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This study examined verbal intimidation (VI), physical intimidation (VI), and physical violence (PV) in high school athletics, both by program and by sport. Antecedents were identified via principal component analysis; they included contextual setting, attitude, pressure, and coaching. Multiple regression analysis was used to assess relationships between antecedents and VI, PI, and PV. Coaching was the only significant predictor in 9 of 15 regression analyses of overall VI, PI, and PV, and one of two significant predictors in 4 of 6 additional analyses. Coaching was the only significant predictor of VI in basketball and football, PI in football and soccer, and PV in basketball and soccer. In addition to coaching, contextual setting was a significant predictor of PI in basketball, attitude was a significant predictor of PV in football, and pressure was a significant predictor of VI in soccer. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Intimidation and violence are common in many sports and pose a serious problem. While journalists report it, sociologists and psychologists try to explain it, and athletes brag, complain, and testify in court about it (Goldstein, 1983; Horrow, 1980; Smith, 1983), athletic-program administrators are in the unenviable position of being held accountable. Some have even suggested that violence is good as long as it does not go too far, while others have argued that the fighting and slashing in ice hockey, spearing and late hits in football, and beanballs in baseball are already too harmful (Croakley, 1986).

Violence and intimidation occur mostly in heavy-contact sports (e.g., football, ice hockey, rugby) and incidental-contact sports (e.g., basketball, soccer, lacrosse, water polo), and have become widely used strategies, especially in the former. They are seen as helping to win games, thus producing rewards for players and increasing profits for sponsors. Although injuries are expected in any sport, there is often a fine line between intimidating tactics and violence that produces serious harm (Croakley, 1986).

One of the more infamous incidents occurred in a 1978 exhibition football game. Jack Tatum, an Oakland Raiders defensive back, broke the neck of Darryl Stingley, a receiver for the New England Patriots. Although Tatum was not trying to cause permanent injury, he later wrote a book titled They Call Me Assassin, in which he describes how to intimidate and hurt opposing players (Snyder & Spreitzer, 1989). Fortunately, incidents similar to that of the Tatum-Stingley affair are rare.

Intimidation and violence are often perceived to be a "part of the game," particularly in contact and collision sports (Snyder & Spreitzer, 1989). For example, the brushback, a fastball intentionally thrown near a baseball batter's head or body, theoretically allows the pitcher to become more effective by intimidating the batter. In football, hard hits by defensive backs are thought to make pass receivers less effective ("they hear footsteps"). Although these and similar strategies may be functional forms of intimidation, they are nevertheless dangerous (Silva & Weinberg, 1984).

Although many players do not feel comfortable with the amount of violence in their sports, they have generally come to accept it. Silva (1983) and Bredemeier and Shields (1983, 1984) found that those playing contact sports accept rule-violating behavior and certain forms of violence, and as the amount of contact increases in a sport, so does this acceptance. Even players who do not like violence may reluctantly use it as a way of maintaining or improving their position on the team, as well as popularity with spectators. Athletes in contact sports learn early that they may be evaluated on not only their physical skills, but also their ability to use violence (Vaz, 1982). They may be encouraged to engage in violent behaviors by peers and teammates, and sometimes by coaches and parents (Smith, 1983).

Like Jack "the Assassin" Tatum, some players fill what has come to be known as the role of enforcer, a team member who uses violence to intimidate, provoke, or injure opponents. The widespread existence of the enforcer role clearly shows the extent to which violence has become an institutionalized part of heavy-contact sports.

The violent behavior of top-level athletes is often imitated by players at lower levels of competition. Smith (1974) found that Canadian high school athletes who identified with violent professional hockey players were more assaultive in their own games than were those who identified with less violent professionals.

Cohen (1993) has concluded that while no one sport has been singled out in the fight to preserve sportsmanlike play in high school athletics, many administrators see basketball as a key battleground. The game is perceptibly rougher than it used to be, and verbal abuse (trash-talking) is rampant. Coaches need to control the players, say the officials; coaches point to a need for officials to take action on the court; and athletic directors say parents and spectators need to develop a more balanced perspective on winning and losing. All three groups say that the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) need to act, and that television stations should stop showing unsportsmanlike behavior. A New York high school athletic director has pointed out that students have learned from the NBA and NCAA that, following a dunk, you land, turn, and "get in somebody's face" (Cohen, 1993).

It would be inaccurate and unfair to suggest that athletes alone are responsible for intimidation and violence in sports. Coaches can and do play a role. Basketball and baseball coaches, for example, may try to intimidate the officials, or "work the referees or umpires," for the purpose of increasing the likelihood that they will receive a favorable call or decision later in the game (Snyder & Spreitzer, 1989). Shuster (1994) offers examples of the different "styles" of coaches: the running dialogue of Maryland coach Gary Williams or the constant whining of UCLA coach Jim Harrick; the infamous glare of Temple's John Chaney or the intimidating body language of Indiana's Bobby Knight; or the facial contortions of Purdue coach Gene Keady.

Shuster suggests that coaches are not only looking for an edge with the referees, but also with the opposing coach. Apparently the notion is that if you get the official worked up, you also get the opposing coach worked up, and that diverts attention from his or her own players and strategy. Conversely, coaches may bait referees to provoke a reaction against their own team, in order to "fire up" players and fans. Going a step further, Los Angeles Rams football coach George Allen admitted to encouraging a free-for-all in 1966 for the purpose of "getting them together." Allen maintained that, unless you have that, you are not going to be a winner (Tutko & Bruns, 1976).

The prevalence of intimidating and violent behavior by players, coaches, and spectators has made it a major issue in competitive sports. The purpose of the present study was to determine the magnitude of intimidation and violence in the sports programs of North Carolina high schools and to examine possible antecedents. Athletic directors were asked to indicate the degree of seriousness of three problems-verbal intimidation, physical intimidation, and physical violence. Further, answers to the following questions were sought: Do athletes, particularly in contact sports, accept intimidation and violence between players as "part of the sport"? How often, particularly in contact sports, are games played against teams having at least one player who seeks to intimidate, both verbally and physically, for the purpose of provoking violence? Do opposing coaches appear to teach and encourage their players to use verbal and physical intimidation? To what degree do local media "hype," pep rallies, team cheers, and the li ke contribute to violence? Is the berating, or "working," of officials by coaches, beginning early in the game in an attempt to receive a favorable call or decision later in the game, a factor in violence between players? Are intimidation and violence more frequent in play-off games as opposed to regular-season games, and in games between big rivals? Is pressure to win a major factor in the use of intimidation tactics and ultimately violence? Do the above antecedent conditions or behaviors have an identifiable structure or logical subgroupings? Are there relationships between the subgroupings and the magnitude of verbal intimidation, physical intimidation, and physical violence across all high school sports? Are there relationships between the subgroupings and the magnitude of verbal intimidation, physical intimidation, and physical violence in specific high school sports?



A questionnaire was designed for high school athletic directors. In North Carolina, they oversee programs for approximately 100,000 student athletes per year. Their observations offered the most readily accessible and broadest perspective of the problems of intimidation and violence. For practical and fiscal reasons, surveying athletic directors appeared to be a logical first step, with future data collection possibly broadened to include both coaches and athletes.


The questionnaire was developed following a review of the literature on intimidation and violence in sports, as well as discussions with members of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association concerning their perception of these problems. Two drafts of the questionnaire were critiqued by professional colleagues at the high school and university levels. The final version asked athletic directors to respond to items relating to the problem areas of verbal intimidation, physical intimidation, and physical violence. These were defined, on the questionnaire, as follows: (1) verbal intimidation (VI)--taunting, mocking, ridiculing, "trash-talking," pointing, threatening physical violence, and so on, in an attempt to gain a psychological advantage over an opponent; (2) physical intimidation (PI)--pushing, shoving, bumping, or other physical contact short of striking, including unnecessarily rough play, in an attempt to gain a psychological advantage over an opponent; (3) physical violence (PV)--striking, punching, wrestling, and other forms of physical assault, with the intent to injure an opponent.

Athletic directors' perceptions of VI, PI, and PV were measured using two 4-point Likert scales. Responses to items designed to assess the magnitude of the problem from a broad, programwide perspective, and for each sport, included 4--very serious (VS) problem, 3--somewhat serious (SWS) problem, 2--very minor (VM) problem, and 1--not a problem (NP). Responses to items designed to identify possible antecedents included 4--strongly agree (SA), 3--agree (A), 2--disagree (D), and 1--strongly disagree (SD). Respondents also had the option of indicating no opinion/no response.

Questionnaires were mailed to all 325 high school athletic directors in the state of North Carolina. A cover letter explained the purpose of the questionnaire and solicited participation in the project. Confidentiality was assured, and they were specifically instructed not to put personal or school names anywhere on the questionnaire.


Frequency distributions were calculated for each item. Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed to determine which, if any, antecedent variables formed coherent, relatively independent subsets. This was followed by multiple regression and forward stepwise multiple regression analyses to assess the relationship between antecedent components and the magnitude of VI, PI, and PV across all sports and for specific sports.


Usable questionnaires were returned by 148 (46%) high school athletic directors. Frequency distributions are presented in Tables 1, 2, and 3.

A preliminary concern was whether variables that were possibly antecedent to VI, PI, and PV formed coherent, relatively independent subsets. No theoretical or empirical rationale has been established for specifying a particular structure for this type of data. Therefore, an exploratory PCA was undertaken to identify the structure having the greatest interpretability.

PCA is the method of choice if the goal is an empirical summary of the data with the specific objective of reducing the number of variables to a smaller number of components. In PCA, all the observed variance is analyzed (contrary to factor analysis, in which only shared variance is analyzed), and is distributed to components, including error and unique variance for each observed variable (duplicating exactly the observed correlation matrix and the standard scores of the observed variables--if all components are retained). PCA extracts maximum variance from a data set with a few orthogonal components and produces a unique mathematical solution, whereas most forms of factor analysis are not unique. Each component is orthogonal to all other components, a characteristic that greatly facilitates interpretation of results and their use in other analyses; for example, as predictor variables in regression models (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1989). For this study, identification of subsets (or components) of the antecedent items was considered to be of greater importance than was parsimony.

Use of PCA for the data on antecedents was supported. Bartlett's test of sphericity was significant ([X.sup.2] = 195.277, p [less than].0001), indicating that the coefficients in the correlation matrix were different from zero and did not likely occur as a function of chance. Further, the total matrix sampling adequacy of all antecedent items, an index of the extent to which the matrix of partial and multiple correlation coefficients conforms to zero partials and large multiple rs, was found to be satisfactory (.633). A common standard is for this value to be greater than .500; however, Tabachnick and Fidell (1989) specify a higher standard of .600. In addition, sampling adequacy for individual antecedent items exceeded .500 for two variables, with all remaining variables exceeding .600.

Initially, components extracted and retained for further analysis were selected based on the larger of the numbers determined by a 75% variance rule and root curve analysis. The 75% variance criterion dictates that when the sum of the proportionate contributions of the eigenvalues exceeds 75%, components are no longer retained in the final solution. The roots-greater-than-one criterion retains as many components as there are eigenvalues greater than or equal to one. This procedure extracted four components from ten antecedent variables. The next step in the analysis was to compare the utility of one-, two-, three-, and four-component models in accounting for the interrelations of the ten antecedent items.

Models consisting of one, two, and three components were developed. Both orthogonal and oblique rotations were performed with each model. Variables jeopardizing the pursuit of a relatively simple structure by substantial loadings on more than one factor were closely examined; subsequently, two (antecedent items 5 and 8) were dropped from the PCA. A four-component solution (eight variables) was selected after considering several psychometric criteria, including correlation matrices, partial correlation matrices, test for sphericity, sampling adequacy, differences in adjacent eigenvalues, differences in the amount of variance accounted for by adjacent components, the internal consistency of the components, component loadings, the scree plot of eigenvalues, both orthogonal and oblique component plots, and perhaps most important, the identification and interpretability of logical subgroupings. Internal consistency, as estimated by Cronbach's alpha for the eight variables retained in the four-component solution, was .65, which was above the lower limits of acceptability (generally considered to be around .50 to .60).

The four-component solution, with two variables loading on each component, accounted for 74.4% of the variability in the observed eight antecedent variables. The breakdown was Component 1 (contextual setting), 31.1%; Component 2 (attitude), 17.3%; Component 3 (pressure), 14.8%; and Component 4 (coaching), 11.2%. Although the four-component solution explained only 11.2% more variability than the three-component solution, the purposes of this study were better served by retaining the fourth component.

A critical decision is selecting how many factors or components to retain, a decision influenced by the number of substantial loadings per component. If the primary purpose of the PCA is to summarize the data set, a minimum of two substantial loadings per component is sufficient (Zwick & Velicer, 1986). The four-component model, following a varimax orthogonal transformation, is presented in Table 4. As can be seen, component loadings were substantial. Measures of orthogonal variable complexity ranged from 1.063 to 1.204, with a mean of 1.118, indicating the approximation of a reasonably ideal simple structure in which each variable is accounted for by no more than one component.

It is noteworthy that both orthogonal and oblique rotations yielded similar transformed results, but the orthogonal rotation was selected as best for the final solution after examination of component plots for both rotations. Also, in orthogonal rotation, the components are not correlated, thereby facilitating the description and interpretation of results. Not only did the selection criteria suggest a four-component solution, but these four seemed conceptually logical. Each component accounted for approximately one-quarter of the orthogonal solution's common variance. Component 1 accounted for 25.4% of the variability, independent of the other components. Components 2, 3, and 4 accounted for 26.9%, 21.2%, and 26.4%, respectively. Each variable loaded high on only one component, regardless of extractional or rotational technique. This suggests that they were relatively pure variables. These "marker variables" clearly defined the nature of the components.

Multiple regression analysis was used to investigate possible relationships between the antecedent components, identified by PCA, and verbal intimidation, physical intimidation, and physical violence. Following the orthogonal transformation, a component-score coefficient matrix was generated to estimate scores on components from observed antecedent variable scores for each athletic director. Component scores were thus estimates of the scores all 148 respondents would have had on each of the components had they been measured directly. In PCA, multicollinearity is not a problem, a characteristic that makes component scores attractive for use in other analyses (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1989).

Table 5 presents the multiple regression results. Overall, the relationships between the antecedent components and VI, PI, and PV were significant (VI, p [less than] .0096; PI, p [less than] .0055; PV, p [less than] .0352). Component 4 was a significant predictor for all three (VI, p [less than] .0012; PI, p [less than] .0002; PV, p [less than] .0313). Component 1 was found to be an additional predictor of PV (p [less than] .0199).

Follow-up forward stepwise regressions were performed. For VI, Component 4 was the only variable entered into the model ([R.sup.2] = .082, p [less than] .0012); the same was true for PI ([R.sup.2] = .105, p [less than] .0002). For PV, Component 1 was entered first and explained 4.5% of the variance (p [less than] .0206). The addition of Component 4 almost doubled [R.sup.2] to .083 (p [less than] .0063).

Similar analyses were performed for those sports in which VI, PI, and PV were clearly problems (basketball, football, and soccer). These analyses are summarized in Table 6. Component 4 continued to emerge as a significant predictor for all three problem areas. Component 3 was a notable addition to the model predicting VI in soccer; Component 1 was an addition to the model predicting PI in basketball; and Component 2 was an addition to the model predicting PV in football. Cross-country, golf, indoor track, swimming, tennis, track and field, and wrestling had little or no reported problems with VI, PI, or PV, and baseball was marginal.

The relationships between VI, PI, and PV were also examined. Simple correlations were VI-PI, r = .673; VI-PV, r = .368; and PI-PV, r = .629. All were significant at p [less than] .0001. Across all sports, VI predicted 45.2% of the variance in PI, F(1, 140) = 119.707, p [less than] .0001, and 14.5% of the variance in PV, F(1, 140) = 23.756, p [less than] .0001. P1 predicted 41.5% of the variance in PV, F(1, 140) = 99.463, p [less than] .0001. A forward stepwise regression model of VI and PI on PV contained only PI as a significant predictor, F(1, 140) = 99.463, p [less than] .0001, with VI being omitted from the model with an F-to-Enter of 1.036.


Respondents did not comprise a random sample, but rather a "volunteer" group who chose to complete and return the survey. However, an examination of demographic data, including school size or classification and geographic region, indicated that the responding athletic directors were representative of the diverse interscholastic athletic programs across the state. In addition, the findings depended on the athletic directors' observations and perceptions; concurrent determination of observation accuracy was not possible. However, in a previous study (Shields, 1994), athletic directors' reported observations of drug use by North Carolina high school athletes compared favorably with self-reported drug use by those athletes. In the present study, athletic directors were asked to report on behaviors that are almost always exhibited in a public arena, contrary to the setting for many drug activities. Even if they did not observe the behavior directly, the athletic directors would likely have had significant instances of intimidation and violence, and antecedent behaviors, reported to them. Thus, the expectation that reports of these problem behaviors would be even more accurate than those for the drug data seemed reasonable.

Over half of the athletic directors noted that verbal intimidation was a very serious or somewhat serious problem. Even considering possible sampling error, the lower boundary of the 95% confidence interval indicated a high probability that a minimum of 50.6% saw VI as a problem. Likewise, the lower ends of the 95% confidence intervals for physical intimidation and physical violence were 25.1% and 10.0%, respectively.

Projected statewide, these findings suggest that, at a minimum, approximately 165 (of 325) athletic programs have experienced problems with VI, 82 with PI, and 33 with PV (see Table 1). These numbers are serious enough, but if the true figures should be at the upper range of the confidence intervals, statewide projections of programs having problems with VI, PI, and PV would be 203 (62.4%), 117 (36.1%), and 59 (18.2%), respectively.

Conceding that total elimination of VI, PI, and PV is a laudable but perhaps not realistic goal, what frequency and level of these problems are acceptable? These are questions this study did not address. However, given the seriousness and potential risk posed by each problem behavior, the findings indicate that consideration of ways to reduce the magnitude of each is warranted.

The data, in part, support the notion of a progression from VI to PI to PV. VI explained 45.2% of the variability in PI, and PI explained 41.5% of the variability in PV. It seems logical to expect VI to lead to PI, and PI to lead to PV, and in a small number of instances for VI to lead directly to PV. However, additional research will be needed to find explanatory variables for the 54.8% of the variability in PI not explained by VI; likewise for the 58.5% of the variability in PV not explained by PI. Clearly, over half of the variability in PI and PV was not explained by what would appear to have been logical precursors.

Basketball, football, and soccer were the specific sports in which VI, PI, and PV were most serious. Football was the sport having the greatest overall intimidation and violence. Soccer, however, exceeded both basketball and football in VI. It should be noted that this finding was not surprising, given that it is a limited-contact sport. The sports that the athletic directors indicated as having little or no VI, PI, and PV were basically noncontact, providing few opportunities for aggression. Violence between athletes is absent in such sports as swimming and golf because opportunities for aggression within the playing environment essentially do not exist. On the other hand, perhaps the explanation is that players in noncontact sports are seldom, if ever, rewarded for intimidating and violent behavior (Silva & Weinberg, 1984).

Beyond the basic question of the level of VI, PI, and PV, there is the important issue of antecedent attitudes, pressures, contextual settings, and other factors. It is highly probable that no less than 53.3% (173 statewide) of the high school athletic programs had athletes who "accept intimidation between players as part of the sport"; at the higher end of the confidence interval, the figure was 65.1% (212). The range for acceptance of violence was 23.2% (75) to 34.0% (111). These findings present a serious indictment of the attitudes high school athletes bring to their sports. Other possible antecedents reportedly observed by more than half of the athletic directors were: frequently playing against teams having at least one player who seeks to provoke violence; competing against teams whose coaches teach or encourage verbal and physical intimidation; local media "hype" and school atmosphere that contribute to player violence; coaches berating, or "working," of officials; and "big" games between traditional rivals.

Component 1 (items 6 and 7; see Table 3), extracted by PCA, suggests that the contextual setting is an important antecedent to intimidation and violence. Pep rallies, team cheers, and school atmosphere, coupled with a coach who berates officials throughout the game, may create a context in which intimidation and violence are viewed by athletes as appropriate. Feelings about the opponent, in part generated or strengthened by the staging of the athletic event and reinforced by the coach, become a basis for motivation. Motivation can sometimes become too strong (such as building up an intense hatred of an opponent), resulting in aggressive or violent behavior (Silva & Weinberg, 1984). Brad Cashman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, has stated, "It's common knowledge that in sports, a team will reflect the personality of the coach. If the coach is baiting and taunting the officials, players will pick up on that and do the same thing" (Cohen, 1993).

Component 2 (items 1 and 2) appears to center around athletes' attitude, specifically that they accept intimidation and violence as being part of the sport. This may be a manifestation of trait aggression, a relatively stable personality disposition to respond aggressively in certain situations (Anshel, 1991). Aggression can also be learned, and various social-psychological factors help maintain this type of behavior. The learning process that legitimizes aggressive sport behavior often begins early, and is related to whether coaches blur the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate use of force. Silva (1981) maintains that this legitimizing process helps lower inhibitions against aggressive behavior. Players learn to tolerate aggressive behavior--to follow normative rules of the game, rather than the formal, constitutive rules. Intentional violation of the constitutive rules (influenced by peers and coaches) to gain an advantage becomes normative because the penalty for such behaviors is insufficient (Silva, 1981). The media and various role models also contribute to the acceptance of intimidation and violence in sports.

Items 9 and 10 were extracted by the PCA to form Component 3. Item 9 stated that intimidation and violence occur more frequently in play-off games as opposed to regular-season games. Item 10 stated that pressure to win is a major factor in the use of intimidation tactics and ultimately violence. The common element appears to be pressure. Pressure to win is directly addressed in item 10, and implied in item 9 (play-off games must be won or the team is eliminated). Tremendous pressure on the athletes to win can and often does come from several sources (e.g., the media, peers, significant others), and the message may be to win at all costs. Coaches, too, are expected to produce winners (Blum, 1994), and it is reasonable to expect that pressure on them results in additional pressure being placed on the athletes.

Component 4 consists of items 3 and 4, and an appropriate label would appear to be coaching. Although it must be acknowledged that officials, parents, peers, and others clearly exert influence, ultimately coaches are the ones who allow, encourage, or teach their players to use verbal and physical intimidation tactics. Over 60% of the athletic directors reported, for contact sports, that opposing teams often have at least one player who seeks to intimidate, verbally and physically, for the purpose of provoking violence. Projected statewide, this would mean that probably 181 to 218 of 325 programs frequently experience this problem. Even more disturbing, approximately half of the athletic directors reported that their teams often compete against other teams whose coaches teach and/or encourage verbal and physical intimidation.

The coaching component clearly stood out as the only significant predictor variable in 9 of 15 regression analyses having overall VI, PI, and PV as criterion variables, and was one of two significant variables in 4 of the remaining 6 analyses. The coaching component was the only factor that significantly contributed to the model predicting VI in basketball and football; likewise for predicting PI in football and soccer, and PV in basketball and soccer.

Although it is always problematic to judge intent, a pattern of behaviors should be sufficient to suggest a need to intervene. Barry Mano, president and founder of the National Association of Sports Officials, feels that in addition to officials, coaches must take action. Coaches can communicate, in no uncertain terms, that they will not tolerate unsportsmanlike behavior by their players. According to Mano, "The coach has to say, 'If you don't play by my rules (no verbal or physical intimidation or actual violence), I'm going to sit you, and I don't care if it costs us games'" (Cohen, 1993).

That over half of the athletic directors reported that their teams often compete against teams whose coaches appear to teach and/or encourage their players to use verbal and/or physical intimidation tactics is perhaps the most disturbing finding. Other items also point to problematic coaching behavior. Similar to Mano's suggestion for managing athletes, athletic directors can make it clear to coaches that teaching and/or encouraging verbal or physical intimidation tactics will not be tolerated. Appropriate penalties must be imposed if such behavior occurs (Cohen, 1993). If athletic directors do not or cannot discipline coaches, superintendents and principals may need to assume greater responsibility for interscholastic programs, similar to what some college presidents and chancellors have done regarding intercollegiate programs. In addition to coaching, administrators need to examine the impact of context, attitudes, and pressure on their sports programs.

Rather than demanding greater accountability of coaches and administrators, some say more rules are needed. Others say it is simply a matter of enforcing the rules already in place. Mano feels that there has to be harmony between coaches and referees--and parents. Rules are helpful, but do not take the place of strong leadership on the part of parents and coaches. Cashman says curtailing rough play is probably more in the hands of officials, but coaches have more control over trash-talk.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states to give referees ample ammunition to combat trash-talk in several sports. Used in soccer for several years, one-game, two-game, and one-year suspensions for first, second, and third sportsmanship infractions have recently been implemented for football and basketball. Time will tell whether this will be effective, or ways to sidestep the rule will be found.

In summary, the findings reveal four subsets of antecedent behaviors or conditions that should receive attention when dealing with verbal intimidation, physical intimidation, and physical violence: contextual setting, attitude, pressure, and coaching. The coaching component clearly was associated with all three problem areas. Across all sports, the coaching component was the only antecedent significantly associated with VI and PI, and was one of two significant predictors of PV (the other being contextual setting, and even here a key variable was behavior exhibited by the coach). The contextual setting, attitude, and pressure components were each found to be significantly associated with one problem area and one specific sport. While this warrants more consideration--and it is important to further examine all the variables and components in this study--coaching appears to demand the closest scrutiny.

The forces acting on the high school athlete that may be antecedent to problem behaviors are truly multivariate and demand a multifaceted approach. It would appear necessary for everyone involved--players, coaches, athletic directors, principals, superintendents, and parents--to agree on definitions of "clean" aggressive play, as well as behaviors that cross the line into intimidation and violence. Perhaps interscholastic athletic programs need to stop "borrowing" so much from intercollegiate and professional athletics. Certainly, intimidation and violence undermine the positive aspects of high school athletics and should not be allowed to continue.


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Bredemeier, B., & Shields, D. (1984). The utility of moral stage analysis in the investigation of athletic aggression. Sociology of Sport Journal, 1(2), 138-149.

Cohen, A. (1993). Foul play. Athletic Business, 17(12), 28-36.

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Shuster, R. (1994, February 16). Coach-vs-coach skirmishes are out of hand. USA Today, p. 3C.

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Zwick, W., & Velicer, W. (1986). Comparison of five rules for determining the number of components to retain. Psychological Bulletin, 99(3), 432-442.
 Frequency of "Very Serious" and "Somewhat Serious"
 Responses by Problem (VI, PI, PV)
 Verbal Physical Physical
 Intimidation Intimidation Violence
Percentage 56.5 30.6 14.1
95% Confidence Interval 50.6 - 62.4 25.1 - 36.1 10.0 - 18.2
Statewide Projection 165 - 203 82 - 117 33 - 59
(Number of Programs)
 Frequency of "Very Serious" and "Somewhat Serious"
 Responses by Selected Sports
 Basketball Football Soccer
Verbal Intimidation
 Percentage 31.3 42.0 43.3
 95% Confidence Interval 25.8 - 36.8 36.1 - 47.9 37.4 - 49.2
 Statewide Projection 84 - 120 117 - 156 122 - 160
 (Number of Programs)
Physical Intimidation
 Percentage 21.2 26.1 22.7
 95% Confidence Interval 16.3 - 26.1 20.9 - 31.3 17.7 - 27.7
 Statewide Projection 53 - 85 68 - 102 58 - 90
 (Number of Programs)
Physical Violence
 Percentage 8.4 12.8 7.3
 95% Confidence Interval 4.0 - 12.8 8.9 - 16.7 4.2 - 10.4
 Statewide Projection 13 - 42 29 - 54 14 - 34
 (Number of Programs)
 Frequency of "Strongly Agree" and "Agree" Responses to
 Questions on the Antecedents of Intimidation and Violence
Antecedent Items [95% CI]
 Projection: Number
 of Programs}
 1. Athletes accept intimidation between 59.2
 players as part of the sport [53.3 - 65.1]
 {173 - 212}
 2. Athletes accept violence between 28.6
 players as part of the sport [23.2 - 34.0]
 {75 - 111}
 3. In contact sports, opposing team 61.4
 often has at least one player who seeks [55.6 - 67.2]
 to intimidate, verbally and physically, {181 - 218}
 for the purpose of provoking violence
 4. Our teams often compete against teams 53.8
 whose coaches teach and/or encourage [47.9 - 59.7]
 verbal and physical intimidation {156 - 194}
 5. Local media "hype" contributes to 54.6
 player violence [48.7 - 60.5]
 {158 - 197}
 6. Pep rallies, team cheers, and the 66.7
 like contribute to player violence [61.1 - 72.3]
 {199 - 235}
 7. Coaches berating, or "working," 51.4
 referees/officials, beginning [45.4 - 57.4]
 early in the game in an attempt to {148 - 187}
 receive a favorable call/decision later,
 is a factor in violence between players
 8. Intimidation and violence occur more frequ- 68.8
 ently in games between traditional rivals [63.3 - 74.3]
 {206 - 242}
 9. Intimidation and violence occur more 25.0
 frequently in play-off games as [19.8 - 30.2]
 opposed to regular-season games {64 - 98}
10. Pressure to win is a major factor 45.4
 in the use of intimidation [39.5 - 51.3]
 tactics and ultimately violence {128 - 167}
 Antecedent Loadings
Antecedent 1 2 3 4
 (Contextual Setting) (Attitude) (Pressure) (Coaching)
 6 .872 .069 -.132 .066
 7 .829 .052 .171 .191
 1 .054 .860 .069 .208
 2 .069 .891 .079 .117
 9 -.044 .061 .779 -.132
 10 .067 .068 .776 .130
 3 .049 .189 .008 .859
 4 .222 .140 .004 .839
 Multiple Regression: Component Scores by VI, PI, and PV
 Verbal Intimidation
Antecedent Beta
Component Coefficient t p
1(Contextual Setting) .036 .539 .5911
2(Attitute) .109 1.658 .1000
3(Pressure) -.001 -.021 .9835
4(Coaching) .221 3.327 .0012
Multiple R = .323, [R.sup.2] = .105
[DF.sub.reg] = 4, [DF.sub.res] = 120
F = 3.505, p = .0096
 Physical Intimidation
Antecedent Beta
Component Coefficient t p
1(Contextual Setting) .047 .702 .4841
2(Attitute) .057 .856 .3936
3(Pressure) -.011 -.163 .8709
4(Coaching) .255 3.776 .0002
Multiple R = .338, [R.sup.2] = .114
[DF.sub.reg] = 4, [DF.sub.res] = 120
F = 3.858, p = .0055
 Physical Violence
Antecedent Beta
Component Coefficient t p
1(Contextual Setting) .150 2.361 .0199
2(Attitute) .028 .439 .6617
3(Pressure) .020 .319 .7503
4(Coaching) .145 2.179 .0313
Multiple R = .292, [R.sup.2] = .085
[DF.sub.reg] = 4, [DF.sub.res] = 120
F = 2.678, p = .0352
 Forward Stepwise Regression: VI, PI, and PV for
 Selected Sports
 Component(s) [R.sup.2] p
Verbal Intimidation
 Basketball 4(Coaching) .165 .0001
 Football 4(Coaching) .182 .0001
 Soccer 3 & 4(Coaching/Pressure) .140 .0037
Physical Intimidation
 Basketball 1 & 4(Contextual Setting/Coaching) .106 .0011
 Football 4(Coaching) .099 .0004
 Soccer 4(Coaching) .094 .0001
Physical Violence
 Basketball 4(Coaching) .053 .0108
 Football 2 & 4(Attitude/Coaching) .136 .0002
 Soccer 4(Coaching) .092 .0073
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Author:Shields, Jr., Edgar W.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 1999

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