Sport in Turkey in the Pre-Islamic Period

This paper is a descriptive historical analysis of sport in Turkey from the earliest available records to the present. The development of sport in Turkey may be thought of as occurring in three periods: the pre-Islamic, the Islamic, and post-Islamic Republican periods. Evidence from the pre-Islamic period suggests that Turkey’s athletic culture was immensely rich, with games and related physical activities having an essential role and in many respects providing a way of life. In an environment in which the strongest and fittest were likeliest to survive, martial forms of games and physical activities were widely practiced by men and women, for instance archery, horsemanship, wrestling, and cirit (a javelin chase also known as jerid or jereed). In the relatively relaxed social climate of the pre-Islamic period, Turkish people were free to pursue these activities and express themselves through athletic culture.

Sport in Turkey in the Pre-Islamic Period

Athletic culture in Turkey during the pre-Islamic period involved at least three main outlets for physical competition: archery, cirit, and wrestling. Ample evidence exists that archery was among the most common sports in the pre-Islamic Turkish culture, practiced and performed by rich and poor alike. Survival, after all, depended heavily on skilled marksmanship. Marksmanship also made for ready entertainment, and the best archers were honored and rewarded. According to Celebi (1987), Turks were like other Central Asian peoples in their use of  short bows rather than the Western Europeans’ favored longbow. Lewis (1971) attributes the difference to the fact that, while Europe’s medieval archers traveled on foot, the Turks formed light cavalries, which, being on horseback, would have found the longbow unwieldy (p. 203). Turks’ bows and arrows were made of metal, bone, or wood; the material reflected the archer’s status in society (Celebi, 1987). Technical perfection was expected in making both arrow and bow, and the weapons were subjected to thorough testing before use (Celebi, 1987). Arrows were invested with certain symbolic powers in addition to their use as weapons. For example, a young Turkish man about to marry would shoot up an arrow to learn where his marriage tent should be placed (i.e., at the point where the arrow returned to earth) (Lewis, 1978).

Women in pre-Islamic Turkish culture enjoyed extensive freedoms; they did not “sit quietly in their tents all the time” (Adivar, 1930). Shoulder to shoulder with men, they hunted and fought. And they competed with men in archery contests. The pre-Islamic Turkish epic Book of Dede Korkut (translated by Geoffrey Lewis) recounts how Lady Burla, a Khakan’s wife, helped rescue her son from an enemy by using arrow and sword herself to dispatch the threat (Lewis, 1978). The pages of the Dede Korkut also make clear the popularity of wrestling among pre-Islamic Turks. Athletes and others approached the sport with respect; it was honored by heroes and heroines and it figured in many aspects of life (see the offset quotation from Dede Korkut, below, describing the prenuptial wrestling match between Prince Beyrek and his intended’s housekeeper). Finally, the sport of cirit (or jerid or jereed), a horseback javelin chase, was very popular among the nomadic Turks. Their diet consisting largely of game, they were dependent on hunting. The cirit javelin, made of wood or metal, was designed to kill large animals; during war it could also be used for close fighting. To use the javelin well required a strong arm and a practiced skill (Celebi, 1987). Using it in a game was very dangerous, involving speeding horses and attempts both to hit an opponent with the javelin and catch thrown javelins. Cirit was one of the culture’s most dangerous pursuits, and it was not uncommon for players to die on the field.

Turkish sport during the Islamic period was influenced significantly by the cultural habits and moral codes of Islam practiced in the Middle East (Arabia and Persia). These allowed only men to pursue certain athletic leisure activities, and in general in this period, athletic pursuits–sports–became a privilege of the rich and politically powerful. Again, archery, riding, wrestling, and cirit were the most popular events. It is during this period that athletics began to be institutionalized; a few primitive sports clubs became established. In the 19th century, European diplomats were largely responsible for introducing modern competitive sports to Turkey. The progress of sport in Turkey in the modern era has been problematic, influenced by national political, economic, and social challenges. This is, however, typical of developing countries. There has been very little scholarly research aimed at identifying problems in the development of sports in Turkey. Minimal data about lifelong physical fitness for the masses (i.e., “sport for all” programs) has been established. This article will focus on understanding whether Middle Eastern culture has worked to impede the development of Turkish sports culture by, for example, preventing Turkish women from participating in the activities of athletics and sports.

For thousands of years, games and various types of athletic activities have been significant in the lives of the Turkish people (a people originating in Central Asia). In ancient times Turkish boys were not granted their public names until they had distinguished themselves in athletics. Indeed, during the pre-Islamic era, certain athletic activities were considered expressions of the Turkish religion, art, or love. In the oldest inscriptions on Turkish monuments in Outer Mongolia and Siberia (dating to roughly the eighth century B.C.), athletic skills are described as “first-rate” (Lewis, 1978); the gender of the athlete matters not. Exemplifying Turkey’s continuous tradition of sports, the annual Kirkpinar wrestling tournament in Edirne is 650 years old, predating tennis at Wimbledon by approximately 500 years. Turkish wrestlers’ many successes in the modern Olympic Games (until the 1968 Mexico City Games) were no coincidence, but were instead the extension of Turkey’s history and culture. Another example of centuries-old Turkish sporting tradition are the cirit festivals in Erzurum.

A number of literary works suggest the rich heritage of sports in Turkey. The Book of Dede Korkut, for instance, tells a story giving insight into the role of athletics in Turkish cultural background. The story concerns a Turkish girl who is a housekeeper for a popular Turkish princess, Chichek. A prince attracted to the princess must contend with the princess’s housekeeper to win an opportunity to meet the princess. The housekeeper presents him a challenge, as Lewis (1987) translates it:

Where are you from, young man? From the inner Oghuz, said Beyrek (the prince) . . . . I am he they call Bamsi Beyrek, son of Prince Bay Bure. And what is your business here? I am told, replied Beyrek, that Prince Bay Bican has a daughter, and I have come to see her. The lady Chichek is not the sort of person to show herself to you, said she, but I am her serving-woman. Come let us ride out together. We shall shoot our bows and race our horses and wrestle. If you beat me in these three, you will beat her, too. To horse! They both mounted and rode out. They spurred their horses and Beyrek’s horse passed the girl’s. They shot their bows and Beyrek’s arrow split the girl’s arrow. She said, well, young man, nobody has ever passed my horse or split my arrow. Come now, let us wrestle. At once they dismounted and grappled; they stood as wrestlers do and grasped each other. Beyrek picked the girl up and tried to throw her, and then she picked him up and tried to throw him. Beyrek was astonished and said, If I am beaten, I will be humiliated . . . . He made a supreme effort, grappled with the girl and seized her breast  . . . and threw her on her back.

The story illustrates how much a part of the lives of Turkish people athletics have been. And yet, despite centuries of pursuit of a range of games and athletic pastimes, the sporting legacy of this society has remained basically unwritten. Kurthan Fisek attempted to make up the omission in his 1962 book in Turkish, Devlet Politikas Ve Toplumsal Yapyla IIiskileri Acsndan Spor Yonetimi: Dunyada-Turkiye’de [The Administration of Sport in Turkey and in the World]. Fisek’s work provides an overview and historical analysis of the development and institutionalization of sports organizations and their management, both in Turkey and worldwide. It is the first and only academic book on Turkish sporting culture. While much is written about sports in Turkey, aside from Fisek’s canonical text, most of it emanates from sports journalism, and most of that is essentially pabulum, consisting of scores and attributions by athletes and coaches relating to individual or team achievements and quests for championships. Fisek’s book emphasizes mainly the emergence of sport and its transition from an individual level to the organized, institutional level.

When reading outside of Fisek, readers on sports tend to be fed a diet of traditional slogans, clichés, and ritualized trivia. Most texts on Turkish sports do not acquaint readers with, or encourage awareness of, larger social issues or the consequences of modern and indigenous sport forms: the ideological underpinnings, power relations, and social, economic, and cultural costs they entail. Many pertinent aspects remain ill-defined, if they are mentioned at all. An unsophisticated, escapist attitude tends to control sports; substantive studies in sport have been very much neglected in Turkey, only recently attracting the interest of a few researchers. It is a neglect that diminishes the traditionally rich sport culture of Turkish society. Study of the culturally significant roles the Turkish people ascribe to athletic activities helps document the nation’s values, spirit, and mentalities, in addition to its times, just as do studies of other cultural enterprises. Turkish academics have yet to adequately examine the significance of various cultural constructs regarding the body as a functioning organism and its influence on personality or character. Too little scrutiny has been focused on the human body’s capacity to serve as an icon communicating present and past social customs and social roles.

On the other hand, too much attention is paid to journalistic evaluations of medal counts in competitive sports, notably the Olympics and world championships. Until recently, journalists have generally reported only the failures and weaknesses of Turkish sports. Turkish wrestling, which led the world until the 1968 Olympic Games, and Turkish soccer, which has rarely been competitive with Europe, are especially criticized. The outcomes of competitions may be newsworthy, but basic inquiry into why these particular outcomes is rarely made. Hence, the traditionally important indigenous games and athletic activities (cirit, archery, wrestling) and their role in the historical development of Turkey have rarely been investigated.

As in nearly all the other developing countries, sports in Turkey in its institutionalized form is not maintaining itself competitively. Despite having a strong sport background, Turkey is ineffective, compared to advanced, primarily Western countries, in international competition, especially in the Olympic Games and world championships. In these arenas, advanced technology and science play a crucial role. As a distance runner for the Turkish national team, I have personally experienced the reality of Turkey’s technological handicap. In major international races I competed in between 1975 and 1982, my Western opponents wore technologically superior running shoes, while I ran in flat-soled shoes. I could afford neither the shoes nor the spikes that were attached to them.

Several factors are negative influences on the advancement of sports in developing nations like Turkey. A number of authors (William Baker, John Andrews, Donald Calhoun, Don Anthony) have linked the problems of third world sports directly to poverty. In order to understand the system of sports within a given society, it is essential to examine predisposing elements and how they interact with the development of sports. Whatever pattern of development exists in a nation, it is important to point out that the system of sports is a product of the society. However, it is highly conceivable that certain factors within a given country might have more influence on the system of sports than others at any given time. For instance, although Turkey has never been colonized, its problems can resemble those of formerly colonized developing countries.

Finally, on a global scale, problems in sports grow from various historical, cultural, religious, political, socioeconomic, and ecological issues that cannot be considered mutually exclusive but must be evaluated as they relate to one another. Sports discussed in Turkey today are those in which Turkish athletes compete internationally and those that are played professionally, such as soccer and basketball. Traditionally important indigenous activities like cirit, archery, wrestling, and polo have rarely been researched or included in journalists’ reports. It is the purpose of this article, therefore, to articulate sports’ development in Turkish society and to identify problems in sports affecting its development over time. It is also the purpose of this study to elaborate on what sports means in Turkey, identifying some of the structures formed by the society for the carrying out of competitive sports and athletic culture. Finally, some of contemporary Turkey’s major problems in the realm of sports will be examined.

Games and other forms of athletic culture have been pastimes of Turks for thousands of years. From a handful of written materials we have learned that the early Turks celebrated success–whether of the hunt, the fight, or pertaining to religion–by dancing and convening games and other physical contests. Ancient inscriptions in Outer Mongolia and Siberia allude to the Turks’ pre-Islamic-era organized religious festivals involving dancing, games, and tests and demonstrations of strength and skill. Religious and civic commemorations and celebrations involving people of every class employed games and athletic activities. For example, weddings, khanship inaugurations, and military victories in the pre-Islamic era were the primary entertainments and were celebrated through sports and athletics (Lewis, 1971). Athletic activity, sports and sportsmanship, were thus related to spiritual beliefs, and they were also part of daily work and customs including the expression of art and love.

Athletic activities are also portrayed in ancient Turkish epics as well as in folk songs and Turkish miniature paintings. The Book of Dede Korkut, for example, with its origins in the period AD 1000-1300, is a famed Turkish epic much given to descriptions of certain games and athletic activities. To the men and women of Turkey this epic ascribes “first-rate” athletic skills, especially in horsemanship, archery, wrestling, polo, and cirit or javelin. These are today considered Turkey’s national sports.

The nomadic Turks of the pre-Islamic period were “patriotic,” brave, practical, and physically active. From the beginning of their history they lived in a world in which wars were virtually constant. This social environment, along with a harsh natural environment, meant that the weak and the old were left to die. As a result, Turks developed athletic skills to help them survive. As in most other ancient societies, athletic activities had military and political dimensions. Several historians have indicated that pre-Islamic Turks were “fit, intrepid hunters, expert horsemen and brave warriors” (Lewis, 1974). Every Turkish man was considered a soldier for life, and a significant amount of attention was paid to military skills. History shows that these characteristics made the Turks far superior, militarily,  to their settled, relatively sedentary neighbors. Quite naturally, then, in the pre-Islamic period martial sports and activities like archery, horsemanship, wrestling, and cirit were more important than other sports. A primary reason for advocating discipline and promoting strength and martial skill was the Khakans’ belief that, for boys, challenging sports and games enhanced not just physical but moral, ethical, and patriotic well-being, as is suggested in the Book of Dede Korkut. Khakans believed that sports instilled courage and loyalty to a boy’s community and to the leader of his nation. As Lewis (1978), explained,

[B]oys were routinely taken for rigorous physical and military training. . . . In about one year in training camps the boys were expert warriors in running, slinging, shooting the bow and throwing [the] javelins . . . and riding . . . After gaining some skill in these activities, the boys were allowed to participate in the hunt, enduring the extremes of heat and cold, to make forced marches day after day, to cross streams without wetting their weapons, to eat very little food, perhaps one meal in two days, to support themselves by foraging, and to stalk and kill the wild animals, such as the lion, the leopard, the wild boar, and the antelope. . . . When not on the hunt the boys continued the regular training in archery, riding, and athletic sports. (pp. 156)

The heroic code ordained that “the boys were not granted their public names until they accomplished something heroically (including athletics)” (Lewis, 1978, p. 156).

Like other nomadic societies (e.g., Tartars, Kazaks, Mongols, Kirghizes), the Turks were “devoted to the cult of horse and were born horsemen” (Celebi, 1987). Gurun (1981) went so far as to credit the Turks with the domestication of the horse. Turkish men indeed could not imagine life without their horses. As the legendary phrase has it, a Turk is born in a hut and dies on horseback on the prairie.  One Turkish soldier left the following message in a cave: “I will die /  If my horse dies / I will survive / If my horse survives” (Celebi,1987).

Turks of the pre-Islamic period saw leisure as an invaluable gift from God to their people. Turks’ fondness for athletic activities and games shaped their culture and made these an important feature of daily life. The ancient Turks of Central Asia recognized play as a primary impulse in both human beings and Tengeri, their sky god. According to their belief, the kainat (universe) was the “play arena of divinity . . . Mother Earth [w]as the play yard of human beings” (And, 1987). Religious forms of dance had an especially revered role in this context. A small, 15th-century Turkish manuscript describes the relationship between the shaman and dance, which involves symbolic explanation of the origins of music and dance. The anonymous author writes that it was during the creation of the world that dance had its spiritual birth, explaining that, “When God created the Universe, divine energy resounded and from that sound arose the tonalities of music, and this gave birth to several forms of dance” (And, 1987). Dance, of course, was accompanied by music, including song. The manuscript’s author goes on to link the movement of the physical body in dance to the spiritual experience of the dance, in such a way that, according to And, “the whole cosmos is a dancing mystery.” A thousand years later, scholars began examining apparent affinities between the shamanistic philosophy reflected in the ancient manuscript and later Islamic mysticism, especially the Sufi dancing recognized as symbolizing the cosmos (And, 1987).

Turkish folk tradition links dancing and lore, and this had an influential role in the development of Turkish athletic culture. To this day, Turkish people entertain and enlighten themselves and others with dances dramatizing their folktales and folk songs. In ancient Turkey, dance was among the most common entertainments, and the men and women who danced were highly skilled performers. Dances performed differed to a degree from region to region. The most popular dances were those that had been influenced by military life. Lewis (1971) calls these dances “mimed battles of fierce exploits, always intense and energetic, with or without weapons, increasing in speed and excitement and often ending with a leap over the flames.” Dancers’ movements might also mimic animal behavior or other natural phenomena. Lewis (1971) observed the following :

The courtship of cranes, birds sacred to the ancient Turks; an eagle approaching its prey; an encounter between a dignified lion and a ferocious hyena; a clownish camel, danced by two men in the animal’s skin. Some of the dances were mimics or imitations of natural features, like flowing water or swaying poplar trees; others mimed daily acts of home and village life, like bread making, weaving or hair washing; these were interspersed with a promenading dance among the audience and always ended with a lively dance of thanksgiving.

References

Adivar, H. E. (1930). Turkey faces west: A Turkish view of recent changes and their origin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

And, M. (1987). Culture, performance and communication in Turkey. Performance in Culture, 4. Tokyo: Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa.

Andrews, J. C. (1982). Problems of physical education in the third world. FIEP Bulletin, 52(1), p. 7.

Andrews, J. C. (1985). Physical education, sport and recreation in developing countries. FIEP Bulletin, 55(1), pp. 5-15.

Baker, B. G. (1913). The Passing of the Turkish Empire in Europe. London: Seeley, Service.

Baker, J. (1877). Turkey. New York: Holt.

Calhoun, D. B. (1986). Sport culture and personality (pp. 157-161). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Celebi, Evliya. (1987). Evliya Celebi Seyahatnamesi. Ankara: Ucdal Nesriyat.

Fisek, K. (1963). Devlet politikasi ve toplumsal yapiyla iliskileri acisindan; Spor yonetimi-dunyada ve Turkiyede. Andara, Turkey: ‘Siyasal Bilgiler Facultesi.

Gurun, K. (1981). Turkler ve Turk devletleri. Birinci Cilt.: I, II, III. Istanbul: Karacan Yayinlari.

Lewis, G. (1974). Modern Turkey. New York: Praeger.

Lewis, G. L. (1978). The Book of Dede Korkut. New York: Praeger.

Lewis, R. (1971). Everyday life in Ottoman Turkey. London: Batsford.

Author Note

Ergun Yurdadon,Department of Recreation Management, United States Sports Academy.

How Viewing Professional Wrestling May Affect Children

Abstract

This study investigated the effects on children of viewing professional wrestling. Elementary and middle school teachers (n = 370) were surveyed and asked to indicate (a) the popularity of professional wrestling among their students, (b) any preconceived notions they held about students who enjoy viewing professional wrestling, (c) their beliefs about spectator harm caused by professional wrestling, and (d) the nature and extent of their students’ imitation of verbal and other behavior from professional wrestling, as they had personally observed that imitation. The results of the survey, findings of prior literature, and research on marketing ethics together raise questions about the appropriateness of professional wrestling as sport-entertainment for children.

How Viewing Professional Wrestling May Affect Children

In the last decade professional wrestling (to describe which World Wrestling Entertainment  owner Vince McMahon has coined the term “sport-entertainment”) has skyrocketed in popularity. It is broadcast in 12 languages to over 130 countries, is viewed by 34 million people in the United States, and generates industry revenues above $1 billion annually. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is the industry leader in virtually every statistic (e.g., television ratings, live event attendance, licensing revenue). Attendance at WWE events rose from 1.1 million people in 1997 to 2.5 million for the year 2000 (wweecorpbiz.com, n.d.). While live event attendance has fallen a bit in the past two years, the WWE still drew 2 million attendees in 2002 (wwecorporate.com, n.d. a). WWE’s flagship television show, Raw, on TNN, is consistently the top-rated regularly scheduled cable television program, and the company’s other core show, SmackDown, on UPN, is consistently one of the highest ranked sports programs (as categorized by Nielsen) on network television. The shows have drawn combined weekly Nielsen ratings of 6-12 over the last two years (tv.zap2it.com, n.d.). Other, more mainstream sports are losing coveted young viewers to the WWE. For example, in the 12-17 age group, 143% more males (and 73% of males and females combined) watched the WWE’s Monday night Raw than the 1999 NBA finals. Further, the WWE continually outperforms a number of professional sporting events, in key demographics: the play-offs of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup play-offs, Monday Night Football (BW SportsWire, 1999).

Wrestling’s popularity has blossomed for two primary reasons. First, over a decade and a half ago, the WWE’s McMahon liberated wrestling from the constrictions that came with being labeled a “legitimate” sport. Throughout much of the 20th century, professional wrestling was thought of as a legitimate sport contest, that being a contest in which the outcome is not predetermined. However, as the industry evolved, society began questioning the genuineness of match outcomes, feuds between wrestlers, and the like. The industry found itself performing a balancing act between desiring to be perceived as legitimate sport and desiring to entertain with engaging and creative storylines. In essence, the quest to retain the perception of legitimacy necessarily restrained the ability of wrestling to present itself as creative “theater.” McMahon, in a visionary move that angered many other promoters in the business who thought the move would destroy the industry, abandoned the presentation of wrestling as legitimate sport, admitting publicly that the outcome of pro matches was predetermined. Rather than destroying the industry, however, McMahon’s tack liberated wrestling, freeing the WWE and other promoters to engage fans with wacky, funny, outrageous, entertaining camp. Fans did not care about legitimacy, they wanted to be entertained. This newfound freedom allowed, quite simply, for increased entertainment, and the industry’s popularity grew.

The second reason for pro wrestling’s growth is successful target marketing. Pro wrestling, and in particular the WWE, actively and successfully targets the coveted 18- to 34-year-old male demographic, with its ample disposable income. The industry does this by filling television programming and live events with ever-increasing amounts of the sexual and violent content that is clearly attractive to a large number of young males. Recent WWE programming, for example, has included oral sex on a wrestler by a transvestite, attempted castration of a wrestler who is portrayed as a porn star, necrophilia by a wrestler named Triple H, baring of breasts in the ring at live events by female “valets” (or “divas” in WWE terminology), and the use during matches of sledgehammers, metal folding chairs, garbage cans, quantities of thumbtacks, and even the proverbial kitchen sink. Needless to say, blood is spilled liberally and regularly. WWE divas regularly wrestle in sexually themed matches. In a “bra and panties” match, the first to strip her opponent to her undergarments is the winner; in a “paddle-on-a-pole” match, the diva who can subdue her opponent long enough to climb a pole in the ring corner and retrieve a paddle placed on top wins the match and uses the paddle to spank her opponent.

While the 18- to 34-year-old male demographic is clearly targeted by and drawn to such content, the WWE also targets and draws children. It profits from licensing revenue linked to wrestling-related adult toys and merchandise sold to children. (In 2002, total WWE licensing revenue reached $101.5 million, according to wwecorporate.com, n.d. b). It also profits from advertising by companies targeting children, including toy and videogame manufacturers as well as food companies like Chef-Boy-R-Dee. It profits from children’s attendance at live wrestling events. Indeed, the WWE trumpets these facts to potential investors (WWE is traded on the NYSE) and advertisers. Its website states that WWE.com is the top sport website and the number one entertainment site for males age 12-17, adding, “Our brand of entertainment appeals to a broad demographic audience, with WWE’s advertising focus being males 12 to 24” (wwecorporate.com, n.d. b). WWE weekend morning programming has also targeted children and encourages children to tune in to the more violent and risqué Monday and Thursday night programs. In sum, the WWE intentionally and successfully targets two demographic segments, 18- to 34-year-old males and children (primarily male children).

]Research Question[

While some critics (such as the Parents Television Council, which led a partly successful advertiser boycott of WWE programming) question the acceptability of wrestling’s program content for any audience, that is not the intent of this work. This research examines issues surrounding the fact that, while the majority of pro wrestling’s audience is the young male adult, a significant portion of its audience has been and remains children 2-17. Wrestling indeed has issues with ethical targeting that beg examination. By creating significantly violent and sexual content in order to attract 18- to 34-year-old males and at the same time targeting and reaching children, does pro wrestling knowingly market a potentially harmful product to children?

Sport and entertainment researchers have given relatively little attention to such ethical questions. Indeed, Laczniak, Burton, and Murphy (1999) note the dearth of attention to ethics in sport marketing, although the general marketing literature gives significant attention to ethical targeting issues (Rittenburg & Parthasarathy, 1997; Smith & Cooper-Martin, 1997). Much of that sport marketing literature that does address ethics tends to focus on ambush marketing (Meenaghan, 1996; O’Sullivan & Murphy, 1998; Sandler & Shani, 1989). The deficit begs to be addressed, and the purpose of the current study is to provide initial insight into whether pro wrestling’s targeting strategy meets the generally accepted tests of the ethicalness of such strategies. That is, to what extent are children vulnerable to the professional wrestling industry’s campaigns, and to what extent are children harmed by consuming the industry’s products?

The literature suggests that pro wrestling does meet the first criterion for unethical targeting (at least to some degree), in that when the industry targets children, it targets a “vulnerable segment,” defined as consumers especially susceptible to economic, physical, or psychological harm because of characteristics that limit their ability to maximize their utility and well-being (Smith & Cooper-Martin, 1997). Related to the current issue, research has shown that children’s limited life experience and developmental-stage cognitive abilities leave them particularly vulnerable to learning from televised messages (Dorr, 1986; Eron & Huesmann, 1987; Singer & Singer, 1988). Television teaches children “cognitive scripts” that influence their behavior, including social interaction. Cognitive scripts tend to be learned early in life, serving as a guideline for future behavior (Huesmann, 1986). Regularly consuming, or viewing, pro wrestling introduces children to a cognitive script for handling conflict (i.e., through the kind of violence seen in pro wrestling) and for approaching relationships with the opposite sex (i.e., sexual object or objectifier). While children are particularly vulnerable to picking up from pro wrestling certain attitudinal and behavioral scripts, we do not know the extent to which they act out such scripts. This is the issue addressed by the current data.

]Method[

Teacher ratings are commonly used to examine child behavior (Bates, Bayles, Bennet, Ridge, & Brown, 1991; Sawyer, Baghurst, & Mathias, 1992). As is the case in the current study, teacher ratings have been most often used in the assessment of externalizing disorders like outward aggression, as opposed to internalizing disorders like anxiety or depression. Externalizing disorders involve behaviors that lend themselves relatively well to observation and reliable assessment by others (Epkins, 1993). Teacher ratings of children’s aggression provide the most practical basis for any wide-scale screening and have been shown to be accurate. When teachers have rated aggression in children of the same ages as those in the current study, the teacher ratings have accurately predicted juvenile delinquency and violent offenses in the chidren as they aged to 26 years (Bates et al., 1991).

To explore the effects that viewing pro wrestling has on children’s aggression, a survey was mailed to 1,200 second-grade through eighth-grade teachers around one state in the Southeast. The sample was randomly drawn from a list of elementary and middle schools, both public and private, throughout the state. Teachers returned 370 usable surveys, for a response rate of 30.8%. Elementary teachers comprised 72.9% of the sample, while 23.7% were middle school teachers and 3.4% taught both elementary and middle school students. Females made up 84.8% of the sample, and 15.2% of respondents were male. As to age, 22.8% of the teachers were in their 20s, 26.5% were in their 30s, 32.1% were in their 40s, 18.0% were in their 50s, and 0.6% were in their 60s.

Teachers in the sample were asked four series of questions. The first allowed the teachers to indicate the popularity of pro wrestling among their students. The second allowed them to indicate preconceived notions they might have had about students known to be fans of pro wrestling. The third series comprised global questions asking teachers to indicate their own attitudes toward pro wrestling and their own general opinions on how harmful to children the industry is. The fourth comprised questions allowing teachers to rate the extent to which their students imitate pro wrestling (i.e., wrestling moves, aggressive or vulgar language, aggressive or vulgar gestures, sexually connotative language or behavior). In order to avoid order effects on both the global attitude questions and the imitation items, the third and fourth series of questions were rotated, creating two versions of the survey which were pooled for analysis (surveys with global items first, n = 205; surveys with global items last, n = 165).

]Results[

Teachers’ Assessments of Wrestling’s Popularity

Just how popular is pro wrestling among children? The overwhelming majority of the teachers (97.0%) indicated that they had currently, or had had within the past four years, students who watched pro wrestling on television. Further, teachers estimated that 45.08% of their current students were “fans of professional wrestling,” with middle school teachers giving a significantly higher estimate than elementary teachers, 50.33% vs. 43.74%, t = 2.12, p = .035. Finally, teachers were asked if they had seen, over the past four years, an increase, decrease, or no change in the number of their students who were fans of pro wrestling. (Four years was the period chosen, as it essentially coincided with the time frame in which pro wrestling exploded in popularity, following the significant change in program content described above.) An overwhelming 80.8% of teachers responded that they had seen an increase in the number of students who were fans of pro wrestling; 14.9% reported they had seen no change, and just 4.2% had seen a decrease. These results clearly indicate that, as pro wrestling has ratcheted up violent and sexual content over the past four years, seeking the male 18- to 34-year-old demographic, increasing numbers of children are watching as well.

Teachers’ Preconceived Notions

In order to gain initial insight into both the attitudes of teachers toward pro wrestling and the observations of teachers about whether children imitate wrestling, teachers were asked if they had any preconceived notions, or expectations, concerning students known to be fans of pro wrestling. Teachers were asked to describe these, if they existed. The software QSR NUD·IST, a qualitative data analysis package, was used to analyze these responses. While the majority of teachers (75.3%) stated that they did not prejudge students, nearly one quarter (24.7%) stated that they did. Of teachers reporting that they had made such judgments, 54.8% used the terms “violent” and/or “aggressive.” Examples of comments include the following:

1. “It has been my experience with these students in the past that now causes me to expect more aggressive behavior and rougher play at recess. Students practice what they see at matches. The students also use inappropriate language that they have heard either while attending matches or watching them on TV.”

2. “These students are more physically active and aggressive in the classroom and at recess.”

3. “They generally get in trouble more. They are loud and somewhat aggressive. They are tired due to staying up too late watching wrestling [The two main WWE programs air on weeknights, one from 8:00 to 10:00, the other from 9:00 to 11:00.] They are usually not at the top of the class grade-wise.”

Of teachers who reported that they had preconceived notions about children who viewed pro wrestling, 22.6% also anticipated “rebellious” behavior and/or “discipline problems” on the part of these children. The surveys repeatedly included statements like the following:

1. “I expect them to be more active and to have more difficulty following rules, especially where roughness is concerned.”

2. “The students tend to misbehave, are very loud and boisterous, often times rebellious and want to play by hitting or acting out what the wrestlers do.”

Smaller percentages of the teachers who said they had preconceived notions expected that students who were consumers of pro wrestling  would (a) demonstrate relatively poor academic performance (14.3% of these teachers) and (b) use inappropriate language (11.9%of these teachers).

Teachers’ Attitudes Toward Pro Wrestling

Teachers’ attitudes toward pro wrestling were assessed directly, by asking teachers to rate their agreement with the global statement “I like professional wrestling,” using a 7-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Overall, the teachers indicated a strong dislike of pro wrestling (M = 1.7). However, this measure does not necessarily indicate that teachers find pro wrestling harmful to children. Three additional questions were asked to assess the teachers’ attitudes about the industry harming children.

First, the teachers were asked for their opinions about the degree to which viewing of televised violence negatively affects children’s behavior, from 1(not at all)to 7(a great amount). They indicated a strong belief that viewing televised violence has a negative behavioral effect, M = 5.99. Next, the teachers were asked for their opinions about how harmful pro wrestling is to child fans in terms of behavioral tendencies and behavioral development, from 1(not at all harmful)to 7(very harmful). Teachers indicated a general belief that pro wrestling is indeed harmful to child fans, M = 5.59. Comparison of the mean to the midpoint of the scale indicates that it is significantly higher, t = 22.77, p < .000. Third, the teachers were asked, “Compared to other forms of entertainment and television programming, how would you rank pro wrestling in terms of harmful effects on children’s development?” Responses to this question ranged from 1 (least harmful) to 7 (most harmful). Teachers indicated a belief that pro wrestling was relatively harmful compared to other forms of entertainment and television programming, rating it significantly higher than the midpoint, M = 5.54, t = 22.88, p < .000. Strikingly, 8.8% of the sample responded that there were no forms of entertainment or television programming more harmful to a child’s development than pro wrestling. In sum, results indicate that in these teachers’ experience, professional wrestling is a negative influence on the children among its fans.

Teachers’ Observation of Children’s Imitation of Wrestlers

The fourth series of questions asked the teachers about the degree to which their students engaged in imitating various forms of behavior common in pro wrestling, with responses ranging from 1 (not at all imitative) to 7 (very imitative). The mean was significantly higher than the scale midpoint, M = 4.96, t = 10.80, p < .000, suggesting that the teachers had observed a considerable degree of imitation. Interestingly, elementary school teachers reported having observed more imitation than middle school teachers had, 5.07 vs. 4.55, t = 2.41, p = .016. The teachers were asked, moreover, whether over the past four years they had seen an increase, a decrease, or no change in how often their students imitated wrestlers. Over half of the teachers (59.2%) reported seeing an increase, while 35.2% reported no change and only 4.9% reported seeing a decrease.

The specific kinds of imitation the teachers’ students engaged in was explored in some detail by the survey. Using a 5-point scale that included 1 (not at all), 2 (sometimes but not often), 3 (somewhat often), 4 (often), and 5 (very often), teachers were asked how regularly they had observed each of the following:

1. imitation of wrestling moves and/or other aggressive wrestling behaviors

2. injuries resulting from imitation of wrestling moves and/or other aggressive wrestling behaviors

3. imitation of aggressive and/or vulgar language specifically attributable to viewing pro wrestling

4. imitation of aggressive and/or vulgar gestures specifically attributable to viewing pro wrestling

5. imitation of sexually connotative language, gestures, or other behavior specifically attributable to viewing pro wrestling

For each of the five kinds of imitation, teachers were asked to specify, in open-ended format, what they had observed. Again, the data were analyzed using QSR NUD·IST; during the process, it was important to include only those teacher accounts of imitation specifically attributable to pro wrestling, so responses were separately coded by the principal researcher and an assistant, both familiar with wrestling programming content. Minimal differences in coding were resolved through discussion.

Wrestling moves, injury. Results for the elementary and middle school teachers did not differ significantly with respect to how frequently they had observed children imitating wrestling moves and/or other aggressive wrestling behaviors. The teachers rated the frequency, on average, between somewhat often and often (M = 3.41). Over one quarter of the teachers (28.1%) said they had observed children imitating a form of “body slam”; nearly one quarter (23.5%) said they had observed hitting or kicking. Improperly executed wrestling moves have killed and injured many wrestlers by injury to the neck. The “clothesline” is a dangerous example and is a move in which one wrestler slings another wrestler into the ropes and uses his arm to hit the opponent in the neck as he bounces back. The “piledriver” is another, a move in which a subdued wrestler, held upside down and vertically, has his head driven down into the mat.

The number of cases in which a child died as the result of imitating such moves is large and includes several recent incidents (Clary, 2001; Davis, 1999). Over one-fifth of the teachers surveyed for this research (20.9%) said they had observed imitative behavior involving the neck, in that their students used the words “clothesline,” “chokehold,” “pedigree,” and “piledriver” in a context of physical aggression. The fact that the teachers cited such industry-specific terms suggests that they quite accurately attributed the observed physical behavior to an imitation of pro wrestling. A further 8.1% of the surveyed teachers reported students’ use of “headlocks,” while 6.8% reported observing imitative moves involving a jump from a raised surface of some sort (typically a desk or jungle gym) to land on another child, as wrestlers frequently jump onto their opponents from above.

The teachers were asked whether they had seen students injured as a result of imitating wrestling moves, and 57.9% of them had not. However, 42.1% said they had observed injury occurring as students imitated wrestling moves. Clearly, the potential for bodily harm through such imitation is occasionally realized. Most often, the injuries teachers had observed were bruises, cuts, and scrapes (74.4% of teachers) They also reported observing injuries to the head or neck (24.1% of teachers), muscle injuries such as sprain or strain (10% of teachers), and broken bones (5.7% of teachers).

Language. Findings for elementary and middle school teachers did not differ significantly with respect to their reports of how often students used aggressive or vulgar language while imitating wrestling programming. The teachers rated the frequency of such imitation between sometimes but not often and somewhat often (M = 2.64). According to the teachers, the most commonly imitated phrases included “Suck it,” which was the catchphrase of the defunct group of wrestlers known as “Degeneration X.” One quarter of the teachers (25.1%) reported this as the most commonly imitated wrestling expression among their students, who they said frequently mimicked a wrestling gesture (arms crossed in an X and moved repeatedly toward the pelvis as the hips are repeatedly thrust) to accompany the phrase. The students of 10.3% of the teachers had regularly used the term “ass,” for example in talking about the wrestler “Bad Ass Billy Gunn” and quoting the Rock’s slogan, “I’m going to whip your candy ass” (the Rock is another wrestler). Students had used other phrases to imitate the wrestler “Stone Cold Steve Austin,” according to 7.3% of the teachers, calling a peer “son of a bitch” or cheering, “Give me a ‘hell yeah.’” Other teacher reports of aggressive or vulgar language their students used could not with confidence be directly linked to pro wrestling.

Gestures. The teachers rated the frequency of children’s use of aggressive or vulgar gestures in imitation of pro wrestlers as between sometimes but not often and somewhat often, M = 2.53. Degeneration X’s gesture (see preceding paragraph) had been observed by 31.9% of the teachers, according to their reports. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s signature raised middle finger was mentioned by 27.8% of the teachers. It should be noted that some of WWE’s most popular merchandise alludes to Austin’s signature gesture, including a large foam hand with the middle finger raised and t-shirts bearing the gesture. No other gestures were cited by significant numbers of the teachers.

Sexually connotative language, gestures, other behavior. As described earlier, the sexual content of wrestling programming has increased dramatically in the last several years. Female characters are scantily clad, their roles often revolving around activities having sexual connotations, as in the “wrestling” matches between “divas” described earlier. Television’s place in social learning and the formation of cognitive scripts suggests that regular viewing of women in such roles may contribute to children’s development of harmful gender stereotypes and sex roles (Honig, 1983). Teachers in the current study indicated that they had observed children imitating sexually connotative pro wrestling behaviors sometimes but not often, M = 1.94. According to descriptions of such imitation provided by 15.7% of the teachers, the sexually connotative command “Suck it,” accompanied by the Degeneration X gesture directed at female classmates, was the most often observed.

Other sexually connotative behavior observed included male students’ imitation of the wrestler called “the Godfather.” At the time of data collection, this character was a pimp who was walked to the ring by scantily clad women called the “’ho train.” In imitating this wrestler, the students called female classmates “ho.” They also repeated the Godfather catchphrase “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy.” The teachers cited certain other sexually connotative language and behavior that could not with confidence be attributed clearly to wrestling’s influence and so was not included in the study. The results do tend to indicate, nevertheless, that imitation of sexually connotative behavior from pro wrestling does occur among children to some degree; it may perhaps contribute to their development of cognitive scripts that direct men and women to view each other as the men and women characters of pro wrestling appear to do.

Children’s Favorite Wrestlers (and Likely Models)

Prior research has shown that the relationship between televised violence and viewer aggression is strengthened when actors committing the violence on screen are perceived as attractive (Huesmann & Eron, 1986; National Television Violence Study, 1997). It was therefore proposed that the wrestlers whom children find most attractive and “cool” are those with whom they will most likely identify and those likeliest to eventually contribute to their cognitive scripts. In light of the proposal, teachers were asked for the names of any wrestler their students had ever mentioned. The wrestler most popular among children appears to be Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was mentioned by 61.4% of teachers (additionally, 34.0% of teachers named the Rock, 24.0% named Goldberg, 20.0% named the Undertaker, 14.3% named Hulk Hogan, and 13.5% named Degeneration X). The Stone Cold character’s popularity stems from his rebellious (presently, his main nemesis is WWE owner McMahon), mistrustful, take-no-prisoners attitude. For children to learn and imitate Austin’s coarse language and gestures goes against injunctive societal norms. One teacher’s remarks included the following:

I think that wrestling emulates things that we work hard to remove from the school environment. I understand that usually the good guy prevails, but before he prevails, he has to be run into the ground. The bad guy seems to gain all of the popularity. Characters like Stone Cold Steve Austin are such. He shows no respect for authority, values, or trust. The attitude is “I will get what I want at your expense.” Where does this take us?

It takes the WWE into the black, with enormous profits from sales to children of licensed merchandise featuring wrestlers like Austin: names, likenesses, coarse gestures, and violent sayings. One top-seller is a shirt stating, “Austin 3:16 says I Just Whipped Your Ass.”

]Discussion[

The present research has provided initial insight into the ethical implications of professional wrestling’s targeting of children. It has asked whether wrestling, as it has targeted the valuable 18- to 34-year-old male demographic by making its products attractive to young adult males with sex and violence, has placed a potentially harmful product in the path of a vulnerable market segment: children. Social contract theory states that corporations exist only through a society’s cooperation and commitment, meaning there is a social contract providing legitimacy to businesses based on consent from those whom the business affects (Dunfee, Smith, & Ross, 1999). Relative to this ethical theory, pro wrestling and society hold each other responsible for the condition of their mutual existence. If this theory holds, and corporate legitimacy is provided by the consent of those affected by a business, society must critically examine the effects of professional wrestling and other forms of sport-entertainment marketed to its children. As this initial exploration has found, according to elementary and middle school teacher accounts, professional wrestling does indeed produce negative effects in the form of physical, verbal, and attitudinal imitation by children who are regular viewers of wrestling programming.

It should be noted that any discussion of ethics risks being perceived as normative or judgmental in tone. Indeed, the Code of Ethics of the American Marketing Association provides what many would consider a purely normative directive, stating that marketers should not do harm knowingly and should offer products and services that are safe and fit for their intended uses. Much of the marketing literature on ethical targeting issues deals primarily with assessing product harm and a target population’s vulnerability both to a marketing message and product (Rittenburg & Parthasarathy, 1997; Smith & Cooper-Martin, 1997). For this reason, assessment of and commentary on product harm and consumer vulnerability most often contain at least some statements perceived to be normative judgments, yet ethics’ importance from a non-normative, solely business standpoint cannot be ignored. As an example, consider Kotler’s (1997) “societal marketing concept” that organizations should build social and ethical considerations into their marketing practices and act in the best long-term interest of society. Because consumers make ethical judgments, Kotler claims, ethical business practices should in turn make positive impacts in the long-run success of an organization as consumers accept or reject products based in part on their ethical judgments. Indeed, Kotler’s societal marketing concept seems reflected in several areas of sport, such as the public’s rejection of athletes perceived to have engaged in unethical acts and the negative public reaction to sporting goods manufacturers’ perceived unethical acts (e.g., the labor practices of Nike). Sports marketers, including sport-entertainment marketers such as the WWE, must not lose sight of the relationship between ethical practices and financial success. In the language of Laczniak, Burton, and Murphy (1999), sports marketers should, in light of ethical considerations, begin to examine their current practices and justify, modify, or eliminate as necessary. It is toward this end that this examination of pro wrestling’s targeting of children was carried out.

Finally, Laczniak and Murphy (1993, 1999) suggest a series of tests be used to evaluate the ethics of marketing practices, including those of firms in the sports and entertainment industries. Two of these tests directly apply to the current issue. The “consequences test” asks, “Is it likely that any major damages to people or organizations will result from the contemplated action?” The “justice test” asks, “Does the proposed action leave another person or group less well off?” as well as “Is this person or group already a member of a relatively underprivileged class?” If underprivileged class is taken to mean vulnerable class/market segment, which would reflect the spirit and intent of the justice test, it could be argued that the professional wrestling industry performs questionably on both tests.

]References[

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Author Note

Matthew J. Bernthal, Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, University of South Carolina.

All correspondence concerning this research should be addressed to Assistant Professor Matthew J. Bernthal, Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208; phone 803-777-4579 (office), 803-732-1405 (home), 803-777-8788 (fax); e-mail: bernthal@gwm.sc.edu .

An Investigation of Environmental Motivation Factors Affecting Fans of Minor League Baseball

Although they are important to the sports spectator experience, there have been few studies of crowd control, concession services, parking, and the like. These environmental motivation factors as they affect fans of specified sports were the focus of this study, which took as its premise that fans of a given sport differ from fans of other given sports in terms of their motivation to follow the progress of a team. The neo-Marxist critique of spectator sports in capitalist society holds that sports spectators are more likely than nonspectators to be actively involved both in sports and in other cultural activities, including politics. Furthermore, many spectator sports actually tend to increase hostility and aggression in fans, rather than rendering fans apathetic or providing them the lucid equivalent of an Aristotelian catharsis (Guttmann, 1981). From ancient times to the present, individuals who have demonstrated allegiance or devotion to a particular sport, a particular team, and/or a particular player have been classified as sports fans.

According to previous studies (Hansen & Gauthier, 1989; Zhang, Pease, Hui, & Michaud, 1995), there are four major factors that affect spectators’ decisions about attending games. The attractiveness of the home team is a first and vital consideration. Individual players’ skill, league standing, breaking of prior records, team record, performance, and star players together affect fans’ attendance at games (Zhang et al.,1997). In Greenstein and Marcum’s study (1981) of Major League Baseball from 1946 to 1975, hypothesized reasons for attendance at games were teams’ win-loss records, pitching staff, and home-run batters. The study results showed that 25% of the variance in attendance was due to team performance. Jones (1984) found a number of significant factors related to hockey game attendance: a winning home team relative to the league, a qualified visiting team relative to the league, a game’s role in progress to season play-offs, superstar players, and preference as to team style (i.e., fighting vs. skating).

The attractiveness of the visiting team (its quality, the presence of star players, the strength of its rivalry with the home team, etc.) is a second major factor in fans’ decision making about game attendance (Zhang et al., 1997), and a third is economic variables including ticket pricing, promotions, and advertising (Hansen & Gauthier, 1989; Zhang et al., 1995). Promotions and income have been found to relate positively to game attendance, while ticket price, televising of games, available entertainment alternatives, and available sport-event alternatives have generally been found to relate negatively to game attendance (Baade & Tiehen, 1990; Bird, 1982; Siegfried & Eisenberg, 1980; Zhang et al., 1995). The fourth significant factor in fans’ decisions to attend games is audience preference, meaning, for example, game schedules, convenience, stadium quality, weather, and team history in a community. Weekend games and end-of-season games increase attendance, while afternoon games decrease attendance; showing no effect on attendance are double headers and home dates (Drever & MacDonald, 1981; Hansen & Gauthier, 1989; Hay & Thueson, 1986; Hill, Madura, & Zuber, 1982; Siegfried & Eisenberg, 1980). In addition, team attractiveness variables and audience preference variables have generally been found to relate positively to game attendance (Baade & Tiehen, 1990; Becker & Suls, 1983; Bird, 1982; Demmert, 1973; Godbey & Robinson, 1979; Hansen & Gauthier, 1989; Jones, 1984; Wall & Myers, 1989; Whitney, 1988; Zech, 1981).

Employing psychological and sociological theories concerning sports fans, Wakefield and Sloan (1995) sought to identify specific stadium factors affecting attendance. Their study argued that spectators who enjoyed spending time at a stadium should be relatively likely to want to spend additional time there, while conversely, spectators who had had an unpleasant experience at a stadium should be relatively unlikely to want to spend additional time there (and risk repetition of the unpleasant experience). Stadium qualities that have been considered environmental motivation factors include parking, cleanliness, comfort (or convenience), food service, and fan behavior, as outlined below.

Where stadium parking spaces are ample, spectators’ enjoyment of the stadium experience may be enhanced. Low-tolerance and task-oriented individuals may experience frustration if locating a parking space and/or walking in to the stadium require excessive amounts of time (Bitner, 1992; Snodgrass, Russell, & Ward, 1988). Spectators dissatisfied with parking conditions are relatively likely to leave a game early and express less satisfaction with their stadium experience.

The cleanliness of a stadium is primarily a function of stadium service quality. For instance, as a game progresses, restrooms and concession areas can fill with trash and spilled food and drink. Spectators confronting such refuse may feel unwilling to use the facilities and may become dissatisfied (Wakefield & Sloan, 1995).

Physical comfort in a stadium is, as Melnick (1993) found, another important factor. The width of aisles and hallways, the arrangement of seats, and the amount of room afforded for concessions and restroom facilities (which may also be thought of as the convenience of stadium facilities) should be sufficient to accommodate social interaction and facilitate enjoyment of the game. A spectator who feels uncomfortable because other spectators are too close or who feels hampered in exiting the stands and accessing restrooms or concessions may leave a game early and hesitate to attend further games (Wakefield & Sloan, 1995).

From a food service perspective, spectators are virtually held captive in the stadium for the three or more hours before and during a game (Wakefield & Sloan, 1995). By offering a variety of appetizing foods, a stadium facility enhances the spectator’s sports encounter.

Finally, fan behavior that is offensive to or abusive of fellow fans may, Bernstein noted (1991), prompt some spectators to leave a game early, especially when such behavior continues throughout a game. Both players’ behavior and the intensity of the two opponents’ rivalry affect fan behavior, as does alcohol consumption.  When stadium managers and personnel carefully monitor fan behavior, moving quickly to end unpleasant situations (in other words, when they practice crowd control), many negative experiences on the part of their patrons can be prevented (Wakefield & Sloan, 1995).

In addition, while each of the five preceding stadium factors would be expected to influence all spectators, those spectators who are most loyal to the home team should be relatively likely to stay throughout a game and to return to the stadium in future, due to their loyalty to the team. In other words, spectators who are loyal to the home team are likely to want to spend time at the stadium, and to return, primarily due to a desire to see the team play (Wakefield & Sloan, 1995).

]Methodology[

The purpose of this study was to examine environmental motivation factors and fan loyalty affecting Alabama residents whose communities had no Major League Baseball team, but did have a Class AA Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team. Specifically, the study sought to ascertain the types of environmental factors (parking, crowd control, stadium cleanliness, convenient facilities, and food and beverage service) affecting fans who are attending professional baseball games. Fan loyalty to specific baseball teams was also analyzed.

To obtain fan responses reflecting realistic evaluations of the related stadium and environmental factors, Wakefield and Sloan’s (1995) adapted Stadium Factors Measurement questionnaire was modified and used with an on-site distribution and collection strategy during each July 2001 home game of the Mobile (Alabama) BayBears. The BayBears are a Class AA MiLB team in the Southern League and play in Hank Aaron Stadium. The questionnaire was distributed in all 14 seating sections of the stadium. The researchers employed a stratified random sampling method with no discriminating factors except age.  Any qustionnaire collected by the researchers that had been completed by an individual under 18 years of age was excluded. Age discrimination was made subjectively in the effort to exclude children whose visit to the baseball stadium was believed to have been influenced by their parents. To promote fans’ participation in the survey, the BayBears organization provided to participants complimentary tickets to any upcoming regular season game in 2001.

To obtain reliability estimates and to establish the construct validity of the instrument, a pilot study was conducted before the data were collected from the final target population. Administration of the existing instrument also served as a field test further establishing its content and face validity. After the questionnaire items had been formulated, the survey was administered to 46 United States Sports Academy graduate students who had survey experience. Their remarks were sought concerning the appropriateness of the questionnaire, relevance of its content, clarity of its questions, ease of completion, and time required for completion. Based on the 46 students’ responses, a few minor changes were made to the instrument. In its final form, the instrument contained 20 items on four pages; average time to complete the survey was 3–4 min.

The 20 separate items comprising the survey covered both sociodemographic characteristics and environmental motivation factors. Participants’ sociodemographic information included demographics as well as behavioral variables. Demographic variables were gender, ethnicity, age, marital status, education level, employment status, income, and residence. Behavioral variables were game attendance rate, type of ticket purchased, reasons for following favorite teams’ progress, and preferred means of following favorite teams’ progress (e.g., at ball park, by television broadcast, by radio broadcast, etc.).

The modified Stadium Factors Measurement questionnaire was used with a 7-point Likert response scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The scale was developed and employed in order to indicate respondents’ characteristics related to environmental motivation factors and team loyalty.

]Results[

The data were collected from a stratified random sample of respondents (N = 282) at the Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The sample consisted of 155 males (n = 155, 55%) and 127 females (n = 112, 45%) (Table 1). To simplify the data analysis, the variable age was first recoded in seven categories: 18–20 years, 21–30 years, 31–40 years, 41–50 years, 51–60 years, 61–70 years, and 71 or more years. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 74 years (M = 37.97, SD = 13.07), with 89% falling between age 21 and age 60. Those fans age 18–20 constituted 6% of the sample, while fans 61 years old or older constituted 5.3% of the sample.

The majority of respondents were Caucasian (n = 251, 89.0%), followed by African-American (n = 27, 9.6%), Hispanic (n = 2, 0.7%), Asian (n =1, 0.4%), and other (n = 1, 0.4%). The majority of respondents were married (n = 180, 63.8%). Some 30% (n = 82) had completed college, and approximately 29% (n = 81) had some college education (respondents who had earned a graduate degree or completed some graduate study comprised 17.3% of the sample, n = 49). About 71% (n = 201) of the respondents were employed; 10% were full-time homemakers. Most of the respondents (n = 236, 83.7%) were residents of Alabama, although 46 individuals (16.3%) were nonresidents. More than half the respondents had yearly incomes between $20,000 and $59,999, while another 13.5% earned between $60,000 and $79,999 annually; those earning more than $80,000 comprised about 13% of the sample. The remaining 20% (approximately) had incomes below $20,000 (Table 1).

Concerning game attendance rates, during the previous season, approximately 57.0% of the study respondents (n = 159) had attended BayBears games (including home and away games) less than 3 times per month. In addition, 18.1% of the sample (n = 51) were attending their first BayBears game. The third largest group of respondents reported attending games  3 to 5 times per month during the previous season. Most of the survey participants were attending the game using a single-game ticket (n = 183, 64.9%); 33 respondents had used a group ticket to attend the game (n = 33, 11.7%). The remaining 23% of respondents fell in 5 categories: full-season ticket (4.6%), half-season ticket (2.5%), package ticket (5.7%), guest of season ticket holder (6.4%), and other, for instance a complimentary ticket (4.3%).

More than 25.0% of the respondents (n = 78) said that they followed a favorite baseball team because they had grown up in the host city or state; another 26.0% said they followed a particular team because of its geographic location. Having family members who liked the team was a reason cited by 11.0% of the sample for following a particular team. The presence of a favorite player on the team was the reason given by 11.7% of the sample for following a given team. The majority of respondents (n = 222, 78.7%) reported following a favorite baseball team by watching television; other means employed to follow teams were going to ball parks (n = 24, 8.5%), magazine and/or newspaper coverage (n = 16, 5.7%), Internet coverage (n = 9, 3.2%), radio coverage (n = 3, 1.1%), and other, such as information gained from friends or family members (n = 8, 2.8%) (Table 2).

Analysis of the data on environmental motivation factors in respondents’ attendance at the baseball stadium (Table 3) showed that the most important such factor was cleanliness (M = 5.47, SD = 1.33). Next in importance was convenient facilities (M = 5.40, SD = 1.36), followed by parking (M = 5.33, SD = 1.52), and “fan control” (M = 5.27, SD = 1.36). In terms of team loyalty, the respondents demonstrated positive opinions about a favorite MiLB baseball team even when stadium-related environmental factors were unsatisfactory (M = 5.00, SD = 1.36).

In addition, a group of t tests was employed to look for significant differences in environmental motivation factors affecting Alabama residents and nonresidents (Table 4). Those survey participants who were Alabama residents had significantly higher “loyalty factor” scores (M = 5.15, SD = 1.45) than did nonresident participants (M = 4.26, SD = 1.98), at the .01 level. No other significant difference between residents and nonresidents was observed for the remaining environmental motivation factors considered in the study.

Multiple regression analysis was employed to examine the relationship of loyalty to environmental motivation factors (Table 5). The multiple regression analysis showed three environmental motivation factors to be significantly predictive of the loyalty variable: parking (at the .01 level), convenient facilities (at the .01 level), and food and beverage services (at the .05 level).  The regression model explained 38.9% of variance.

The results of correlation analyses indicated correlations among the environmental motivation factors (Table 6). Significant positive relationships were found among all environmental motivation items, as follows:

1. correlation between parking and stadium cleanliness, r  =  .697 (p < .01)

2. correlation between parking and convenient facilities, r = .567 (p < .01)

3. correlation between parking and food and beverage services,  =  .489 (p < .01)

4. correlation between parking and fan control, r = .598 (p < .01)

5. correlation between parking and team loyalty, r = .499 (p < .01)

6. correlation between stadium cleanliness and convenient facilities, r = .721 (p < .01)

7. correlation between stadium cleanliness and food and beverage services, r = .532 (p < .01)

8. correlation between stadium cleanliness and fan control, r = .673 (p < .01)

9. correlation between stadium cleanliness and team loyalty, r = .459 (p < .01)

10. correlation between convenient facilities and food and beverage services, r = .604 (p < .01)

11. correlation between convenient facilities and fan control, r = .745 (p < .01)

12. correlation between convenient facilities and team loyalty, r = .572 (p < .01)

Furthermore, significant positive relationships were found between food and beverage services and fan control ( =  .710, p < .01), between food and beverage services and team loyalty (= .482, p < .01), and between fan control and team loyalty (r = .531, p < .01). All correlations were significant at the .01 level.

Finally, one-way multivariate analyses of variance (MANOVA) were performed to compare the mean vector scores for the six environmental motivation items with respect to the behavioral variables. The structural coefficients were used to define a function based on an eigenvalue equal to .30, while the standardized coefficients were used to test redundancy of environmental motivation items (Pease & Zhang, 2001). The results of MANOVA showed significant effects on environmental motivation items both for attendance rate, Multivariate F(30, 1086) = .807, p = .001, and for ticket type, Multivariate F(36, 1188) = .811, p =.013. On the other hand, remaining MANOVA results indicated no significant effect for reason for following favorite teams, Multivariate F(42, 1265) = .868, p = .619, and no significant effect for preferred means of following favorite teams, Multivariate F(30, 1086) = .879, p = .224.

Specifically, respondents’ mean vector scores differed significantly,  at the .01 level, based on attendance rate for the preceding baseball season. The loyalty item was the main contributing factor: Respondents who had attended every home game of the preceding season had a higher mean. In addition, their mean vector scores differed significantly, at the .05 level, based on type of ticket used for game attendance. Two factors, parking and loyalty, were the main contributing factors. Respondents using single-game tickets had higher mean scores for parking and stadium cleanliness than did respondents using other kinds of tickets. Respondents using package tickets scored higher than other respondents on items pertaining to convenient facilities and fan control. Respondents who were guests of season ticket holders scored higher than other respondents on items pertaining to food and beverage services and team loyalty. Mean vector scores did not differ significantly, however, in terms of respondents’ reasons for following or preferred means of following a favorite team (Table 7).

Discussion and Recommendations

Mahony, Madrigal, and Howard (2000) have argued that a variety of marketing strategies should be applied with different types of sports consumers they refer to as “high loyal fans,” “spurious loyal fans,” “latent loyal fans,” and “low loyal fans.” Varied strategies are necessary in light of the different consumers’ differing motivations and/or reasons for attending professional sports events and making commitments to professional sports teams. The present study focused on sociodemographics and environmental motivation factors, knowledge of which may affect professional baseball franchises’ marketing strategies and frameworks. While the present study focused on residents of a state that hosts no major-league professional teams, its results may inform the development of efficient business concepts for minor-league professional teams.

The study respondents’ views on environmental motivation items suggest a number of ways to maintain fan satisfaction, perhaps thereby increasing attendance. The three most important concern stadium cleanliness, parking, and convenient facilities; relative satisfaction with these factors affects the likelihood that a spectator will return to the stadium in the future. Wakefield and Sloan’s similar results (1995) led them to advise MiLB administrators to emphasize efforts to ensure that parking, cleanliness, convenience, food and beverage services, and crowd control satisfy the baseball fans who attend games. The present study found, in particular, a correlation between team loyalty and the other environmental motivation factors, and loyalty of course plays one of the biggest roles in determining fans’ willingness to attend games. For this reason, administrators of MiLB teams should use a well-prepared stadium environment to appeal to each of Mahony, Madrigal, and Howard’s types of sports consumer.

Recommendations for future studies are, first, an extension of the scaled motivation items to include psychological and sociological motivation, adding for example promotional events, frequency of media exposure, family effects, and gambling factors. Second, the findings of this study suggest a link to be explored between baseball fans’ motivation to attend games and judgments about satisfaction with game attendance.

 

Table 1 Sociodemographic Characteristics, Frequency and Percentage


Sociodemographic Characteristic
Frequency
Percentage

Age, in Years (N = 282)
18–20
17
6.0
21–30
19
28.0
31–40
84
29.8
41–50
47
16.7
51–60
40
14.2
61–70
11
3.9
71 or over
4
1.4
Gender (N = 282)
Male
155
55.0
Female
127
45.0
 

Ethnicity (N = 282)

 

Caucasian 251 89.0
African-American 27 9.6
Asian 1 .4
Hispanic 2 .7
Other 1 .4
 

Marital Status (N = 282)

 

Never married 65 23.0
Married 180 63.8
Divorced 26 9.2
Separated 2 .7
Widowed 5 1.8
Other 4 1.4
 

Education Level (N = 282)

Lower than high school 9 3.2
Graduated from high school 61 21.6
Some college 81 28.7
Completed college 82 29.1
Some graduate study 19 6.7
Earned graduate degree 30 10.6
 

Employment Status (N = 282)

 

Employed 201 71.3
Unemployed 9 3.2
Retired 23 8.2
Full-time homemaker 28 9.9
Student 17 6.0
Other 4 1.4
 

Residential Status (N = 282)

 

Alabama resident 236 83.7
Not a resident of Alabama 46 16.3
 

Annual Income Level (N = 266)

 

Below $20,000 55 20.7
$20,000–$39,999 65 24.4
$40,000–$59,999 76 28.6
$60,000–$79,999 36 13.5
$80,000–$99,999 16 6.0
Above $100,000 18 6.8

Table 2 Fan Behavior, Frequency and Percentage


Behavior Variable
Frequency Percentage

 

Game Attendance Rate

First time attending a game 51 18.1
Less than 3 times per month during preceding season 159 56.4
3–5 times per month during preceding season 44 15.6
6–10 times per month during preceding season 11 3.9
Every home game during preceding season 14 5.0
Every BayBears game during preceding season 3 1.1
 

Ticket Type

 

Full-season ticket 13 4.6
Half-season ticket 7 2.5
Package ticket 16 5.7
Single-game ticket 183 64.9
Group ticket 33 11.7
Guest of season ticket holder 18 6.4
Other 12 4.3
 

Reasons for Following Favorite Teams’ Progress

Because I grew up in that state and/or city 78 27.7
Because I frequently visited the team’s ballpark with my parents 23 8.2
Because of the team’s location near my current hometown 74 26.2
Because my family (spouse, parents, children) likes the team 31 11.0
Because I remember the team treated me well as a customer 2 .7
Because the team has my favorite players 33 11.7
Because I have a membership of the team 1 .4
Other reasons 40 14.2
 

Preferred Means of Following Favorite Teams’ Progress

At ball park
By television broadcast
By radio broadcast By Internet
Magazine and/or newspaper coverage
Other

Table 3 Relative Importance of Environmental Motivation Variables


Variable Mean Standard Deviation

I like to come back to the Hank Aaron Stadium to watch BayBears games because convenient parking spaces are easily available. 5.33 1.52
I like to come back to the Hank Aaron Stadium to watch BayBears games because I like the cleanliness of the stadium. 5.47 1.33
I like to come back to the Hank Aaron Stadium to watch BayBears games because there are enough and convenient facilities, including hallways, space and arrangements of seats, concessions, restrooms, etc. 5.40 1.36
I like to come back to the Hank Aaron Stadium to watch BayBears games because the food and beverage services are very good. 4.91 1.42
I like to come back to the Hank Aaron Stadium to watch BayBears games because of good stadium fan control. 5.27 1.36
Even if the above question items (E1 through E5) are not satisfied, I like to come back to the Hank Aaron Stadium to watch BayBears games because I am loyal to the BayBears. 5.00 1.58

Table 4 Importance of Environmental Motivation Factors by Alabama Residence vs. Nonresidence


Variable Alabama Resident Mean Number of Respondents Standard Deviation t p

Parking Yes
No
5.39
5.02
236
46
1.51
1.51
1.54 .125
Cleanliness Yes
No
5.50
5.32
236
46
1.32
1.38
0.81 .420
Convenient facilities Yes
No
5.44
5.19
236
46
1.33
1.48
1.14 .256
Food / beverage services Yes
No
4.93
4.80
236
46
1.37
1.66
0.51 .616
Fan control Yes
No
5.27
5.23
236
46
1.35
1.44
0.18 .855
Team loyalty Yes
No
5.15
4.26
236
46
1.45
1.98
2.90** .005

Note: Yes = residents of Alabama, No = nonresidents of Alabama
** Indicates significance at the .01 level

Table 5 Multiple Regression Analysis Examining Relationship of Team Loyalty to Environmental Motivation


Variable
B
SE B
B
t
p

Constant .730 .348 2.097* .037
Parking .261 .071 .250 3.662** .000
Cleanliness -.124 .098 -.104 -1.255 .210
Convenient facilities .453 .092 .388 4.900** .000
Food .178 .074 .160 2.424* .016
Fan control .045 .100 .039 .447 .655

R = .623; R2 = .389; F = 35.099** Dependent variable: team loyalty
* Indicates significance at the .05 level
** Indicates significance at the .01 level
Dependent variable: team loyalty

Table 6 Correlations Among Environmental Motivation Items


  Parking Cleanliness Convenient Facilities Food/Beverage Services Fan Control Team Loyalty

Parking 1.00
Cleanliness .697** 1.00
Facility .567** .721** 1.00
Food .489** .532** .604** 1.00
Fan control .598** .673** .745** .710** 1.00
Loyalty .499** .459** .572** .482** .531** 1.00

Spearman rho, ** Indicates significance at the .01 level

Table 7 Multivariate Analysis of Variance for Environmental Motivation Items with Respect to Behavioral Variables


Behavior Variable
Parking
Clean
 

Facility

 

Food

Fan Control
Loyalty

Attendance Rate in Preceding Season:
Wilks’s (30, 1086) = .807,
p = .001
 Mean

(Standard Deviation)

 Mean(Standard Deviation)  Mean(Standard Deviation)  Mean(Standard Deviation)  Mean(Standard Deviation)  Mean(Standard Deviation)
Never 5.06
(1.27)
5.20
(1.23)
5.21
(1.37)
5.02
(1.33)
5.16
(1.35)
4.47
(1.56)
Less than 3 times per month
5.42
(1.45)
5.49
(1.34)
5.36
(1.33)
4.92
(1.34)
5.21
(1.32)
4.90
(1.51)
3–5 times per month
5.32
(1.76)
5.61
(1.35)
5.59
(1.35)
4.82
(1.50)
5.41
(1.33)
5.36
(1.49)
6–10 times per month
5.27
(1.79)
5.82
(1.17)
5.63
(1.29)
4.27
(2.37)
5.18
(1.89)
6.09
(1.64)
Every home game
5.50
(2.17)
5.86
(1.61)
6.00
(1.66)
5.21
(1.72)
5.86
(1.66)
6.28
(1.73)
Every BayBears game
5.33
(1.53)
4.67
(1.53)
4.67
(1.15)
5.00
(1.00)
6.00
(1.00)
4.67
(1.15)
Ticket Type:
Wilks’s (36, 1188) = .811,
p = .013
Full-season ticket
5.00
(1.73)
5.31
(1.70)
5.23
(1.64)
4.85
(1.07)
5.08
(1.66)
5.46
(1.76)
Half-season ticket
5.43
(1.13)
5.43
(1.40)
5.14
(.90)
4.71
(.76)
5.00
(.00)
4.86
(1.86)
Package ticket
5.44
(1.96)
5.87
(1.45)
5.56
(1.71)
4.62
(2.06)
5.62
(1.78)
5.44
(1.90)
Single-game ticket
5.55
(1.38)
5.60
(1.21)
5.51
(1.25)
4.98
(1.42)
5.41
(1.28)
5.11
(1.53)
Group ticket
4.64
(1.76)
5.00
(1.66)
4.85
(1.72)
4.57
(1.58)
4.57
(1.52)
4.18
(1.45)
Guest of season ticket holder
4.94
(1.70)
5.00
(1.53)
5.55
(1.46)
5.17
(1.29)
5.17
(1.54)
5.61
(1.19)
Other
4.75
(1.42)
5.17
(.83)
5.17
(.94)
5.08
(.67)
5.08
(.79)
3.83
(1.58)
Reasons for Following Favorite Teams’ Progress:
Wilks’s (42, 1265) = .868,
p = .619
Because I grew up in that state and/or city

 

5.49
(1.37)
5.46
(1.24)
5.37
(1.33)
4.99
(1.49)
5.32
(1.39)
5.00
(1.59)
Because I frequently visited the team’s ballpark with my parents
6.09
(1.00)
5.78
(.90)
5.22
(1.28)
4.91
(1.00)
5.30
(1.02)
5.17
(1.37)
Because of the team’s location near my current hometown
5.16
(1.53)
5.43
(1.43)
5.32
(1.28)
4.67
(1.43)
5.08
(1.33)
4.85
(1.35)
Because my family (spouse, parents, children) likes the team
5.32
(1.64)
5.52
(1.52)
5.68
(1.42)
5.00
(1.37)
5.45
(1.50)
5.32
(1.74)
Because I remember the team treated me well as a customer
6.00
(1.41)
6.00
(1.41)
6.00
(1.41)
5.50
(2.12)

6.00
(1.41)

6.00
(1.41)
Because the team has my favorite players
5.21
(1.93)
5.45
(1.56)
5.51
(1.62)
4.79
(1.71)
5.27
(1.58)
5.30
(1.69)
Because I have a membership of the team
7.00
(.00)
6.00
(.00)
6.00
(.00)
6.00
(.00)
7.00
(.00)
6.00
(.00)
Other reasons 4.97
(1.46)
5.32
(1.23)
5.37
(1.41)
5.20
(1.28)
5.30
(1.32)
4.65
(1.87)
Preferred Means of Following Favorite Teams’ Progress:

Wilks’s (30, 1086) = .879,
p = .224
At ball park 5.33
(1.61)
5.67
(1.20)
5.50
(1.32)
4.71
(1.71)
5.21
(1.47)
5.17
(1.43)
By television broadcast 5.35
(1.55)
5.47
(1.32)
5.41
(1.34)
4.92
(1.40)
5.30
(1.34)
5.06
(1.55)
By radio broadcast 4.67
(.58)
4.33
(1.15)
4.33
(2.08)
4.33
(.58)
4.00
(2.64)
5.33
(1.53)
By Internet 5.78
(.97)
6.11
(.78)
6.00
(.71)
5.67
(1.00)
5.67
(1.12)
4.44
(2.01)
Magazine and/or newspaper coverage 5.44
(1.09)
5.44
(1.59)
5.31
(1.54)
5.06
(1.48)
5.25
(1.18)
5.25
(1.69)
Other 4.50
(2.00)
4.62
(1.77)
4.75
(1.83)
4.37
(1.68)
4.75
(1.98)
3.00
(1.31)

 

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]Author Note[

Soonhwan Lee ; Cynthia Ryder, United States Sports Academy; Hee-Joon Shin

 

Parents’ Motivations for Enrolling Children in a Private Gymnastic Program

This study examined factors that motivated parents to involve their children in a gymnastic program. The gymnasts (N = 156) were predominantly female (n = 136, 87%) and ranged from 2 to 18 years of age (M = 7.5, SD = 3.2). Gymnasts were classified as recreational (n = 109, 70%) or competitive (n = 47, 30%). Multiple-choice items addressed the domains of skill mastery, ego competitiveness, fitness, team membership, fun and excitement, recognition, and affiliation. In rank order, the reasons that parents of competitive and recreational gymnasts supported a child’s participation in the gymnastic program were fitness (M = 4.38, SD = 1.10), skill development (M = 4.37, SD = 0.94), fun (M = 4.36, SD = 0.86), affiliation (M = 3.77, SD = 1.04), team membership (M = 3.36, SD = 1.11), recognition (M = 3.28, SD = 1.09), and competition (M = 2.64, SD = 1.13).  Parents of competitive gymnasts rated higher than other parents, statistically, the two factors competition (M = 3.53 vs. M = 3.28) and team membership (M=3.06 vs. M=2.46), p < .05.

Parents’ Motivations for Enrolling Children in a Private Gymnastic Program

The importance of physical activity for children is well documented. A physically active lifestyle is important because physical activity and fitness have been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure among adolescents (Boreham, Twisk, Savage, Cran, & Strain, 1997) and favorable cholesterol profiles (Schmidt, Stenzel, & Walkulski, 1997). For a majority of children, physical activity comes through participation in organized sport programs outside of school (Sallis, 1994). When youth are asked what motivates them to participate in organized sport programs, responses typically include skill development, affiliation, fitness, fun, competition, excitement or challenge, and release of energy (McCullagh, Matzkanin, Shaw, & Maldonado, 1993).

Parents have been shown to be powerful influences on their children’s physical activity patterns (Stucky-Ropp & DiLorenzo, 1993). The role of parents in their children’s physical activity occurs via direct and indirect support (Dempsey, Kimiecik, & Horn,1993). Direct support of children’s physical activity includes registering children for organized sport programs and paying the participation fees (Atsalakis & Sleap, 1996). Indirect support of chidren’s physical activity includes transportation of children to places where they can be active (Hoefer, McKenzie, Sallis, Marshall, & Conway, 2001). Parents who demonstrate a positive attitude toward registering children for sport programs and who perceive registration procedures to be easily accomplished are more apt to enroll their children for organized physical activities (Atsalakis & Sleap, 1996).

Dempsey and colleagues (1993) examined how parents’ beliefs about children’s physical activity influenced the activity patterns of their children. The researchers concluded it is possible that parents’ belief systems and support are the primary influences on their children’s physical activity, acknowledging that the factors most important to parents in deciding to support children’s physical activity are unknown. Accordingly, the purpose of the present study was to describe parental rationales for support of children’s participation in a private gymnastic program; the study is based on the work of McCullagh and colleagues (1993).

]Method[

The target population for the present study was parents of children participating in a private gymnastic club. Club records identified 432 registered participants who were either on competitive teams or were recreational gymnasts. The study employed a 58-item survey based on the work of McCullagh et al. (1993), who constructed the instrument using data from recreational soccer players. The questionnaire requested demographic information including age of parent, educational background of parent, and age and gender of child. It also asked about  the child’s current participation in the gymnastic program: level (competitive or recreational), length of participation, and number of days per week currently attending club programs. Parents also rated the importance of the factors that McCullagh and colleagues (1993) identified in describing parents’ rationales for support of children’s involvement in organized physical activity. To rate the factors’ importance, the parents used a 5-point Likert scale. Survey items are presented in Table 1.

During a two-week period all parents who entered the gymnastic facility to deliver or retrieve their children were approached and asked to complete the questionnaire. Children were asked to take a copy of the questionnaire to those parents who did not come into the facility during the two weeks of data collection. (Parents completing a questionnaire at the gym were asked not to complete a duplicate survey should a child bring one home.) Parents with more than one child enrolled in the gymnastic program were asked to complete one questionnaire per child. Descriptive statistics were utilized to report the parents’ responses to questionnaire items. Analysis of variance was used to identify differences between the responses of parents of recreational gymnasts and those of parents of competitive gymnasts.

]Results[

Of the 250 surveys that were distributed, 156 (62.4%) were retrieved. Of 156 parents completing surveys, 132 were female (85%) and 24 were male (15%). The respondents were generally middle-aged (M = 36, SD = 6.6 years) and well educated. The children about whom the surveyed parents reported ranged from 2 to 18 years of age (M = 7.5, SD = 3.2). There were 109 recreational (70%) and 47 competitive (28.8%) gymnasts.

Descriptive statistics addressing parents’ rationales for supporting children’s participation in the gymnastic club are presented in Table 1. The 10 top-ranked items were related to fun, skill, or exercise. All items pertaining to gymnastics’ competitive aspects were ranked in the bottom 10. Table 2 shows the descriptive statistics for individual items in each category and the rank order of reasons parents supported a child’s participation in the gymnastic program. The reasons were ranked identically by the parents of the competitive gymnasts and the parents of the recreational gymnasts. Parents of competitive gymnasts rated team membership as a statistically more important (p < .05) factor than did parents of recreational gymnasts, F = 4.1, p = .04, M = 3 .53, SD = 1.22 versus M = 3.28, SD = 1.08. Parents of competitive gymnasts also rated competition as a statistically more important (p < .05) factor than did parents of recreational gymnasts, F = 16.4, p = .001, M = 3.06, SD = 1.06 versus M = 2.46, SD = 1.18.

]Discussion and Conclusion[

Skill development, exercise, and fun were the three top-rated reasons reported by parents for supporting a child’s involvement in gymnastics. The gymnasts’ parents clearly were interested in providing support for sport activities that their children regarded as fun and that have potential to produce physical fitness and skill. Competition was consistently ranked as one of the least important factors, by parents of competitive and recreational gymnasts alike. These findings are consistent with studies that examined reasons youth participate in other team sport activities (McCullagh et al., 1993; Passer, 1982). Differences between scores for parents of competitive gymnasts and those for parents of recreational gymnasts were found in two instances only, that of the team construct and that of the competitive construct; because the two constructs relate directly to competition, the differences in the scores are not unexpected. Despite the differences, each parent group rated team membership and competition relatively low.

The study results are important to those who provide youth sport programs. As Passer (1982) noted, such information can be useful in efforts to structure an athletic environment that provides participants with a maximally rewarding experience. Fitness, skill development, and fun are what parents expect a child to gain from participation in organized sport programs. Coaches can use this information to attract and keep participants.

Table 1 Means, Standard Deviations, and Rank of Motivational Factors Associated with Parents’ Support of Children’s Participation in Organized Gymnastics


Factor
Mean
Standard Deviation
Rank

To have a good time
4.75 0.68 1
To have fun
4.69 0.70 2
To get exercise
4.62 0.77 3
To improve skills
4.61 0.73 4
To learn new skills
4.60 0.73 5
To feel good when s/he does well
4.51 0.83 6
To do something s/he is good at
4.37 1.17 7
Help to be healthy
4.36 0.94 8
To be physically fit
4.32 0.98 9
To feel important
4.28 4.49 10
Motor development
4.28 0.96 10
To help learn discipline
4.24 0.95 12
To stay in shape
4.22 1.03 13
The coaches
4.15 1.02 14
The excitement
4.07 1.07 15
The team spirit
4.04 1.01 16
The challenge
3.98 1.00 17
The action
3.93 1.10 18
To meet new friends
3.84 1.04 19
To become better at sports
3.83 1.13 20
To get interested in sports
3.74 1.17 21
To be with friends
3.67 1.03 22
Physical therapy
3.62 1.33 23
To reduce risk for disease
3.61 1.17 24
Being on a team
3.27 1.19 26
To gain recognition
3.03 1.17 27
To help control weight
2.79 1.48 28
To compete
2.62 1.10 29
To compete against others
2.52 1.13 30
Awards
2.5 1.15 31
To test ability against others
2.48 1.15 32
To help work out anger
2.39 1.28 33
Medical advice
2.39 1.34 33
To earn college scholarship
2.28 1.32 35
To win against others
1.94 1.05 36
The uniforms
1.91 1.13 37

Table 2 Means, Standard Deviations, and Rank of Motivational-Factor Categories


Category Items
Mean
Standard Deviation
Rank

FitnessTo get exercise
To stay in shape
To be physically fit
Help to be healthy
4.38 0.94 1
Skill/masteryTo improve skills
To feel good when s/he does well
To learn new skills
To do something s/he is good at
Motor development
To become better at sports
4.37 0.89 2
Fun/excitementTo have a good time
To have fun
The action
The excitement
4.36 0.86 3
AffiliationTo be with friends
To meet new friends
3.77 1.04 4
TeamBeing on a team
The coaches
The team spirit
The uniforms
The equipment
3.36 1.11 5
RecognitionTo feel important
To gain recognition
Awards
3.28 1.09 6
MedicalPhysical therapy
To reduce disease risk
To help control weight
Medical advice
3.10 1.10 7
CompetitionTo compete
The challenge
To win against others
To earn college scholarship
To compete against others
To test ability against others
2.64 1.13 8

]References[

Boreham, C. A., Twisk, J., Savage, M. J., Cran, G. W., & Strain, J. J. (1997). Physical activity, sports participation, and risk factors in adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29, 788–793.

Dempsey, J. M., Kimiecik, J. C., & Horn, T. S. (1993). Parental influence on children’s moderate to vigorous physical activity participation: An Expectancy-value approach. Pediatric Exercise Science, 5, 151–167.

Hoefer, W. R., McKenzie, T. L., Sallis, J. F., Marshall, S. J., & Conway, T. L. (2001). Parental provision of transportation for adolescent physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 21, 48–51.

McCullagh, P., Matzkanin, K. T., Shaw, S. D., & Maldonado, M. (1993). Motivation for participation in physical activity: A comparison of parent-child perceived competencies and participation motives. Pediatric Exercise Science, 5, 224–233.

Passer, M. W. (1982). Children in sport: Participation motives and psychological stress. Quest, 33, 231–244.

Sallis, J. F. (1994). Determinants of physical activity behavior in children. In R. R. Pate & R. C. Hohn (Eds.), Health and Fitness Through Physical Education (pp.31–43). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Schmidt, G. J., Stensel, D. J., & Walkuski, J. J. (1997). Blood pressure, lipids, lipoproteins, body fat and physical activity of Singapore children. Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, 33, 484–490.

Stucky-Ropp, R. C., & DiLorenzo, T. M. (1993). Determinants of exercise in children. Preventive Medicine, 22, 880–889.

Author Note

Jenny Wald, M.A.

 

Plyometrics, or Jump Training for Dancers

Little information is found analyzing how dancers use their muscles to perform highly trained movements such as leaps and jumps. Instead, most studies focus on the treatment of injuries sustained by dancers (Trepman et al., 1998). Some injuries, according to Hobby and Hoffmaster (1986), involve “muscle imbalances” resulting from dance training that “places specific demands on . . . bodies” (p. 39). Incorrect training can, in other words, produce underdeveloped or overdeveloped muscle groups. A study by Simpson and Kanter (1997) indicated that injury to lower extremities is common among dancers pursuing various forms of dance, for instance modern dance, jazz dance, and ballet. It linked chronic dance injuries to improper landing when jumping.

Many of the skills required in dance are also used in sports like figure skating and gymnastics (McQueen, 1986). Certain sport training techniques, therefore, can be useful to dancers (McQueen, 1986). Fahey (2000) noted that, “Jumping exercises and plyometrics enhance performance in strength-speed sports because they increase leg power and train the nervous system to activate large muscle groups when you move” (p. 76). Hutchinson and colleagues’ study of elite gymnasts suggested that leap training utilizing a swimming pool as well as Pilates safely enhanced leaping ability (Hutchinson, Tremain, Christiansen, & Beitzel, 1998). In the study, after one month of training, gymnasts improved their explosive power by 220%, their ground reaction time by 50%, and the height of their leaps by 16.2%.

The objective of plyometrics is to generate the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time (Seabourne, 2000). Plyometrics trains the nervous system and metabolic pathways to increase explosiveness, giving the athlete an extra push to move higher and faster. Plyometrics requires acceleration through a complete range of motion, followed by relaxation into a full stretch. The quick stretch applied to the muscle by the athlete during initial push-off is thought to increase muscle contraction, in turn increasing power. The Cincinnati SportsMedicine and Orthopaedic Center has developed a plyometrics-based program called Sportsmetrics, which has been shown to increase jump height and decrease harmful landings (Hewett & Noyes, 1998). Hewett, Stroupe, and Riccobene (1999) analyzed the effects of 6 weeks of Sportsmetrics training in female athletes, finding that, after completing the program, the athletes’ peak landing forces decreased by 22%, lateral and medial forces at the knee dropped by 50%, and the height of jumps increased 10%. Furthermore,  hamstring-to-quadriceps strength ratio rose from 50% to 66%, creating “a more favorable condition for the ACL [anterior cruciate ligament]” (Boden, Griffin, & Garrett, 2000, p. 57). Plyometrics training has been shown to generate greater strength output with fewer injuries, and the present study’s purpose was to assess the effects of a 7-week plyometrics program on the vertical jumps and leaps executed by collegiate dancers.

]Method[

With approval of the appropriate human subjects review board, a sample of 12 female members of a Division I college dance team participated in a plyometrics training program. The specific program used was the Cincinnati SportsMedicine and Orthopaedic Center’s Sportsmetrics program, in which the dancers participated for 7 weeks. Vertical jumps were measured using a Vertec vertical height measuring device. Strength measurements were made using a CYBEX II isokinetic testing and rehabilitation system and HUMAC software for CYBEX by CSMI.

Initially, a meeting was convened during which the Sportsmetrics program was explained in detail to the 12 participants. They were told that the program would be used 3 times a week for 7 weeks. The program featured approximately 40 min of various jumping exercises. Every week, the amount of time devoted to each exercise increased. The participants kept records of how many repetitions of each they completed. After completing the session, the participants continued with a rehearsal lasting 1–2 hr. Every two weeks, the participants were taught a new program of increased difficulty. The plyometrics program carried the dancers into the beginning of their regular season workouts and game performances.

The 12 participants completed a pretest consisting of a 5-min warm-up and 5-min stretch. Height and weight of each participant were recorded. For each participant a standing reach measurement was also obtained, as the participant stood with feet hip-width apart, eyes forward, and reached vertically, the dominant hand on top of the other hand, using the Vertec vertical height measuring device. Using the Vertec vertical height measuring device, each participant executed a standing two-leg jump; the best of three efforts was recorded.

Using the same device, a two-step leap off of the right leg and a two-step leap off of the left leg were evaluated. Participants stood behind the Vertec and attempted a run, run, leap off of the right leg, with the left leg flexed at the knee and the right hand reaching up. The foot was plantar flexed and placed against the medial side of the knee in passe position. The same leap was executed off of the left leg, with the right leg flexed at the knee.

To obtain strength measurements, the participants were evaluated in a sports medicine laboratory. Each dancer was first of all familiarized with the CYBEX II equipment. Standard protocols for measuring thigh strength with the CYBEX II were used. All posttest measurements were taken after the participants had completed 7 weeks of training. Pre- and posttest data were analyzed using a paired t test, with alpha set at 0.05.

]Results and Discussion[

There were five freshmen, one sophomore, four juniors, and two seniors on the dance team from which the study participants were drawn. The participants’ biometric data were as follows: age in years, 19.7 + 1.5; height in meters, 1.65 + 0.06; and weight in kilograms, 57.4 + 6.38. In posttests after 7 weeks of plyometrics training, the right quadriceps peak torque at 180 deg/s (M = 57.9 ft lb) was significantly higher than that from the pretest (M = 54.3 ft lb), t (11) = -2.435, p < .05. Furthermore, although the difference was not statistically significant,  the change between pretest means for the left quadriceps peak torque at 180 deg/s (M = 54.2 ft lb) and posttest  means (M = 57.8 ft lb) did indicate improvement, t (11) =  -1.904, p > .05. Vertical jump measures taken after 7 weeks of plyometrics training indicated a significant difference, t (11) = -4.59, p < .05. Also noted was significant improvement in the two-step jump off the right foot, t (11) = -2.5, p < .05. No such improvement was noted for the two-step jump off  the left foot, t (11) = -1.05, p > .05.

Thus after 7 weeks of plyometrics training, there were increases in strength in the right leg at 180 deg/s. Strength in the left leg also showed improvement in peak torque performance at 180 deg/s, although not at the level of significance. Significant improvement was seen for the vertical jump and the two-step jump off the right foot.

Most dance teachers teach leaps off of both feet, off the left foot, and off the right foot. However, because many dancers jump off the left foot when executing leaps in classroom combinations at center or in performance, many if not most dancers may exhibit an imbalance in lower limb strength. The 7-week plyometrics program employed in this study may have diminished any imbalance of strength in these dancers.

Further investigation with other dancers is warranted on this topic. It may prove useful to test dancers in middle school, high school, and college. In addition, it may be beneficial not only to take isokinetic strength measures, but a measure of isometric strength as well. The possibility that dance training may develop lower-limb muscle imbalances in dancers should be investigated, as should the usefulness of plyometrics training for younger dancers to prevent any such imbalances.

]References[

Boden, B. P., Griffin, L. Y., & Garrett, W. E. (2000). Etiology and prevention of noncontact ACL injury. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 28(4), 53–50.

Fahey, T. D. (2000). Super fitness for sports, conditioning, and health. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Hewett, T. E., & Noyes, F. (1998). Cincinnati Sportsmetrics: A jump training program proven to prevent knee injury [Motion picture]. United States: Cincinnati (Ohio) SportsMedicine Research and Education Foundation.

Hewett, T. E., Stroupe, A. L., & Nance, T. A. (1996). Plyometric training in female athletes: A prospective study. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(6), 765–773.

Hobby, K., & Hoffmaster, L. (1986). In D. Paterson, G. Lapenskie, & A. W. Taylor (eds.), The medical aspects of dance. London, Ontario, Canada: Sports Dynamics.

Hutchinson, M. R., Tremain, L., Christiansen, J., & Beitzel, J. (1998). Improving leaping ability in elite rhythmic gymnasts. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30, 1543–1547.

Kraines, M. G., & Pryor, E. (2001). Jump into jazz: The basics and beyond for the jazz student (4th ed). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

McQueen, C. (1986). In D. Paterson, G. Lapenskie, & A. W. Taylor (eds.), The medical aspects of dance. London, Ontario, Canada: Sports Dynamics.

Seabourne, T. (2000). The power of plyometrics. American Fitness, 18, 64–66.

Simpson, K. J., & Kanter, L. (1997). Jump distance of dance landings influencing internal joint forces: I. axial forces. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29, 916–927.

Trepman, E., Gellman, R. E., Micheli, L. J., & De Luca, C. J. (1998). Electromyographic analysis of grand plie in ballet and modern dancers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30(12), 1708–1720.

Author Note

Brenda G. Griner, Department of Health and Kinesiology and Department of Music, Theater, and Dance, Lamar University; Douglas Boatwright, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Lamar University; Dan Howell, Department of Health and Kinesiology, Lamar University, and Beaumont (Texas) Bone and Joint.