Survey of high school athletes: 2006
Are coaches teaching our young athletes the right way to play?
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According to a national survey of high school student-athletes by Josephson Institute, the values of young athletes are dramatically impacted by their sports experience.
The report, “What Are Your Children Learning? The Impact of High School Sports on the Values and Ethics of High School Athletes,” a biennial national survey conducted by Josephson Institute, contains both good and bad news for parents and school administrators.
“The good news is, the majority of high school athletes trust and admire their coaches and are learning positive life skills and good values from them,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Institute. “The bad news is, many coaches – particularly in the high-profile sports of boys’ basketball, baseball, and football – are teaching kids how to cheat and cut corners without regard for the rules or traditional notions of fair play and sportsmanship.”
Among the highlights:
- Major gender differences. There are dramatic differences in the attitudes and behaviors of male and female athletes. On virtually every question, girls expressed a deeper commitment to honesty and fair play than boys and were much less likely to endorse cheating or other questionable practices in the pursuit of victory.
- Hazing is widespread. Nearly one-third of the boys and 21 percent of the girls say that degrading hazing or initiation rituals are common at their school.
- Some sports are worse than others. Boys engaged in baseball, football, and basketball are considerably more likely to cheat on the field and in school and to deliberately injure, intimidate, or break rules than boys involved in other sports. Likewise, girls involved in basketball and softball are more likely to engage in illegal or unsportsmanlike conduct than girls involved in other sports.
- Athletes steal less. Twenty-seven percent of the male athletes admit stealing from a store in the past 12 months compared with 32 percent of the boys not involved in sports. Female athletes measured the same: twenty percent of them engaged in theft compared to twenty-three percent for all high school girls.
- Athletes cheat more. Nearly two-thirds of the boys and girls participating in sports say they cheated on an exam in the past year compared with 60 percent of the total high school population.
- Athletes respect coaches. The vast majority of high school athletes say their coaches “consistently set a good example of ethics and character” (90%) and that their current coach “wants them to do the ethically right thing, no matter what the cost” (91%).
- Coaches teach negative lessons. Despite athletes’ positive views of the character and intentions of their coaches, they’re often taught negative lessons about cheating and bad sportsmanship.
- Two-fifths of the boys and one-fourth of the girls see nothing wrong with using a stolen playbook sent by an anonymous supporter before a big game.
- Thirty percent of all boys and 20 percent of girl softball players think it’s okay for a softball pitcher to deliberately throw at a batter who homered the last time up.
- Fifty-four percent of male football players, 49 percent of male basketball players, and 18 percent of females in all sports approve of trash-talking.
- Thirty-four percent of all the boys and 12 percent of all the girls approve of a coach trying to pump up the team by swearing at officials to get himself or herself thrown out of a game.
The report is based on written surveys administered by randomly selected high schools throughout the country in 2006. It includes responses from 5,275 high school students. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.