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Lessons of the Locker Room: The Myth of School Sports [Paperback]

Andrew W. Miracle , C.Roger Rees
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

20 Nov 2003
"Sports builds character" is a truism rarely questioned by Americans. Most parents encourage their children to take part in competitive athletics, and organized team sports are available to young people from the early years of grammar school through high school and college. Occasionally some disturbing incidents cast doubt on the assumption that sport is necessarily beneficial to character development: a serious injury on the playing field due to gratuitous violence, drug use, gambling, or sexual misconduct. Whole communities have wondered how organized team sports, supposedly designed to build character, can lead to such drastic deviations from the imagined ideals.

In Lessons of the Locker Room, anthropologist Andrew W. Miracle Jr. and sociologist C. Roger Rees explore the fascinating underpinnings of school sports and examine the evidence to support the prevailing assumption that sport is an ennobling experience. They find that participation has little effect on positive character development. Far from building model citizens, their research shows that competitive team sports may foster selfish motives and antisocial behavior. Rather than learning self-sacrifice and dedication, athletes often pick up the message that "winning isn't everything - it's the only thing."

Product details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (20 Nov 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021138
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021131
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 13.8 x 20.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,586,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sports--Build Character or Tear it Down? 14 July 1997
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Lessons of the Locker Room

Sports build character. At least, that's what we've always heard. Why else would our schools invest so much time, effort, and money in student athletics? Andrew W. Miracle, Jr. and C. Roger Rees aren't so sure.

Historically, sports were introduced to public schools to attract students who would otherwise attend private schools. After public schools became the norm, as they are today, sports continued to be valued as an opportunity for community involvement and positive publicity for schools.

The authors suggest that sports serve other, less obvious purposes as well. Sports encourage conformity by requiring players to act as group. Sports may also promote submissiveness, in that players do as they are told, taking orders rather than making their own decisions. Sports also increase the authority of those in charge. They are the experts, and credit or blame for success or failure goes to coaches as much as or more than to players.

Research shows that, while many athletes have more positive attitudes towards school than other students, they also have decreased independence and self-control. So, what is touted as an opportunity for individual achievement may actually produce better followers than leaders.

Morality and sports is an issue as well. "Game reasoning" refers to a sense of right and wrong that changes according to the situation and a belief that the winner is morally superior to the loser. In some cases, game reasoning seems to flow over into everyday life.
Rees and Miracle propose that game reasoning accounts for many incidents of violence among athletes.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sports--Build Character or Tear it Down? 14 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lessons of the Locker Room

Sports build character. At least, that's what we've always heard. Why else would our schools invest so much time, effort, and money in student athletics? Andrew W. Miracle, Jr. and C. Roger Rees aren't so sure.

Historically, sports were introduced to public schools to attract students who would otherwise attend private schools. After public schools became the norm, as they are today, sports continued to be valued as an opportunity for community involvement and positive publicity for schools.

The authors suggest that sports serve other, less obvious purposes as well. Sports encourage conformity by requiring players to act as group. Sports may also promote submissiveness, in that players do as they are told, taking orders rather than making their own decisions. Sports also increase the authority of those in charge. They are the experts, and credit or blame for success or failure goes to coaches as much as or more than to players.

Research shows that, while many athletes have more positive attitudes towards school than other students, they also have decreased independence and self-control. So, what is touted as an opportunity for individual achievement may actually produce better followers than leaders.

Morality and sports is an issue as well. "Game reasoning" refers to a sense of right and wrong that changes according to the situation and a belief that the winner is morally superior to the loser. In some cases, game reasoning seems to flow over into everyday life.
Rees and Miracle propose that game reasoning accounts for many incidents of violence among athletes. Tests of moral reasoning of athletes show a willingness to believe that aggressive behavior is okay in any situation, if it serves the purpose at hand. What begins as a friendly rivalry can degenerate into violence if it is not checked by that slippery value called sportsmanship.

Miracle and Rees, while definitely on the side of classroom education over sports, present a fair assessment of school sports, presenting benefits as well as problems, and raising some interesting questions. The conclusion? Sports do not build character, they reveal it.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Analysis of Sports Excess in Contemporary Society 4 Feb 2002
By Matthew S. Schweitzer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I came across this book long ago while studying criminal tendencies among student and professional athletes. This is an excellent book that examines the purpose and effect of organized school sports on children and young adults from the elementary to college level. The old addage that "sports builds character" is strongly challenged here as myth after myth regarding the beneficial aspects of school sports is exploded by the authors. In the post-Columbine era, when the detrimental aspects of obsessive sports culture have been finally pushed into the spotlight, these issues regarding athletics and sports-guided adolescent development are more relevant than ever. The authors show that while sports do provide a basic outlet for physical education, the idea that sports build leaders and create better students is shown to be false. In fact, they show that what results are students who tend to be more violent and have a warped sense of morality as a result of so-called "game reasoning" indoctrination. Organized school sports also encourage standardization, conformity, and an unquestioning submissiveness to authority, while denegrating individuality, creativity, self-expression, and academic acheievement. They tend to reward violence and punish weakness. The result is that in high schools today we find athletes who have an over-developed sense of superiority and arrogance that manifests itself as violence and intimidation against those peers viewed as weaker, whether it's a nerdy bookworm or a young coed who says "no". These are issues that have been ignored for far too long and this book addresses them well. The "boys will be boys" mentality must end. As others have already said, it should be required reading by high school teachers, coaches, and students to get a better understanding of the many problems that face kids today and how school sports contibute more to the problem rather than the solution.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These lessons should be learned by parents and coaches 13 Jun 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
An excellent book that "pulls no punches," to use a sporting phrase. It has been known among those who study youth sports that especially among high school male athletes, excessive alcohol use and deviant behavior (fights, unprotected sex, etc.) have been present to a greater extent than among those not invovled in sport. Miracle and Rees clearly describe the genesis of the myth that sport builds character, and how it has been propogated by those who just want to believe. They clearly point out the problems that can occur, based on research. Competitive sport is not the same as exercise or physical education, activities that promotes health. The next time you read about coaches brawling over a youth hockey game, or parents attacking umpires after a "bad call," you might want to read Lessons of the Locker Room. It will explain to you why this is so. A must read for all parents of children who participate in sport and their coaches.
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