Winning versus good sportsmanship : a case study of moral conflict among student athletes
The purpose of this study was to investigate to what extent sports activity among high-school students reinforces the expected value system of sports membership and how the high-school athletes themselves deal with moral conflict inherent in choosing between good sportsmanship or winning-at-all-costs. Three questions were asked to guide the analysis: (1) To what extent does winning-at-all-costs override norms of good sportsmanship and virtuous behavior? (2) How do the boys explain or justify the choice they made? and (3) To what extent does their choice influence other behavior? Three specific methods were used to answer the above stated research questions: a questionnaire, three story problems, and interviews. All three methods elicited responses from the 1995-96 varsity football team at a large, suburban high school. It was found that the athletes themselves are chief actors in constructing the meaning of sportsmanship and that they viewed their own participation as being closer to the meaning of sport than to athletics. It was also found that most of the football players participated in football for intrinsic rather than extrinsic reasons. Finally, it was found that the players conceptualized strong link between sportsmanship and being part of a team.