, hazing, drinking and general misconduct to the student affairs office." and "If you want to stop hazing, file a police report for any misconduct."
Enforcing a clear message hides a raft of problems. Students want to make their own choices, although their experience in decision-making prior to college varies widely. Learning to make choices and suffering the consequences is a right that students want to enjoy if not demand.
Let people choose for themselves... Hazing is a choice. You don't have to get involved if it's dangerous.... Hazing occurs on our campus but it is not a problem; if people do not want to participate or participate and not drink there are no consequences.... We have group activities with alcohol and underage drinking but if one chooses not to drink, their choice is respected.... Every team has different traditions and as long as players are able to decline involvement there's nothing wrong with it.... Most coaches know about initiations, but they know it brings their teams closer together.... You know what you're getting into. If you don't want to deal with it you don't have to-get off the team.... People have a choice. The players can make their own decisions.
Athletes apparently apply their right to make choices to their right to test the limits in hazing, without realizing the unique conditions of hazing, which occurs in an environment of significant peer pressure at a vulnerable time for new members who have a great deal to lose by not complying. It is typically designed without adult guidance by youth, who know little about the dynamics driving them. The definition of hazing, in these circumstances, "expected of someone joining a group" and "regardless of the person's willingness to participate," is hard for both students and adults to understand and accept.
In spite of all the difficulties in addressing athletic hazing, some athletic directors and coaches believe there is no choice other than to meet hazing head-on. As one athletic director said: Hazing is a vicious cycle. Those who accept the extremes of poor behavior by others can't wait till their turn to get their pound of flesh. The harder it is to get into a group, the harder it is to get out. We have clear standards of conduct for student-athletes; "hazing" needs to be specifically identified.
Expect Responsibility, Integrity, and Civility. For athletes, coaches, and athletic directors, nowhere was the message more apparent than in the standards and relationships established in recruitment. Coaches recommended high school visits and not recruiting trouble or anyone with a troubled history. Students made comments such as: "Establish expectations of character and recruit within them." and "If the standard is set and expected, people tend to live up to those expectations."
All groups believe that solid personal relationships at every level - between players and coaches, coaches and athletic departments, athletic departments and student affairs, and administrators and the president - are all key to preventing hazing. "Good communication at each link helps catch behaviors in one arena that might signal trouble in another arena. Student affairs deals with student conduct individually, the athletic department needs to deal with team conduct; both need to work together." One coach added: " Alumni must buy into the no-hazing policy and stop the 'when I was in school...'as each class tries to top the previous. You stop it for four years and it will stop for good. Tradition is a strong motivator both positive and negative."
Still, the most important factor is the awareness, concern and role modeling of coaches and team captains, and the support they get from their department to create an environment with safety, leadership, trust, and respect. A coach stated: "The key to preventing hazing is coach leadership with clear, strong follow-up messages by the athletic administration and the college student affairs administration." An athlete commented: "Every coach knows what happens on the team. If a coach claims otherwise, he or she is denying the truth. The best way to eliminate or reduce hazing is to encourage the coach to crack down on those who do it."
Coaches and athletes add a concern for the relationships between upper- and underclassmen in which they actively share and explore a wide range of issues concerning life skills, substance abuse, and so forth. A coach found that more and more student athletes every year find a genuine interest in this type of program. One athlete suggested that the bigger the team, the less the athletes know each other, the more hazing occurs. "Maintain a good, active student athletic committee (with by-laws and regular meetings) that represents all teams and has open discussions on hazing. For many people, religion is a great preventative: 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.' The concept is simple, everyone deserves to be loved and respected."
Offer Team-building Initiation Rites. Acceptable initiation and team-building activities require a clear, common understanding on the part of coaches and administration about what exactly is positive, developmentally important, and acceptable. Student affairs officers promote a wide range of university-sponsored initiation and team-building activities. They are, however, the only ones to suggest openly that "some leeway for marginally inappropriate behavior should be granted." One student affairs officer thought that athletes need leeway to have "a race and fountain dive in winter wearing their underwear." Another student affairs officer thought that "carrying an object" is fine for initiation. The definitional problem arises again.
Athletic directors are consistent: "While enforcing athletic anti-hazing policies, colleges need to encourage alternative team-building and bonding activities with athletes to put our resources where our mouth is." The list of alternative activities is extensive. As a student affairs officer summarized it: "The key is to do all of these items every year with every team." The key is a lot of organization, consistency, preparation, and follow-through. One athletic director said: "We have attempted to build a strong athletic family atmosphere. A 'welcome back' September barbecue, a strong student-athlete advisory council, seminars, workshops, peer education, workshop series for leadership, alcohol, drug, gambling, stress management, etc." Coaches noted how important it is to work very hard at team-building activities, guide athletes toward appropriate and acceptable activities, and then remove people for inappropriate behavior. One coach reminded us of the team-building effect of good, hard, sports itself: "We work and practice hard to win games, with team goal- setting and problem-solving; that always brings teams together." Although most coaches made numerous suggestions for acceptable initiation activities, one coach remarked that: "Through practice, travel and competition, players develop a bond; other attempts are artificial and may create relationships contrary to the purpose of practice, training and competition." Students, however, felt it was very important to spend time together in a relaxed, non-competitive environment doing activities that don't include violence, just positive fun stuff, with coaches and students from freshmen to seniors. Athletes also suggested having team outings on the nights when the most "partying" would occur.
Each respondent group, except athletic directors, discusses the need for recognition and affirmation. They suggest: annual awards or rotating awards to teams and individuals for academic achievement, community service, character, or sportsmanship that appear in the university and local newspapers and are recognized by the president, deans, or even student body, parents, and alumni. An athletic director notes: "We recognize an all-academic team of varsity athletes who are academic high achievers." A coach comments: "We do a senior recognition night early in the season when underclassmen can roast and show their appreciation to each senior. It gives seniors status early and promotes their positive attitude toward the younger players." An athlete reports: "When we go on long road trips we tape a bag onto the backs of each person's seat with their names on it. Each teammate writes something they admire about their abilities or a positive contribution they have made to the team on a note card to place in each team member's bag. It's great for confidence."
- Participating and Supporting Institutions
- Executive Summary
- What are Initiation Rites and Hazing?
- How Many Athletes are Hazed?
- Who is Most at Risk? Where are Hot Spots?
- How Do We Stop Hazing?
- Hazing Study PDF Format