Incorporating the Criminal Law in Sport Studies


The purpose of this article is to provide an outline for teaching the criminal law in a sport studies (or related) course. While the discussion of crimes in sport usually begins with illegitimate physical force or confrontation during the sports contest, criminal misconduct may also involve non-violent behavior. For example, the recent allegations of point-shaving at the University of Toledo demonstrate how non-violent (white-collar) crimes might occur in the legal environment of sport (Gilbert & Silka, 2009).

Crimes can be committed in all environments and at all levels: youth sport, recreational activities and leagues, amateur competition and in the professional ranks. Crimes can be committed by coaches, fans, parents, agents, referees, and others. The study of the criminal law and its relationship to sport is quite broad, so establishing a solid outline prior to teaching this section of any sport studies course is vital.


It is very important that the instructor—at the outset—compare and contrast the similarities between the criminal law and the civil (i.e., tort) law. In tort law, a private party plaintiff may sue a defendant for an assault or battery while the same defendant might be charged by the government (i.e., the state) for criminal assault or criminal battery. For each alleged criminal misconduct, the state must prove that an act occurred (actus reus) which violated a federal or state statute and that the defendant had the intent to commit such act (mens rea). The district attorney’s office makes the determination as when to prosecute for criminal misconduct based upon the evidence in the case and the willingness of the victim to press charges (New York Times, 2007).

The student should be encouraged to ask why prosecutors pursue charges in some sport incidents and not others. For example, why do Canadian jurisdictions prosecute misconduct during a hockey game substantially more than the American counterparts? A lot depends upon the locale’s expectations regarding what degree participants impliedly consent to certain conduct and to what extent the conduct be characterized as illegitimate (unacceptable) violence (Clarke, 2000; Katz, 2000; Harary, 2002; Yates & Gillespie, 2002; Barry, Fox & Jones, 2005).

Table 1
Categories of Crimes

Crimes Against Persons Crimes Against Property Crimes Against Public Health, Safety, and Welfare Crimes Against Government
Assault Counterfeiting of tickets and merchandise Conspiracy to commit a crime (solicitation) Human trafficking (assisting in illegal immigration)
Battery Embezzlement Cruelty to animals Illegal gambling (sports wagering)
Extortion (Blackmail) Theft Dangerous flying (parachuting) Mail and wire fraud
Fraud Trespassing Disorderly conduct Obstruction of justice
Hazing Vandalism Driving under the influence (DUI/DWI) Perjury
Manslaughter Point shaving (sports bribery) Racketeering (RICO) and organized crime
Mobbing Sports agent crimes Use, sale or possession of performance-enhancing drugs
Reckless Homicide Streaking/indecent exposure Tax evasion
Reckless Endangerment Ticket scalping
Voyeurism (Peeping Tom)

Assault and Battery

Beginning the study of the criminal law in sport with assault and battery before moving on to the other subjects is quite effective. The crimes of assault and battery involve the unwelcome and excessive physical contact between two or more persons. Definitions of assault and battery differ among the states and the student should be advised to research their own state statutes. However, the instructor should mention that the Model Penal Code was drafted to assist state legislatures in defining what constitutes criminal misconduct and to standardize and create more uniformity throughout the country with regard to the criminal law. It divides criminal assault into two categories: simple or aggravated (Osborne, 2006). A person is guilty of simple assault if he attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury. Similarly, a person is guilty of aggravated assault if there was the attempt to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely, knowingly, or recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or attempts to cause or purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon (Model Penal Code § 2.11.1; Osborne, 2006).

Implied Consent

In sports such as boxing, football, hockey, wrestling, and others, aggressive physical contact is an expected part of the contest. Some courts recognize this as the implied consent doctrine: that is, participants voluntarily assume certain risks of injury or violence during a sport activity. However, at what point does aggressive participation cross over into an excessively violent act in which a possible crime occurred? Is there a bright-line test in which participants, referees, coaches and spectators recognize that the type of violence which occurred is so far beyond the expected rules of the game that the participant could actually be charged with a crime such as assault or battery? The instructor carries the burden here of presenting such challenges for judges, and students must recognize that there is no clear-cut answer and each act of aggression or violence is different (Harary, 2002; State v. Guidugli, 2004).

In the Washington state case of State v. Shelley, a pickup basketball game turned into a brawl in which one player punched another in the face, breaking his jaw. In addition to the criminal charges, the court in the civil case utilized the Model Penal Code’s § 2.11 for guidance in determining whether or not such contact was reasonably foreseeable. The court affirmed the lower court decision and held that a participant in such an activity did not impliedly consent to throwing or receiving punches during a pickup basketball game.

The following sections discuss some of the more specific ways in which the discussion of the criminal law can enter the classroom. A few of the more important criminal laws are discussed as well as some of the significant cases in recent years in a variety of sports.

Sport Participants

Illegitimate violence in sport can occur in all activities. The concern over violence in sport has become so important that some have referred to it as an “epidemic” (Harary, 2002). Incidents abound involving players and entire teams before, during and after football games including the infamous bench-clearing brawl between University of Miami (Florida) players and Florida International University players in 2006. No arrests were made in the incident ( News Services, 2006). In baseball, bench-clearing brawls are common as is the act of a pitcher intentionally hitting a batter. However, is this type of violence legitimate? Should the police arrest the players for assault and battery? In 2007, former major-leaguer Jose Offerman was thrown out of the game, arrested by police and charged with two counts of second-degree assault after charging the pitcher’s mound and swinging his bat at the opposing team in an independent league minor league game after he was hit by a pitch. He pleaded not guilty and was given two years special probation (Associated Press, 2007).

Hockey players’ overly aggressive misconduct has resulted in numerous legal cases including several criminal convictions especially in Canadian courts. In the twin Canadian cases of Regina v. Maki and Regina v. Green, Wayne Maki of the St. Louis Blues and Ted Green of the Boston Bruins were charged with assault after each attempted to swing their sticks among the shoving in an exhibition game in Ottawa. Maki connected with Green’s head, which resulted in a fracture of Green’s skull. The courts held that the amounts of force were not excessive, that players assumed certain risks in the game and that self-defense justified the actions. The assault charges were dismissed against both Green and Maki in the separate cases, though the Green court noted that sports leagues should not have players immune from criminal prosecution.

In Regina v. Ciccarelli, Minnesota North Stars’ Dino Ciccarelli hit Luke Richardson (Toronto Maple Leafs) with his stick during a game in Toronto in 1988. Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail for the assault and received a $1,000 fine. The court wanted to send a message to fans and participants that certain types of violence in hockey cross the line (Clarke, 2000; Harary, 2002).


There are countless examples of spectators storming the field or court during a contest, not just among the post-game celebrations or skirmishes. Such actions have led to criminal prosecutions. In 2002, a father and son stormed the field and attacked Kansas City Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa during a game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. The son pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and mob action and was sentenced to five years probation and community service. The father originally pleaded innocent, but he later changed his plea to guilty and was given 30 months probation, community service and to remain in a substance abuse program (Falkoff, 2003). In 2003, Pittsburgh Pirates member Randall Simon was cited for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and was fined $432 after he—while standing on the edge of the dugout—knocked a stadium worker involved in the spectator-friendly “sausage race,” which features fans dressed in over-sized caricatures involving a bratwurst, hot dog Italian sausage and Polish sausage between the sixth and seventh innings running around the bases for entertainment. Simon was handcuffed and taken to the Milwaukee County Jail after the game. The incident has become known as “Sausage-gate” (Associated Press, 2003; Luna, 2007).

Parents and Youth Sport

Incidents across the country, including shootings of high school coaches, have given national attention to parents involved in criminal youth sport misconduct (Associated Press, 2006a). New Jersey passed a law in 2002 increasing the punishment for assaults committed during youth sporting events, especially by intense, overzealous and in some cases “raging” parents. Now, the possible punishment is up to 18 months in prison and more than $10,000 in fines. The state law changed in response to a criminal case in which a parent was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter (an unintentional killing as a result of a battery) during a fight after a youth hockey practice. A Massachusetts jury convicted Thomas Junta rejecting claims that he acted in self-defense when he beat another father to death at a youth scrimmage during 2000. He was sentenced 6 to 10 years in prison (Harary, 2002; Commonwealth v. Junta, 2004).

Gambling (Sports Wagering)

Sports gambling (sometimes referred to as sports wagering) and point-shaving (intentionally fixing a game) do not involve any physical force per se. Federal and state governments have attempted to legislate anti-gambling prohibitions as sports gambling under the government’s general ability to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens under its constitutionally authorized “police power.” Protecting the integrity of a sports contest is obviously vital for fans and to be fair to competing gamblers where sport gambling is legal (Weinberg, 2003; Osborne, 2006). Though federal laws, such as the Wire Communications Act of 1961, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO) (organized crime), and the Bribery in Sporting Contests Act of 1979, emerged in the last several decades and have been applied in sport law prosecutions, there are newer attempts to regulate sports gambling many of which have been met with success (McCarthy a, b, 2007). The advent of the internet has greatly shaped the landscape with regard to sports wagering in professional sport (Liddell, 2004).

Sports Bribery (Game Fixing/Point-Shaving)

Sports bribery has been brought to light in recent years in sport and recreation law. In 2007, NBA referee Tim Donaghy pleaded guilty to a gambling scandal involving wire fraud and transmitting gambling tips, and he was sentenced in 2008 to 15 months in prison (Timanus, 2007; Pugmire, 2008). In 2009, several University of Toledo athletes were indicted by federal authorities for alleged involvement in point-shaving schemes in conjunction with Detroit men (Gilbert & Silka, 2009). Too, there have been numerous gambling incidents related to amateur sport, particularly with regard to the NCAA (Udovicic, 1998; Jones & Handel, 2002).

The influential NCAA has a keen interest in protecting the integrity of its sports product and frowns upon any sort of sport-related gambling whatsoever (NCAA, 2004; Crowley, 2006; McCarthy a, b 2007). Therefore, the NCAA has enacted a rules manual (called Bylaws) which the Indianapolis-based organization enforces vigorously at all three divisions of competition (Copeland, 2004; Rogers and Ryan, 2007). Many of its Bylaws relate to sports wagering. Other NCAA incidents included the University of Kentucky basketball team, which played no schedule for the 1952-53 season due to a point-shaving scandal that rocked the nation in 1951. Historically, collegiate sports gambling incidents abound and have included and affected schools such as Boston College (1978, 1996), Northwestern University (1994), and numerous others including several colleges and universities in Florida (McCallum & Hersch, 1997; Drape, 2003; Goldstein a,b,c,d, 2003; Grady & Clement, 2005; Maske, 2005; Merron, 2006; Gillispie, 2007; NCAA, n.d.).

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

A federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, was enacted to stop the spread of state-authorized gambling and to protect the integrity of sporting events generally. Nevada, the only state at that time that had legalized sports gambling, was granted immunity from this federal law (also known as the Nevada or “Las Vegas loophole”) which makes it unlawful for a governmental entity, or a person acting pursuant to the law of such an entity, to operate, sponsor, advertise, promote, license, or authorize a lottery, sweepstakes, or other betting, gambling, or wagering scheme based, directly or indirectly, on one or more competitive game in which amateur, Olympic or professional athletes participate. The states of Delaware, Montana and Oregon are also exempt from the Act which exempts pari-mutuel betting and jai alai games as well (Barlett & Steele, 2000; Slavin, 2002; Rychlak, 2003/2004).

Ticket Scalping

Reselling an event ticket is usually referred to as ticket scalping, a classic example of a sport-related crime. This practice of resale is regulated at the state level. Ticket scalpers attempt to find buyers of their tickets around the venue for the event. Today, scalping is often done through various secondary ticket marketing brokers online in addition to in-person. State laws and city ordinances which regulate ticket scalping focus on where a sale of a ticket may (or may not) take place and to what degree the scalper may (or may not) sell a ticket above its face value. Scalping laws were also enacted to prevent spectators from being harassed as they entered the sports arena and for safety reasons related to the flow of fans into the arena.

While there are no federal laws directly governing ticket scalping, several states and a number of municipalities have given up on the attempts to enforce scalping laws altogether. Many states have recently repealed their ticket-scalping laws. This appears to be a trend especially with the ease and access of reselling over the internet by companies such as, for example. The ticket-resale business has been dramatically changed by the on-line world of cyber-scalping. To enforce anti-scalping laws from sales on the internet may be impracticable but it appears that the selling of counterfeit tickets may be more of a governmental concern than the resale of tickets (Criscuolo, 1995; Gibbs, 2000; Osborne and Pittman, 2006).

Wire and Mail Fraud

The Wire Communications Act of 1961 is at 18 U.S.C. §1084. The purpose of the act is to criminalize gambling behavior which uses a wire communication (such as a telephone) to transmit to place illegal bets across state lines (i.e., via “interstate commerce”). The federal mail fraud statute (18 U.S.C. §1341) defines fraud as a “scheme” or artifice which uses the “mails” to execute the scheme. This statute is often used by United States Attorneys in the prosecution of white-collar crimes. Similarly, wire fraud (18 U.S.C. §1343) provides for a penalty for any criminally fraudulent activity involving electronic communications. These crimes have appeared in scenarios involving sports agents who recruit student-athletes to become their professional clients.

In United States v. Walters, Walters, a sports agent, was charged with conspiracy, RICO violations, and mail fraud. The mail fraud charge arose from his actions in which student-athletes violated NCAA rules by signing post-dated contracts with him and his associate Bloom. The federal government argued that the mail fraud statutes were violated because each university required its athletes to verify their eligibility to play by mail sent to the appropriate athletic conference. Walters was initially convicted by a jury, but that conviction was reversed on appeal. Conspiracy and racketeering (RICO) charges were ultimately dismissed (Goodman, 1998).


Incorporating the criminal law in the sport studies course can be a challenge. Establishing a solid outline for this section of a course is vital to the instructor’s success. Recent suspensions involving the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs, allegations of point-shaving schemes, and the continuing illegitimate violent physical misconduct by parents, players and spectators should provide the instructor and student alike considerable discussion with regard to the role of the criminal law in sport studies. The above outline and subject matter should provide a solid foundation for a successful section of criminal law in any sport studies course.


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2013-11-25T19:43:07-06:00July 10th, 2009|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Incorporating the Criminal Law in Sport Studies

Competitive State Anxiety among Junior Handball Players


The aim of the present study was to evaluate the levels of intensity and direction of the competitive state anxiety in junior handball players prior to a competition and to investigate any possible differences between male and female players, as well as in relation to their athletic experience. The sample of the study consisted of 115 handball players, members of eight handball teams (four male and four female), which participated in the Greek Junior Handball Championships finals held in Athens in 2008. For the data collection, the model used was the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-II (CSAI-II, Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump & Smith, 1983; Martens et al., 1990; Jones & Swain, 1992), which was modified for the Greek population by Stavrou, Zervas, Kakkos & Phychoudaki (1998). All players filled in the questionnaire 30 minutes before the competition. The results showed that male junior handball players reported lower scores of cognitive anxiety, which was facilitative to performance. On the other hand, females displayed a higher score in cognitive anxiety, which was rather debilitative to performance. Furthermore, junior male handball players displayed higher self-confidence, with positive effects on their performance, while female handball players stated lower self-confidence, which was neither facilitative nor debilitative to performance. In relation to years of experience, the results revealed that players with four to six years of experience showed higher self-confidence with facilitating direction, while players with less years of experience displayed lower self-confidence, with neither facilitative nor debilitative effects on their performance. In conclusion, the psychological preparation of junior handball players must be taken into serious consideration, during the coaching procedure. Nonetheless, further investigation is needed for the generalisation of the results in Greek handball.


It is generally recognized that psychological factors are of crucial importance in high-level competitive sports. The relation between anxiety and performance has been the subject of many thorough researches (Craft, Magyar, Becker & Feltz, 2003; Parfitt & Pates, 1999; Martens, Vealey & Burton, 1990). Cognitive anxiety is characterised by negative concerns and worries about performance, inability to concentrate, and disrupted attention (Krane, 1994). Somatic anxiety consists of an individual’s perceptions, which are characterised by indications such as sweaty palms, butterflies, and shakiness (Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump & Smith, 1990). Research has also been done on the gender differences concerning state anxiety levels. Self-confidence tends to decrease in females on the day a competitive event is to occur. Male young athletes typically display lower levels of anxiety and higher self-confidence than female athletes (Scanlan & Passer, 1979; Wark &Witting, 1979). Krane and Williams (1994) found no gender differences for cognitive anxiety. They also demonstrated that the more experienced college player would show lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety than the less experienced player. As far as handball is concerned, Roguli, Nazor, Srhoj and Bozin (2006) supported that it is a sport, which includes complex and accurate motor skills, and they suggested that psychological factors play an even more decisive role in a competition, differentiating between successful and less successful teams. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the levels of intensity and direction of the competitive state anxiety in junior handball players prior to a competition and to investigate any possible differences between male and female players, as well as in relation to their athletic experience.



The sample of the study consisted of 115 handball players, members of eight handball teams (four male and four female), which participated in the Greek Junior Handball Championships finals held in Athens in 2008. The age of the participants was between 14 and 16 years (M. = 14.85, S.D. = 1.14). The participants voluntarily and anonymously took part in the research, with the consent of their coaches and clubs’ managements, as well as with the parents’ informed consent for the players younger than 14 years of age. For functional needs, 61 of the players were males and 54 females. For the needs of the research, the sample was divided according to athletic experience: (a) up to 3 years (n = 55) and (b) 4 to 6 years (n = 60).

Data collection

For the data collection, the model used was the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-II (CSAI-II, Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump and Smith, 1983; Martens et al., 1990; Jones & Swain, 1992), which was modified for the Greek population by Stavrou, Zervas, Kakkos & Phychoudaki (1998). The specific instrument measures cognitive, somatic anxiety and self-confidence, as well as the direction of this state anxiety. The scale consists of 15 items (three 5-item subscales arranged on a 4-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (none) to 4 (very much) for intensity. Also, it includes a 7-point Likert-type bipolar scale ranging from –3 (hinders performance) to +3 (facilitates performance), which was used to evaluate intensity symptoms as either debilitative or facilitative. All players filled in the questionnaire just prior to the warm-up phase, approximately 30 minutes before the competition.


For the statistical analysis of the data, from the SPSS 11.0 statistical package, the methods used were the Factorial analysis, the Reliability analysis and the one-way ANOVA analysis, which was also used in order to determine whether any of the factors were related to gender (male-female) and athletic experience a) up to 3 years (n= 55), b) 4 to six years (n=60). The level of statistical significance was set at p< .05.


The factor analysis indicated three factors, which interpreted 57.19% of the total fluctuation on the intensity scale and three factors interpreting 61.87% of the direction of this intensity. The Cronbach’s alpha internal cohesion indicator of the questionnaire was satisfactory. The values that came out were .79 for the cognitive anxiety, .81 for the somatic anxiety and .80 for the self-confidence. For the direction of anxiety, the values were .84, .86, and .91 correspondingly (see Table 1). The one-way ANOVA analysis showed statistically important differences concerning cognitive anxiety and self-confidence and its direction, between the male and female players (F1, 114 = 9.78; p < .01, F1, 114 = 30.28; p < .001, F1, 114 = 42.05; p < .001, F1, 114 = 37.07; p < .001). Male players presented lower scores on cognitive anxiety. They also had higher scores on self-confidence and its direction, which facilitated their performance. What is more, there were statistically important differences concerning self-confidence and its direction (F1, 114 =19.09; p<.001, F1, 114 =26.21; p<.001), between players of different years of experience. Players with four to six years of experience reported higher scores on self-confidence and its direction, which facilitated their performance (See Table 1).

Table 1
Descriptive statistics and important differences among the factors of the questionnaire

Handball Players Athletic Experience
Cronbach’s Alfa male female Up 3 years 4 to six years
Intensity M. (S.D.) M. (S.D.) M. (S.D.) M. (S.D.)
Cognitive .79 2.10 (.48)** 2.78 (.57) 2.63 (.68) 2.19 (.55)
Somatic .81 1.95 (.53) 2.05 (.74) 2.08 (.71) 1.98 (.57)
Self-confidence .80 3.25 (.52)*** 2.63 (.67) 2.69 (.65) 3.20 (.55)***
Direction of intensity
Cognitive .84 4.26 (.66)*** 3.20 (.71) 3.62 (.92) 3.98 (.84)
Somatic .86 4.12 (.69) 4.06 (.86) 3.98 (.85) 4.16 (.75)
Self-confidence .91 5.72 (.72)*** 4.21 (.93) 4.69 (.62) 5.78 (.57)***

Note 1: Μ = Mean Prices, S.D. = Standard Deviations of factors in relation to the gender and athletic experience
Note 2: Significant *** p < .001, ** p < .01, * p < .05.


The results of the research showed that male junior handball players reported lower scores of cognitive anxiety, which was facilitative to performance. On the other hand, females displayed a higher score in cognitive anxiety, which was rather debilitative to performance. Furthermore, junior male handball players displayed higher self-confidence, with positive effects on their performance, while females stated lower self-confidence, which was neither facilitative nor debilitative to performance. In relation to years of experience, the results revealed that players with 4 to 6 years of experience showed higher self-confidence with facilitating direction, while players with less years of experience displayed lower self-confidence, with neither facilitative nor debilitative effects on their performance. These results are consistent with the findings of similar studies (Scanlan et al., 1979; Wark et al., 1979) which indicates that male athletes typically display lower levels of anxiety and higher self-confidence than female athletes. The above findings seem to support the existing theories on intensity (Mellalieu, Neil & Hanton, 2006; Parfitt & Pates, 1999; Stavrou, Psychoudaki, Zervaς, 2006; Woodman & Hardy, 2003; Wilson, & Raglin, 1997) which demonstrates that the more experienced player will show lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety than the less experienced player.

In conclusion, the psychological preparation of junior handball players must be taken into serious consideration during the coaching procedure. Professional help and programming of the psychological preparation of the athletes and observation of their emotional condition before and during a game is necessary to reduce competitive anxiety and contribute to the high effectiveness of handball players. Nonetheless, further investigation is needed for the generalization of the results in Greek handball.


Craft, L.L., Magyar, T.M., Becker, B.J., & Feltz, D. L. (2003). The relation between the competitive state anxiety inventory-ΙΙ and sport performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 25, 44-65.

Jones, G., & Swain, A. (1992). Intensity and direction of competitive state anxiety and relationships with competitiveness. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 74, 464-472.

Krane, V., & Williams, J.M. (1994). Cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety and confidence in track and field athletes: the impact of gender, competitive level and characteristics. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 25, 203-217.

Martens, R., Vealey, R.S. & Burton, D. (1990). Competitive anxiety in sport (pp.117-173). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Martens, R., Burton, D., Vealey, R. S., Bump, L. A., & Smith, D. E. (1990).

Development and validation of the competitive state anxiety inventory-2 (CSAI-2). In R. Martens, R. S. Vealey, & D. Burton (Eds.), Competitive anxiety in sport (pp. 117-173). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Mellalieu, S.D., Neil, R., & Hanton, S. (2006). Self-confidence as a medicator of the relationship between competitive anxiety intensity and interpretation. Res Q Exercise Sport, 77(2), 263-270.

Parfitt, G., Hardy, L., & Pates, J. (1995). Somatic anxiety and physiological arousal: Their effects upon a high anaerobic, low memory demand task. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 26, 196-213.

Parfitt, G., & Pates, J. (1999). The effects of cognitive and somatic anxiety and self-confidence on components of performance during competition. Journal Sports Science, 17(5), 351-356.

Rogulj, N., Nazor M., Srhoj, V., & Bozin, D. (2006). Differences between competitively efficient and less efficient junior handball players according to their personality traits. Kinesiology Journal, 2, 158-163.

Scanlan, T.K., & Passer, M.W. (1979). Sources of competitive stress in young female athletes. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1, 248-250.

Stavrou, N.A., Psychountaki, M., Zervas, Y. (2004). Intensity and direction dimensions of competitive state anxiety: a time-to-event approach. Perceptual Motor Skills, 98(2), 439-449.

Stavrou, N.A., Zervas, Y., Kakkos & Phychoudaki, M. (1998). Intensity and direction of competitive state anxiety. Proceedings of the 2nd International /5th Panhellenic Congress of Athletic Psychology (pp. 139-141), Trikala.

Stavrou, N.A., Psychoudaki, M., Zevraς, Y. (2006). Intensity and direction dimensions of competitive state anxiety: a time-to-event approach. Laboratory of Motor Behavior and Sport Phycology, Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, University of Athens, 103(1), 91-98.

Wark, K.A., & Witting, A.F. (1979). Sex role and sport competition anxiety. Journal of Sport Psychology, 1, 248-250.

Woodman, T., & Hardy L. (2003). The relative impact of cognitive anxiety and self-confidence upon sport performance: A meta-analysis. Journal Sports Sciences, 21(6), 443-457.

Wilson, G.S., & Raglin, J.S. (1997). Optimal and predicted anxiety in 9-12 year old track and field athletes. Scadinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 2, 148-152.

2015-10-02T23:24:35-05:00July 10th, 2009|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Exercise Science, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology, Women and Sports|Comments Off on Competitive State Anxiety among Junior Handball Players

Labor and Immigration Issues in Sports


Every year, international athletes come to play professional sports in the United States. Are they stealing jobs from Americans, or should they be welcomed for their talents? Should they be entitled to special treatment with regard to immigration and labor laws, or should they have to go through the same procedures as any immigrant applying for United States citizenship? The purpose of this article is to determine the historical and cultural framework with regard to the use of sports as a vehicle to achieve immigrant assimilation in the United States. This article also addresses the topic of athletes coming into the United States to “steal” jobs from Americans. Second, this article discusses the legal issues as well as the overlapping labor issues concerning immigration and worker migration. Third, the article is also important in the post-9/11 period because of immigration and security issues.


American citizens are wary when newly arrived immigrants set forth on American soil with the hopes of getting a job and living the “American Dream.” The American Dream, to most people, consists of living in freedom, gainful employment with a high salary, a home, a car and a family. There are many views on recently arrived immigrants and the uneducated person usually argues that these immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens. Citizens get upset because when these immigrants arrive, they have to find jobs in order to survive. Most immigrants take on menial jobs that American citizens do not want, like a bus boy, or a food delivery person. However, most citizens turn the other cheek when the immigrant is a sports star.

Aside from the talent of the sports star, there are various aspects one must consider when trying to attract a non-American citizen to join an American-based sports league or team. Some of those issues include: labor issues, legal ramifications, governmental action, cultural assimilation issues, political wrangling, and unforeseen circumstances that might arise. Labor issues address the feelings of resentment mentioned above where American citizens feel that jobs are being taken away from fellow Americans by immigrants who are willing to work for a lot less. “Workers who had previously protected their wages by agreement not to work for less than their fellow worker were faced with competition from immigrants willing to work for much less” (Carrell and Heavrin, 2004, p.4-5).

There are various legal issues to address. However, it is hard to say with certainty if all of the laws that have been enacted are any serious help to the highly paid athlete. For example, does one think that an athlete is worried about the Fair Labor Standards Act, which governs minimum wage standards, the number of hours in a work week, and overtime pay? This is very doubtful. However, there are legal issues that these foreign born athletes must address and conform. Some of those legal ramifications include immigration status, the payment of taxes and the construction of an enforceable contract. In some cases, child labor laws come into play because the superstar athlete is younger than 18.

The government is a huge factor in labor and immigration issues as well. It is up to the U.S. government to protect its citizens while promoting historical and constitutional ideals. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads, “Send us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.” Immigrants built the United States, and its society. However, the realities of a post 9/11 America must come into play. Security is a huge concern, along with immigration laws. Finally, it would also not be the United States unless economic factors were taken into consideration as well. So, antitrust and political ideologies must be addressed too.

Even after the athlete has arrived, and the political wrangling begins between the country he left and the United States, issues like assimilation come into play. Assimilation, in the context of culture and labor laws, must occur, to some degree, in order for the athlete to be successful in his endeavors. This is where the resentment from Native Americans begins. Xenophobia occurs because the traditional worker arrives with his own cultural values and the American citizens want him to embrace their own cultural values. Assimilation in this context tends to follow historical perspectives. Early immigrants assimilated and molded the concept of what it is to be American. History shows that such is the case.

Regardless, there are many variables one must take into consideration before determining whether or not athletic immigrants deserve to be treated differently. Should their pure talent be the determining factor for being allowed to pursue the American Dream through sports, or should they too be forced to go through the same procedures as any ordinary immigrant? Hopefully, this paper will provide some of the answers.

This paper looks at a variety of labor issues concerning immigrants who come to the United States for sports related activity. It discusses the legal, cultural, political and other extreme circumstances behind this phenomenon. The paper addresses specific instances as well as studies conducted on the practice of allowing immigrants to play a sport in a different country. Finally, the paper concludes with some thoughts and suggestions into the matter and some suggestions for seeking common ground.

Review of Literature


There are many legal issues the immigrant worker has to familiarize himself with if he is to be successfully employed in the United States. However, some worker concerns like job security, holidays, vacation pay, promotions and age discrimination are not typically things fought for by foreign-born athletes. This is due to the fact that the average career length in professional sports is approximately 3-5 years depending on the sport. In addition, professional sports athletes might be required to play on holidays, such as Thanksgiving Day football. Professional athletes tend to worry about other worker concerns such as drug testing, health plans, profit sharing, grievances and arbitration. Probably the best way to start the review of literature section of this paper is with the Immigration Act of 1990 and the surrounding legal and governmental issues with regard to athletes.

The Immigration Act of 1990 was a major overhaul of the United States immigration policies and laws. As previously mentioned, it is up to the government to protect its citizens and its borders. One of the main thrusts of the Immigration Act of 1990 was that it placed workers coming into the United States into various categories. Of those categories there are two that must be specifically mentioned with regard to this paper; those are the O and P categories.

Specifically, the O category is for “workers with extraordinary abilities”. The P category is for “athletes and entertainers” (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services a.). These athletes must conform to an additional set of requirements in order to be eligible for these category designations. For both the O and P categories, aside from the extraordinary abilities the athlete possesses, he must be a temporary worker only visiting for the sole purposes of performing. In addition, he must be uniquely qualified for the position, and he must have a foreign home that he does not intend on abandoning (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services b.). Basically, what the government wants to know is that he will return to his country once he has finished performing.

One can argue that athletes can fit into either category O or P. They are uniquely qualified workers in the sense that they possess a talent that is better than any American citizen. This is proven by the immigrant’s ability to make the team over all other persons trying out for a position. The O category designation is a little bit more geared to specialized workers in the arts and sciences. However, the United States government created the P category to specifically refer to athletes. So, when it comes to the legal issues surrounding whether or not athletes are legally allowed to come to the United States and play in professional sports leagues, the government has developed immigration laws to allow this to occur. However, the laws do not provide that these gifted persons should be favored over ordinary immigrants seeking entry into the United States.

There are other legal/labor issues involving the immigration status of an athlete into the United States for the specific purpose of engaging in professional sports. Some of those issues, aside from the immigration status, include: contracts and taxation (O’Connor, 2000). O’Connor outlined the specifics of the Immigration Act of 1990 as it pertains to athletes coming into the United States to play professional sports. His report is specifically designed to train lawyers who might represent these athletes.

Contract issues can take on various forms. Most times, these athletes are unfamiliar with contracts in general. O’Connor (2000) points out that a lawyer or representative of the athlete should engage the athlete into two different contracts, one contract to be his legal representative and another contract with the team the athlete will play for. O’Connor suggests that in some cases these individuals need to be taught the nuances of a contract because they have no prior knowledge of how contracts work, but more importantly one does not want the athlete just to walk away from a contract. This idea of understanding and honoring contracts can go on even further because all major professional sports leagues are governed by collective bargaining agreements. So, it is up to the athletes’ representative to explain what collective bargaining agreements are all about as well.

Collective bargaining agreements and sports go hand in hand. The negotiations that occur between labor and management is the gist of what their relationship is all about. The Wagner Act made unions a force to be reckoned with. Two of the many things the Wagner Act achieved are the fact that management had to recognize the employee’s right to form a union, and management had to bargain in good faith. These two rights are the cornerstones for successful collective bargaining agreements in industry as well as in the world of sports.

Another area the athlete needs to be instructed on is taxes. Every good American knows that his taxes are due by April 15th of any given year to pay his fair share of the taxes due from the preceding year of work. O’Connor relates how taxation issues become more complex for the athlete because he is unfamiliar with paying taxes in general, or he is unfamiliar with the American tax system. To make it even more complex, there are state taxation issues for athletes who play in any given state. It is up to the athlete to pay these individual state taxes, so it is in his best interests to find a representative that is knowledgeable in this area.

Another legal aspect of recruiting immigrants to play professional sports in the United States involves child labor laws (Donnelly, 1997). In his report, Donnelly outlines child labor and sports labor issues. The United Sates classifies anyone under the age of 18 as a child, so there are a variety of laws that protect them. Oftentimes athletes recruited to play in the United States are under the age of 18. This phenomenon occurs in some of the big four professional sports of baseball, basketball and hockey, but not so much in football.

Additional legal and child labor factors are raised when the child-athlete needs to sign a professional contract. Anyone in the United States under the age of 18 is not permitted to enter into a legal contract. Legal guardians or caretakers can often take advantage of the child-athlete and walk off with the money earned by the athlete simply because the caretaker is the legal guardian of the child and an administrator of the funds produced from the labor of the child. Other child labor factors include the number of hours a child is allowed to work in a week. Sometimes training and practice hours, in addition to time spent in playing the game, are over the limit for the child-athlete. For the most part, sport leagues get away with exploiting the child as long as they play within the terms of their respective collective bargaining agreements.

Some other governmental restraints on sports and immigration concern the recruitment of college coaches. When recruiting a college coach, all NCAA Division I schools seek the best coaches in the world for their teams. Equal opportunity programs and Title IX laws call for colleges to get the best coaches available for their teams. However, sometimes these laws interfere with immigration laws. A 1984 article by Abbott and Smith revealed that Title IX and equal opportunity laws were making women’s programs more equal to men’s programs, but immigration laws prevented the very best from coming to the United States (Abbott and Smith, 1984).


There are many cultural aspects of an immigrant coming to the United States to participate in professional sports or sports in general. An article by Gems (2001) discusses these phenomena from a historical perspective. Gems wrote about how early unions desired to increase leisure time as a fringe benefit. The pressure the unions brought on companies like Spaulding and Pullman led to their sponsoring of sports related employee teams. This may be a reason that during the times when workers were having vicious strikes the Pullman strike was on the calm side. “The Pullman strike was peaceful and well organized…” (Carrell & Heavrin, p.10). Regardless, the sponsoring of the employee teams and the use of sports to acculturate newly arrived immigrants all happened because companies wanted to “Americanize” immigrant workers through sport (Gems, 2001).

The theme of using sport to assimilate recently arrived immigrants continued with a study by Stodolska and Alexandris. Stodolska and Alexandris also discussed the role of sport to “Americanize” recently arrived immigrants to the United States. Their findings showed that after the introduction of sports, the immigrants fell into one of three categories. Those categories are: (1) groups that embraced and assimilated to white culture, (2) groups that assimilated to a subculture of their own ethnic community, and (3) groups that preserved their own ethnic values and promoted their ethnic group solidarity (Stodolska & Alexandris, 2004).

Other studies argue that some professional sports followed the immigration patterns of the United States. This is similar to what Carrell and Heavrin noted with the history of craftspeople in the United States. “The original craftspeople came from free laborers, those immigrants who paid their way to the New World and established homes and families and passed on their trade to their children” (Carrell & Heavrin, p.3). An article by Gilbert (1999) traces the glut of Irish born baseball players in the Major League in the 1890s. Gilbert argues that there were many Irishmen in the league at that time because the earlier patterns of immigration into the United States allowed the new generation of Irish-Americans to become assimilated and partake in professional sports (Gilbert, 1999). Early labor unions were comprised of cheap, immigrant workers, and as they assimilated into the United States, they took on jobs in better industries while climbing the social ladder.

The Irish were not the only immigrants who assimilated into sports. After the Irish, the major immigrant group came from Italy. Italians moved up the social ladder after the Irish did. An article by Mormino (1982) discusses how Italians assimilated into sports in the St. Louis area in the decades of the 1920s and 1930s. The assimilation factor parallels what these immigrant groups were trying to achieve on the union front and the gains they hoped to make in labor-management relations.


There are a variety of political issues that surround immigrants coming to the United States to play professional sports. Some athletes see their talent as a way out of their country. For example, how many athletes try to get out of Cuba each year? Success stories like that of Orlando “El Duke” Hernandez of the New York Mets show that Cuban immigrants will go out of their way to play professional sports in the United States. Meanwhile, little-known, hopeful defectors, like Elian Gonzalez, must be returned to the country of their birth. The political ramifications do not end there.

Some researchers believe that sport is a “social technology,” that organizes the world to solve its political and social problems (Dyerson, 1998). Dyerson also believes that the struggle of sports athletes mirrors how the United States grew as a country. Dyerson (1998) argues that there are many civil rights issues that parallel the rise of sports in the United States. Most detractors of Dyerson argue that sports are now part of big business and to argue that it can solve the political and social ills of the world is absurd (Mason, 2000).

Another study with regard to political ideologies and sport comes from Hemphill. Hemphill (1992) discussed the “Freedom in Sport.” Specifically, Hemphill talks about sport as an “extension of play,” and how play is embraced in the United States, but not necessarily around the world. In addition, Hemphill argues that sport is an “extension of alienated capitalist labor” (1992). It is within these two points that political ideologies in sport can be analyzed for countries throughout the world. It is also within these two points where the political wrangling between countries occurs. It is hard in some instances for a country to see a beloved hero leave for the United States to become rich and famous. On the other hand, some countries embrace the idea that their athletes have made it to the pinnacle of professional sports.

Other Circumstances

What this paper has discussed so far are the legal, cultural and political situations where foreign-born athletes come to the United States to play sports, specifically professional sports. However, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that bring athletes into the U.S. immigration and sports spotlight. Sometimes these other circumstances might be able to fit in one of those other categories, but most often they are special cases. Let us start with the Olympics.

Sometimes foreign-born athletes wish to come to the United States to become citizens and represent the U.S. in the Olympics. Jarvis discussed the requirement for an athlete to do just that (2000). First, the athlete must have at least five years of residency in the United States. Second, that requirement can be shortened to three years if the athlete marries an American citizen (Jarvis, 2000). Even though these athletes are not paid, they do have non-monetary aspirations, such as American citizenship. In these cases, they are not taking away jobs of Americans, but spots on the Olympic squad that American-born athletes would have occupied. However, these instances are rarely met with resistance from Americans because the foreign-born athlete must possess some talent in order to make the Olympic team.

Another non-monetary aspect of immigrants coming to the United States to participate in sports is at the collegiate level. Every year, colleges seek to recruit the best available players to participate on their teams. However, this is becoming a little bit harder in the post-9/11 world. Gardner and O’Toole (2002) outlined the myriad of problems with recruiting international students to play collegiate sports. Some of those problems include being stopped at security checkpoints to ascertain passport and visa validity. In addition, laws have been made that tighten the once loose visa market for international athletes looking to play college sports.

Since the subject of 9/11 was mentioned, what happens when security, labor, sports and immigration issues come together? The result is the plight of Kwame James. The average reader is not going to be too familiar with Mr. James, but he might just be the greatest foreign-born, American hero. Mr. James was one of the people who stopped the notorious, “shoe-bomber,” Richard Reid. Reid was intent on blowing up an American Airlines plane that was filled with people. Mr. James, and some others, subdued Reid and prevented an attack. James is a Canadian born athlete with hopes of becoming an American citizen. Just for his bravery in this instance, he should be awarded U.S. citizenship, but what makes Mr. James’s story even more intriguing is that he is a minor league basketball player with NBA aspirations. Mr. James’ problems were outlined in an article by O’Connor (2003). O’Connor recants the story and the plight of Mr. James and introduces another legal fact of sports and immigration—there are no work permits for athletes in training (2003).

The problems with not allowing work permits for athletes in training prove that it is difficult for the college athlete, who is considered in training and non-professional, to come to the United States with the hope of playing professional sports. However, this requirement makes it very difficult for professional teams in the United States to develop foreign-born talent. In Mr. James’s case, he has alternatives. He saved a bunch of Americans from death in the plane incident. He attended school in the U.S. and therefore can try to find a job in his field of study. Finally, he can try to marry an American citizen. However, what about the professional sport teams that are looking for foreign born talent? Sports teams cannot recruit that type of athlete unless the teams are willing to sign the athlete to a professional contract. Basically, the requirement of no work permits for athletes in training forces teams to take a chance on an athlete that may or may not pay dividends for them down the line.

Finally, in the case of other circumstances, what should be done when a foreign- based professional sports franchise moves its entire team to a new location in the United States? For example, this is the case with the Montreal Expos moving to Washington D.C. Of course the players will be allowed to play in the United States, but what about the hundred or so office workers that have been with the team since its inception? The various factors were addressed by Adams.

Adams wrote about the various front office positions that are not within the legal definition for immigration as stated before, specifically that the immigrant should be uniquely qualified and no other person could perform the job as well. This is easy to do with a highly talented athlete, but it is very difficult to prove that the Montreal Expo ticket manager is uniquely qualified and no other American can perform the duties of this position as well (Adams, 2004). Other positions throughout the organization were lost to Americans. Groundskeepers, salespersons, and a host of other jobs were lost due to the fact that they are not highly skilled positions and Americans could fill them. I can personally guarantee that there was no major uproar by team officials looking to keep these jobs for their workers. Conversely, there were no Americans feeling bad that these people had lost their jobs either.


Most of the studies on immigrants coming to a country to play sports, and the migration of workers for sports related endeavors have been conducted by Maguire. Unfortunately, Maguire does not study the effects on the migration of workers into the United States, but he does study the effects on the phenomena of athletes going from their birth country to another country to play professional sports, and he proves that that migration is a global issue (Maguire, 1994).

One of Maguire’s earliest studies was about Americans migrating to England to play in professional British Basketball Leagues (Maguire, 1994). In this study and all of his other studies, Maguire looks at the problems and tensions associated with migrants in global sport processes. In 1996 Maguire studied the migration of Canadian hockey players into England to play professional hockey. In that study, Maguire assessed labor rights, work permits and salary caps as they pertain to these players and their relationship with English citizens. These are some of the exact same issues discussed in this article, and are just as problematic in the United States.

Another major study of Maguire’s, and problem for the government of England, lies in the number of soccer players recruited to play in the Premier League in England. The Premier League is one of the best soccer leagues in the world, and teams recruit players from around the world. In their study, Maguire and Pearton (2000) looked at the implications of soccer players in the Premier League as a part of globalization and worker migration. Maguire and Pearton conclude that the recruitment of these soccer players parallels workers migrating to countries where work is abundant. In addition, Maguire and Pearton address the economic, political and social factors these soccer players affect when they go to England to play professional soccer.

Summary and Conclusions

Playing professional sports is a dream for many people throughout the world. The idea of being able to be well compensated to play a game, and something that you love, is a goal that only the truly talented can achieve. However, how are the local citizens to act when immigrants come into their country to take jobs away from the locals and make a great deal of money at the same time? The answer is, for the most part, local citizens embrace the athlete and his or her talents and hope that these athletes embrace the American way.

This paper has outlined a variety of labor aspects that the foreign-born athlete must take into consideration when he heads to the United States to play sports, whether it is professionally or not. The athlete must consider the legal aspects first and foremost. The issue of immigration and the laws that surround the foreign-born athlete to legally come to the United States must be adhered to. Some people might believe that these athletes receive special treatment, but that special treatment is with regard to getting them into the United States to play professional sports. However, all of the special treatment these athletes receive is within the letter of the law. This is clear because the United States has specific designations of these types of immigrants as outlined above. So, from a legal perspective, the United States government embraces these athletes.

The cultural aspect of these athletes coming into the Unites States might be where the feelings of resentment kick in. Xenophobia is the fear of foreigners and this fear runs rampant when immigrants come to the United States. However, this fear is usually seen when immigrants compete with Americans for jobs, something that does not occur in a sports context. The average fan is not really going to care if Yao Ming or Sammy Sosa adopts the ways of the average American. Also, the average American is not talented enough to make a professional sports team, so it is not like these athletes are competing with Americans for jobs. If there was an American more talented than these foreign-born athletes, then he is going to make the team. So, the cultural aspects involved with hoping a foreign-born sports star assimilates to the cultural norms of American is not a real factor Americans worry about. The emphasis is on the athlete’s ability to perform. Anything short of this is a non-factor, including cultural aspects.

The political aspects of the immigrants coming into the United States only gets difficult when there are differences in the political ideologies between the two countries to begin with. If the country where the migrant comes from is at odds already with the United States, then those feelings of hatred are reinforced. On the other hand, if the political climate between the two countries is good, or even fair, then there is not a problem. This is proven by the large amount of baseball players in Major League Baseball that hail from the Dominican Republic.

As with any situation there are always extenuating circumstances. This paper outlined the various situations that may arise when someone seeks United States citizenship. Specifically, this paper has outlined the residency requirements for athletes who wish to become American citizens in order to represent this country in the Olympics. If the athlete is talented, then he will be allowed to enter the United States, provided he meets the requirements set forth by the governing bodies. This paper also discussed the plight of Kwame James, an athlete, but actually a better hero than athlete. His case for immigration should be judged on his heroics and not necessarily his athletic ability.

Then there is the case of the non-highly skilled worker seeking to migrate to the United States. Again, it is in these instances that this author believes that American resentment takes place. There would have been a major uproar if your average American could not vie for the various front office positions that became available when the Montreal Expos moved to Washington, D.C.. If the Expos were allowed to bring all of their employees with them, then labor groups would have become very irate and fought to give those jobs to American citizens.

So, are these foreign-born athletes really stealing jobs from American citizens? Absolutely not. Making a professional sports team better should entail getting the best athletes from around the world. Professional sports leagues have embraced this idea by implementing worldwide drafts. The National Basketball Association does it, and Major League Baseball favors it as well (Carrell & Heavrin, 2004). Owners, managers, employees and fans want to win, want the team to be competitive, and want to field the most talented athletes in the world.

Are these athletes given special treatment? This is obvious, and expected, to get the athlete to come to the United States. However, being a professional sports star does not guarantee U.S. citizenship. There is no indication that these athletes receive special attention when, and if, they decide to become citizens of the United States.


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2013-11-25T19:45:42-06:00July 10th, 2009|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Labor and Immigration Issues in Sports

Geographical Effects on College Bowl Games


One of the most heated debates in all of college sports centers on the college football postseason. With the goal of creating the best structure for determining a national champion, some parties argue for playoffs, while others advocate that the current bowl system should remain in place. One part of the college football postseason that has been overlooked is the location of the games as a factor in potentially ameliorating the bowl system. Data were conducted to determine if geography gives certain teams advantages in bowl games. Statistical analysis showed that factors such as participant teams’ relative distances to the bowl sites and relative climates are significant in determining the outcomes of major college football bowl games.


One of the many traditions of major college football is the unique conclusion to its season. Since 1902, when the forerunner to the Rose Bowl was played for the first time, a series of bowl games has marked the end of the college football season (Bauman, 2009). Unlike most of their other collegiate and professional sports counterparts, college football teams in the NCAA’s Division One Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) conclude each year with the chance to participate, not in a multi-round tournament, but in a bowl game (NCAA Championships, 2008).

In the past fifteen years, the college football bowl system has evolved into an imperfect compromise, balancing tradition with a growing desire to crown an undisputable national champion. The Bowl Championship Series, the most recent manifestation of the struggle between tradition and progress, emerged in the late 1990s. (BCS Background, 2008). At first, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) consisted of four major bowl games – the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar, and Rose Bowls – with the two most highly ranked teams placed in one of those four games. A fifth BCS game, which was dubbed the BCS Championship Game, was added starting with the end of the 2006 season (Flanagan, 2008).

The BCS, while representing significant progress compared with its predecessors, has been unable to produce a true national champion on a consistent basis. This shortcoming is partially due to the fact that each team can play in a maximum of just one bowl game, as opposed to a multi-round tournament. If, for example, three schools have perfect records following the regular season, the BCS is capable of pairing only two of those three institutions in its “National Championship Game,” while the third school must compete in a different bowl game.

BCS controversy, while never completely dormant between 2005 and the present, returned with a vengeance in 2008 (Lopresti, 2008). Instead of having three undefeated teams vying for the chance to play for a national championship, the end of the 2008 regular season resulted in a top ten with no undefeated major conference teams, seven one-loss major conference teams, and two undefeated non-major conference teams. Three of these one-loss teams were from one particular conference, and only one received a chance to play in the national championship game, while another played in the Fiesta Bowl, and the third did not get an opportunity to play in a BCS game at all (Knight, 2009).

This debate has even become a political issue, as various politicians have spoken out in favor of a college football playoff system (Limon, 2009). As a result of this continued controversy, the increasingly popular solution to the championship problem is a playoff system, which could pit anywhere from four to sixteen teams in a single-elimination tournament. (Withers, 2008). Other collegiate and professional sports, including other collegiate football divisions and the National Football League, already employ such a format. While many agree that this would be a logical change, few have addressed the issue of where these playoff games would be played. That the proponents of maintaining the BCS system believe the bowl games should be played at their traditional locations is a given.

With few exceptions from year to year, bowl games are played on a neutral field and at the same stadium each year (Official Records Book, 2008). While the focus of reforming the bowl system has been on moving from a one-game postseason to more of a tournament system, other elements of the system – such as where the bowl games (or playoff games) are (or will be) played – have been largely overlooked, even though the locations of games could be important in creating a comprehensively fair postseason that crowns a true national champion.

Question Presented

Do geographical factors play a role in determining the results of bowl games? Specifically, do significantly diverse distances between the participating teams’ campuses and the bowl games’ sites affect the outcome of those games? Also, do climates of representative institutions that are significantly disparate between each other and the location of bowl games affect the outcome of those games?

Geographical factors provide some of the many reasons why playing a game at one’s home field is an advantage. Playing in front of a supportive crowd, having a familiarity with the surroundings, and not having to travel to play the game are some other components of what gives the home team an advantage. Unlike regular season games, bowl games are intended to be played on neutral fields; however, many major bowl games are played in locations that are much closer to one of the participant schools than the other. As a result, there is the potential that the game location could unintentionally favor one team over the other. Data were compiled to determine if such a significant, albeit unintentional, advantage exists.


Since the first Bowl Championship Series game at the end of the 1998-99 season, there have been a total of 47 BCS bowl games. Teams from 41 institutions have filled the 94 spots in those games. The following data from these games and schools were collected:

  1. The distances between each school and the host bowl site;
  2. The average temperatures of the homes of the participant schools and the host bowl sites;
  3. The point spread for each game; and
  4. The outcome of each game.

The distances between the locations of each participant institution and the particular bowl games were determined using The average temperatures of each of the schools and each of the bowl sites were obtained from The sites of the bowl games and their outcomes from 1999 to 2008 were obtained from the Official 2008 Division I Football Records Book, which is published by the NCAA. The historical point spread for each game was obtained from

Data were grouped into three sections: distances, climate, and favorites. The distances section presents the results of the bowl games by taking into account the distances between the representative institutions and the sites of the games. The climate section shows the results of the bowl games when considering the differences in weather between the teams and the locations of the games. The favorites section reveals how well the favored teams fared against the point spread.

The point spread for each game was collected to help determine the significance of the results of the data. The point spread, which is commonly called the spread or the line, is a method used to weigh each team’s likelihood of winning a game. An oddsmaker, most often Las Vegas Sports Consultants Inc., predicts the outcome of a match-up and publishes the point spread to indicate how the teams will do. The point spread is a prediction of the difference between the final scores. The favorite team is identified by a negative number, and the absolute value of that number identifies the underdog.

In other words, the favorite team is favored to win by the point spread. So, for instance, if a team is favored at -4, the oddsmakers believe that the favorite team will win the game by 4 points. If the favorite team “beats the spread” or “covers the spread,” then it has won the game and has won it by more than the point spread. If the favorite team does not beat the spread or fails to cover the spread, then it has either lost or it has won by tying the point spread or scoring less than the point spread. Therefore, an underdog beats the spread if it wins the game, loses by the amount of the point spread, or loses by less than the point spread.

When determining the spread, the oddsmakers take into account almost every conceivable factor, including records, strengths of schedules, weather, injuries, home field, tradition, motivations, time of day of kick-off, revenge, rivalries, time off between games, starters, playing surface, number of fans in attendance, and historical trends. Comparing the outcomes of games to the spread helps to reveal the significance of the data, since the spread takes into account the geographical factors of weather and location.


The teams from institutions that are closer to the bowl site than their opponents have won 25 of the 47 BCS games, giving them a winning percentage of over 53%. However, the distances between participant schools and the bowl sites are not always significant. For instance, in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl, Tennessee played Florida State, and Knoxville, Tennessee is roughly 1800 miles from Tempe, Arizona, while Tallahassee, Florida is about 1880 miles from Tempe. Tennessee cannot be said to have had a proximity advantage in this game, since both teams had to travel similar distances to Tempe. This game was one of six instances in which the relative distances between the participant schools and the bowl sites were negligible. When disregarding the outcomes of these six games, the closer team has won a slightly greater percentage of the BCS games – just over 56%.

Table 1 – Distance (Straight)

Teams Closer to the Bowl Site
Straight Record

Wins Losses Winning %
25 22 0.5319

Teams Closer to the Bowl Site
Straight Record (without negligible distance differences)

Wins Losses Winning %
23 18 0.5610

The teams from climates more similar to that of the bowl site have won over 60% of the BCS games, winning 28 of those 46 games. (The participants in the 2009 Orange Bowl, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech, are from locations with the same average temperature, so the results do not reflect this game.) In some instances, the relative weather of the participant schools was negligible. For example, when Ohio State and Notre Dame played each other in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, neither school had a climate advantage. Columbus, Ohio and South Bend, Indiana have average temperatures within four degrees of one another, and neither average temperature is similar to that of Tempe, Arizona. There have been six such match-ups with teams from very similar climates. When disregarding these negligible differences, teams from locations with climates significantly more similar to that of the bowl site than their opponents have won over 62% of the BCS games.

Table 2 – Climate (Straight)

Teams from a Climate More Similar to the Bowl Site
Straight Record

Wins Losses Winning %
28 18 0.6087

Teams from a Climate More Similar to the Bowl Site
Straight Record (without negligible climate differences)

Wins Losses Winning %
25 15 0.6250

The success of teams from locations closer to the bowl site than their opponents is slightly greater when taking the point spread into account. In the BCS era, the closer team has defeated the spread over 55% of the time. When disregarding negligible distance differences, the closer team has defeated the spread in 24 of 41 games for a winning percentage of greater than 58%.

Table 3 – Distance (Spread)

Teams Closer to the Bowl Site
Record Against the Spread

Wins Losses Winning %
26 21 0.5532

Teams Closer to the Bowl Site
Record Against the Spread (without negligible distance differences)

Wins Losses Winning %
24 17 0.5854

The teams from climates more similar to that of the bowl site have had comparable success. Teams from such similar climates have defeated the spread in 60% of BCS games. When negligible climate differences are ignored, the teams from climates more similar to the bowl site have defeated the spread over 62% of the time.

Table 4 – Climate (Spread)

Teams from a Climate More Similar to the Bowl Site
Record Against the Spread

Wins Losses Winning %
28 18 0.6087

Teams from a Climate More Similar to the Bowl Site
Record Against the Spread (without negligible climate differences)

Wins Losses Winning %
25 15 0.6250

The success of teams that are closer to the bowl site or that are familiar with the climate of the bowl site is remarkable when compared to the success of the favored teams. The favored team has won 28 of the 46 – or some 60% – of the BCS games. (One game, the 2007 Rose Bowl, did not have a favored team.) Irrespective of the point spread, this is almost exactly the same as the record of teams from climates more similar to the bowl sites, while it is slightly better than closer teams’ record. However, the favored teams have fared much worse when considering the point spread. In fact, the favored team has a losing record against the spread in BCS games. The favored team has won just 22 games and has lost 24 games against the spread.

Table 5 – Favorites

Favorite Teams
Straight Record

Wins Losses Winning %
28 18 0.6087

Favorite Teams
Record Against the Spread

Wins Losses Winning %
22 24 0.4783

Considering that the point spread already takes into account geographical factors such as climate and location, these results are significant. The teams from locations significantly closer to the bowl site have won over 58% of their games against the spread, while the favored teams have won less than 48% of their games against the spread. Even more dramatic is the difference between the record against the spread of the favored teams and the record against the spread of teams from climates significantly more similar to the bowl site. The teams from climates significantly more similar to the bowl site have won over 62% of their games against the spread, which is almost 15% higher than the favored teams’ record.

Table 6 – Spread Compared

Favored Teams
Record Against the Spread

Wins Losses Winning %
22 24 0.4783

Teams Closer to the Bowl Site
Record Against the Spread (without negligible distance differences)

Wins Losses Winning %
24 17 0.5854

Teams from a Climate More Similar to the Bowl Site
Record Against the Spread (without negligible climate differences)

Wins Losses Winning %
25 15 0.6250


Although unintended, the locations of bowl games have impacted the results of these games. A team from an institution with a climate significantly more similar to that of the bowl site than that of the team’s opponent is much more likely to win its bowl game than its opponent. Similar to this, though not quite as strong, is the likelihood that a team from a campus that is significantly closer to the bowl site than that of its opponent will win its bowl game. Understanding these results may be important in determining how to improve the bowl system by considering geographical characteristics of host sites and participant institutions.

With few exceptions from year to year, bowl games are played on a neutral field and at the same stadium. However, the bowl site most often is much closer to the campus and fan concentration of one of the participant schools than it is to the other. Even when the stadium hosting the bowl game is not the home field of one of the participant teams, one team’s campus is frequently much closer to the bowl site than the other team’s home.

Underlying the playoff system movement is the commonly held tenet that college football’s season, like most every other collegiate sport, should result in the crowning of a true national champion. If this is the case, then perhaps more aspects of the postseason should be examined and amended, if necessary – not just the process of selecting teams to play for the title. Geographical factors, such as location and climate, play a role in determining the outcome of bowl games and, ultimately, crowning the national champion.

Future Studies

Future studies may include an examination of the times that games start and the differences between the time zones of participating teams to determine if a more neutral kick-off time should be employed. Additionally, the playoffs for the National Football League have an intended element of home field advantage for all rounds of the playoffs, except for the Super Bowl, which is played at a neutral site. A study of this system’s strengths and weaknesses could help to determine the best arrangement for the college football postseason.


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Flanagan, K. E. (2008). Factors Affecting Attendance at Bowl Games During the BCS Era. The Sport Journal, 11 (3). Retrieved October 15, 2008, from article/factors-affecting-attendance-bowl-games-during-bcs-era. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from

Knight, B. (2009, January 8). BCS produces confusion, not a national champion. El Paso Times.

Limon, I. (2009, January 20). Obama: ‘Yes, we can’; BCS: No, we can’t. Orlando Sentinel, D1.

Lopresti, M. (2008, December 11). Bowl backer defends the system. USA Today, 8C. Retrieved November 3, 2008, from

NCAA Championships. Retrieved December 23, 2008, from html.

NCAA. Official 2008 Division I Football Records Book (2008, August). Retrieved October 15, 2008, from Retrieved November 3, 2008, from

Withers, B. (2008, November 7). A BCS crisis may start serious talk about a playoff. The Seattle Times, C1.

2013-11-25T19:47:06-06:00July 10th, 2009|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Geographical Effects on College Bowl Games

The Origins and Development of Ultimate Frisbee


Over recent years what have been variously termed alternative or lifestyle sports have increasingly become the focus of academic study. These sports are considered ‘alternative’ as they have sought to challenge accepted conceptions of modern Western achievement sport and typically have evolved from North America, having later been imported to Europe. An example of such a sport is that of Ultimate Frisbee. To date little has been written about Ultimate Frisbee or indeed the developmental process which has given rise to the creation and establishment of alternative sport. This paper seeks to examine the distinct and crucial stages of Ultimate’s development.


Over recent years what have been variously termed alternative or lifestyle sports (Wheaton, 2004) have increasingly become the focus of academic study. Examples of such activities and related papers include skateboarding (Beal, 1995), snowboarding (Humphreys, 1997), windsurfing (Wheaton, 2000) and surfing (Butts, 2001). These sports are considered alternative as they have sought to challenge accepted concepts of modern Western achievement sport (Eichberg, 1998; Rhinehart and Sydnor, 2003) and typically have evolved from North America, having later been imported to Europe (Bourdieu, 1984). Another lesser- known example that has made the transatlantic jump is that of Ultimate Frisbee.

Ultimate Frisbee (known simply as Ultimate to participants) is a fast paced, non-contact, mixed team sport played with a flying disc (or Frisbee), which marries features of a number of invasion games, such as American Football and netball, into a simple yet, demanding game (UKU, 2008). To date, little has been written about Ultimate or indeed the developmental process which has given rise to the creation and establishment of alternative sport. What this paper seeks to do is to examine the evolution of Ultimate Frisbee and illustrate the key stages of its development.

Ultimate, as with all disc sports, would not exist without the invention of the flying disc, or Frisbee, as it is commonly known. Flying discs have of course been thrown in numerous cultures for centuries for a variety of reasons, including sport (Malafronte, 1998). The origins of Ultimate can be argued to have gone through distinct and crucial stages and each will be discussed in turn. Firstly, the origin of the name Frisbee will be examined followed by the subsequent development of the plastic flying disc. The idea of Frisbee football will then be explained and then attention will be drawn to locating the development of Ultimate amidst the American counter culture. Finally the creation of Ultimate and the first game will be detailed.

The Origins of Frisbee

The name Frisbee is accepted by most sources to originate from one William Russell Frisbie of Bridgeport, Connecticut (Johnson, 1975; Malafronte, 1998; Iocovella, 2004; Leonardo and Zagoria, 2004). Following the end of the American Civil War, William Russell Frisbie moved to Bridgeport to manage a new bakery, which he subsequently bought and renamed, the Frisbie Pie Company.

The original bakery was situated close to the college which later became Yale in 1887 (Scotland, 2004). Not surprisingly, perhaps, there are strong links between Yale and the origination of the Frisbee. The popular theory – perhaps it is a myth — is that Yale students frequently bought Frisbie Pies and after eating them, would toss the empty pie tins around the Yale campus (Johnson, 1975; Malafronte, 1998). As metal pie dishes are not the kindest of missiles to be struck by, this led to throwers shouting the cautionary word “frisbie-e-e-e!” (not unlike golfers shouting the word “Fore!”) to warn both the catcher and bystanders of the approaching disc (Weiss, 2004).

Not surprisingly, in the absence of definitive evidence, modified or alternative stories abound. One particular point of contention is whether the projectile was indeed a pie tin or whether, in fact, it was a cookie tin lid. Support for the cookie argument can be found in ih a study by Johnson (1975), who conducted interviews with former Yale students. An example of one such account is credited to Charles O. Gregory who recalled:

‘I clearly remember the cookies; and I also recall that the cover of the tin box was used by the older kids just the same way that Frisbees are now used… When I went to college…I saw students using these same tin box lids as people now use Frisbees. So I assumed that the name came from these sugar cookies and the boxes in which they were sold…. I never heard of Frisbie’s pies’ (Johnson, 1975,18).

As a semi-professional player and respected writer on Ultimate, Malafronte (1998) considers that cookie tins were more likely to be used for throwing games. “With their flat tops and deeper perpendicular edged rims [they] were much more air worthy – players could perform a variety of throws, with more control than a pie pan (35).” However, deeper research into the debate leads one to the belief that the tossing of pie pans was equally popular and in some cases was likely to be more so, given the fact that pies were considerably cheaper to purchase for the typical student than tins of cookies (Malafronte, 1998).

Johnson (1975) considers that both cases probably have some truth and merit but that additional research conducted, including conversations with the widow of Joseph P. Frisbie (son and heir of the late W.R. Frisbie) and former plant manager Mr. Vaughn, leads to the conclusion that the earlier prototype was most likely to have been the pie tin.

In addition to Yale – and in accordance with the rising heritage industry – other East Coast US colleges also claim to be the birthplace of the ‘Frisbee’ (Weiss, 2004). For instance, at Middlebury College in Vermont, a statue of a dog caught in mid-Frisbee-snatching-flight has been erected to celebrate the claim that a group of Middlebury boys discovered pie-pan tossing while on a road trip to a fraternity convention in Nebraska in 1938 (Weiss, 2004). Such claims are perhaps not surprising when one considers that, according to Malafronte (1998), workers of the Frisbie Pie Company travelled around many of the Ivy League institutions of New England and were apparently renowned for tossing pie tins around during their breaks.

The Development of the Flying Disc

Following the end of World War II and gathering anxieties about future external threats, supposed sightings of UFOs and flying saucers were beginning to grab the public’s imagination in the USA (McMahon, 1998). Capturing the prevailing public mood, one budding American inventor, Fred Morrison, took an idea to the Southern Californian Plastics Company and, in conjunction with Warren Francioni, produced a crude prototype plastic flying disc, known as the Arcuate Vane model in 1948 (Johnson, 1975; Mc Mahon, 1998; Malafronte 1998).

In 1951 Morrison went on to produce his second model called the Pluto Platter, which he sold at fairs with moderate success (Scotland, 2004). Though the importance of the Pluto Platter cannot be underestimated, as it became the blueprint for all subsequent Frisbees (Johnson, 1975), it was not, in fact, initially mass produced.

However, among the young, the Platter was gaining popularity, and 1954 saw the first recorded competition using a flying disc when Dartmouth University (New Hampshire, USA) students organised a tournament for the disc sport known as ‘Guts’ (Iocovella, 2004). In addition, the Pluto Platter, significantly, reached the US West coast beaches too.

According to Johnson (1975), the story goes that Rich Knerr and A.K.”Spud” Melin, fresh from the University of Southern California, had established a fledgling toy company known as Wham-O. In late 1955, after seeing Pluto Platters whizzing around southern California beaches, they cornered Morrison while he was “hawking his wares” in downtown Los Angeles and made him a proposition (Malafronte, 1998).

In 1958, mass production of the Pluto Platter began (US Design patent 183,626 – See Patents Online, 2008). But as co-founder of Wham –O, Knerr recalls (Johnson,1975), “At first the saucers had trouble catching on but we were confident they were good, so we sprinkled them in different parts of the country to prime the market (20).” According to Scotland (2004), however, disc production would have been far from paramount given the success of Wham-O’s other new creation which began a national craze, the hula-hoop.

In a bid to improve both the flying properties and the marketability of the Pluto Platter Wham-O turned to another fledgling inventor, Ed Headrick, and in 1967, the ‘Wham-O Frisbee’ was launched (US patent design 3359678 – see Free Patents Online, 2008). It is alleged that it was Knerr who picked up the catchy term whilst on a trip around the campuses of the Ivy League colleges. He reported that Harvard students told him how they had been throwing pie tins around for years and calling it ‘Frisbie-ing’. Being unaware of the possible origins of the word (the Frisbie Pie Company closed in 1958 and Knerr was not from the East Coast) he spelled his new creation as ‘Frisbee’ (Johnson, 1975).

Frisbee Football

Frisbee football (a version of American football played with a flying disc) is recorded as the origin of many games similar to Ultimate (Johnson, 1975; Malafronte, 1998; Zagoria, 2003). Accounts of such games are recorded at institutions such as Kenyon College, Ohio as early as 1942. A version of such a game, referred to as Aceball, was later captured by Life magazine in 1950 (Malafronte, 1998).

Evidence of another similar game, involving “a plastic or metal serving tray” cropped up at Amherst College in the early 1950s. In a letter to the editor, published in the January 1958 Amherst Alumni News, Peter Schrag (alumni from 1953) describes this game, stating that:

Rules have sprung up and although they vary, the game as now played is something like touch (football), each team trying to score goals by passing the tray down field. There are interceptions and I believe passing is unlimited. Thus, a man may throw the Frisbee to a receiver who passes it to still another man. The opponents try to take over, either by blocking the tray or intercepting it (Leonardo & Zagoria, 2004,5).

Established sources indicate that the most likely origin of Ultimate probably rests with members of Columbia High School (CHS), Maplewood, NJ, USA, who introduced their idea of an Ultimate Frisbee game to their student council in 1967 (see Figure 4). The key individual among the group in devising Ultimate was probably a student called Joel Silver who had played Frisbee Football at a camp in Mount Herman, Massachusetts in the summer of 1967 (Johnson, 1975; Malafronte, 1998; Iocovella, 2004; Leonardo and Zagoria, 2004).

Born in 1967 at the Height of the American Counter Culture

Ultimate was conceived in the U.S. amidst political assassinations, the escalating war in Vietnam, urban riots and civil rights unrest (Heale, 2001). As increasing numbers of largely young people became “alienated from the parental generation” they looked for forms of escape and resistance and loosely formed what became known as the counter culture (Roszak, 1972: 1). The forms of escape and resistance were manifest in a multitude of ways including political activism and protest, the creation of alternative lifestyles, experimental and communal living and through dress, drugs and music (Heale, 2001). Although hippies embodied the counter culture and represented any serious real threat to the establishment it was middle class, college educated students that were at the very heart of counter culture events and attitudes and “there were more conservative kids who were eager apprentices of the system” (Anderson, 1995: 242) as baby boomers flooded onto campuses.

The values and behaviours that came to represent the counter culture, which was at its height in 1967 during what was termed the Summer of Love (Farrell, 1997) were that of democracy, perceived alternative and superior lifestyle choices, communal caring and sharing, an appreciation of beauty and nature, having a relaxed and laid back attitude, rejecting regulation and technology and encouraging self expression and personal growth (Heale, 2001; Anderson, 1995).These values and behaviours were based upon humanistic psychology (Farrell, 1997: 207) where in a supportive environment people would work towards self actualization (Maslow, 1968). Those espousing such values they viewed the time and the counter culture as an instrument of change. They hoped that through spreading their cultural values and changing the consciousness of their fellow citizens, a structural transformation of society could in turn be effected (Heale, 2001).

For the majority, being part of the counter culture was a frame of mind manifested in a particular way of life (Farrell, 1997). ‘The idea was to liberate yourself from the confining conventions of life and to celebrate the irrational side of your nature, kind of let yourself go. This was the counter culture coming to us and it stirred people up and made us feel like doing something dramatic (University student in Anderson, 1995). “The point is that it was the culture that was sick, so one way to change was to live it differently” (Anders, 1990, 36). To many, doing something dramatic was manifest in doing something differently and dropping the values of the mainstream and living the “here and now revolution” (Anderson, 1995). To Joel Silver and his friends it was creating a game that would embody all of these values, many of which continue to be manifest within Ultimate today.

The Creation of Ultimate and the First Game

When Joel Silver returned home to Maplewood, he continued to throw with fellow students, adapted the rules of Frisbee Football, and ‘invented’ the team sport of Ultimate. The name itself is said to have arisen due to Silver referring to the game as the Ultimate sports experience. Such claims have been supported by fellow players of the time (Zagoria, 2003).

However, more recent and rigorous research has come to light to suggest that the truth may be somewhat different. According to Herndon (2003), after interviewing Silver, it was found that he had learned a Frisbee game from someone named Jared Kass while attending summer camp. Herndon (2003), like many, assumed that Silver had played something like Frisbee football with Jared Kass at camp, and then returned to Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, and made up and named, a whole new game called Ultimate. However, upon questioning Kass closely it seems that the whole of the Ultimate playing world had been somewhat misled.

Upon investigation, Herndon (2003) learned that Kass had taught Silver not some distant relative of Ultimate, but Ultimate in its essence and by name, whilst having no idea that he had had anything to do with its creation. Kass recounts that the game evolved from a variation of touch football whilst at Amherst College where he started as a student in 1965.

Whatever the true chain of events, Silver continued to throw with his friends including Bernard “Buzzy” Hellring and Jonny Hines until in the autumn of 1967, Silver proposed that, for a joke, the Student Council form a Frisbee team. Yet by the end of the school year, Silver and members of both the student newspaper The Columbian and the Student Council began to play a modified game of Frisbee football (Johnson, 1975; Malafronte, 1998).

The game was what one might describe as freeform early on, with no strict limits on how many players should be on each side, with as many as 20 to 30 players being allowed per team. However, the local ecology meant that this number was eventually whittled to seven (the current number) because “that was the most you could fit in the parking lot” (Zagoria, 2003:2). The original game also allowed running with the disc, and it included lines of scrimmage and a series of downs; but as they played, Silver, Hellring, and Hines began to modify the rules.

Finally, in the fall of 1968, the members of the student newspaper challenged the students on Council to a formal game. In a match up that featured two large, co-ed teams, The Columbian won the first game in front of the high school, 11-7. This historic first match was played on the now famous Columbia parking lot. During the summer of 1970, Silver, Hellring and Hines re-wrote and refined the rules which were subsequently printed and copies were sent all over the world (Leonardo & Zagoria, 2004).

Thus, the sport of Ultimate Frisbee was born and following the dissemination of the rules via college campuses in the United States, the sport grew from strength to strength, seeing the first intercollegiate game in 1972 between Princeton and Rutgers and two years later the beginning of the founding of international organisations, such as the Swedish Frisbee Federation (Iocovella, 2004).


In this paper the origins of the alternative sport of Ultimate Frisbee have been explored, showing the distinct and crucial stages of its development, starting with the origin of the name Frisbee, development of the plastic flying disc and moving through to development of ‘Frisbee football’ and the creation and playing of the first game. Importantly attention was drawn to locating the development of Ultimate amidst the American counter culture, the values of which permeated into the sport and largely remain to this day.

What the pattern of development of Ultimate shows is that particular conditions need to be in place to facilitate the move from one significant stage to another. These conditions are not always apparent, however, until viewed retrospectively when a clear pattern may emerge. Within newer, alternative activities such as Ultimate, historical developments are less well reported. So it is hoped that this paper offers and insight into one such activity.


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2013-11-25T19:47:29-06:00July 10th, 2009|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on The Origins and Development of Ultimate Frisbee