The Sport Ethic and Self-Restraint: A Review of Player Deviance On and Off the Field

Michael Atkinson, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Few sociologists have seriously interrogated the sociogenesis of 'sports-related' deviance in western cultures (Young 2002). Even a cursory review of the sociological and criminological literatures indicates that the 'contra-normative' behaviour of professional and amateur athletes has been drasticallyt under-studied and theoretically neglected. Further compounding this problem, the handful of sociological attempts to explain the form and contents of athletes' criminal or otherwise morally deviant acts typically rely on out-of-date theories of aggressionk or overly simplistic learning theories (Atkinson 2003). In this paper, a figurational approach is employed in order to inspect the interrelationship between core athletic values prevalent in sports cultures, and their relationship to the progressive development of low self-restraint in athletes. Evidence suggests that internalising the principles of the 'Sport Ethic' (Hughes and Coakley 1991) may be coterminous with the development of low levels of self-restraint--leading to the proliferation of deviant behaviour on and off the field of play. In this way, central involvement in sports cultures may in fact breed a 'habitus' (Elias 1994) or risk-taking and violence.

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Updated 05/20/2006