Deviant Overconformity
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Reasons for deviant overconformity

  • Athletes will do anything to participate as long as possible
    • Athletes love their sports and will do almost anything to stay involved.
  • Praise, accolades and rewards associated with overconformity.
    • Likelihood of being chosen for a team or sponsored as an athlete increases as overconformity increases.
    • Coaches often praise and make examples of overconformers
  • Drama and excitement
    • Exceeding normal boundaries is exciting
  • Establishment of strong bonds
    • Bonds are fostered with other athletes willing to overconform

Most athletes don’t see overconformity as deviant. It is viewed as reaffirming their identity as an athlete.

Common characteristics of overconformers

  • Low self-esteem
  • Eager for acceptance
  • Chance for achievement and establishing oneself

Group demands and memberships

An athletes vulnerability to group demands, combined with the desire to gain or reaffirm group membership, is a critical factor underlying deviant overconformity. Athletics is a social experience as well as a physical experience.

High risk and high performance athletes bond so much so that they can separate from the rest of society.

  • “only other athletes can understand them”
  • Risks, dedication, commitment, etc.

Separation between athletes and the rest of the community makes the group dynamics associated with participation in high performance sport very powerful.

Hazing rituals as a rite of passage for membership

  • Extreme feelings of unity
  • Sense of uniqueness and of being extra-ordinary
  • Hubris-expression of uniqueness and the accompanying sense of being separate from and above the rest of the community

Social processes in many high-performance and elite sports

  • Bond athletes in a way that encourages and normalises deviant behavior
  • Separate athletes from the rest of the community
  • Establish hubris-simultaneously bond and separate athletes from the rest of the community
  • Much of the deviance in sport is social in nature rather than individual or personal

Linkage between deviant overconformity to the sport ethic and deviant underconformity within society

Long-term overconformity to the sport ethic may be linked to other deviant behaviors e.g. Drinking, group theft, assault, hazing rituals etc.

Link between behaviour on and off of the field e.g. “I have no problem sharing women with a teammate…these guys go into battle with me”

The awe and admiration accorded to athletes who entertain others as they push limits and engage in deviant overconformity on the field have clearly interfered with the enforcement of community standards and the rules off of the field.

People don’t want to admit that the athletes we admire are capable of deviant behaviors.

Controlling deviant overconformity

Deviant overconformity is often advantageous for coaches, parents, sponsors, owners, etc.

Control requires a commitment to the establishment of acceptable limits

Overconformity often benefits coaches, parents, and others in power

Television ratings, fan attendance, coaches’ success record, etc.

Promotion of overconformers to position of power further perpetuates that acceptance of overconformity

Setting limits and boundaries goes against the sport ethic

Eliminate social separation e.g. “they are out to get us” and “we have to stick together”

Diminish separation and alter social processes

Do not allow awe and admiration interfere with social processes

Controlling deviant underconformity is easier through rules, regulations, laws and so on.

The ultimate goals are to diminish the separation between athletes and the rest of the community, to alter social processes so that athletes will be less likely to feel above the law, and to make the community aware of the need to deal with athletes without letting awe and admiration interfere.

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