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Athletes and jocks -- is there a difference?

June 1, 2009 |  5:17 pm

Do you consider yourself an athlete, a jock or both? Although the terms -- and the people -- often get lumped together, a new study shows that the differences may be vast.

Ki40banc Research recently published in the Journal of Sport Behavior looked at how 581 male and female college students with experience in organized sports identified themselves, either as athletes or jocks, or both.

The students completed various tests; in one, they were asked if they or others saw them as a jock or an athlete, and rated those feelings on a five-point scale, from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree." Another test determined if, in sports, they were task-oriented or ego-oriented. Yet another asked the participants questions to determine how closely they conformed to masculine norms in areas such as violence, winning and risk.

In all, 18% of the study group identified as jocks, but 55% saw themselves as athletes. There was some crossover -- more jocks also identified as athletes than athletes identified as jocks. Men more strongly identified with being jocks and athletes than did women.

Jocks distinguished themselves as more ego-oriented, finding success in comparing their athletic performance with others'. Athletes, on the other hand, were more task-oriented, seeing success as developing and learning skills and striving for personal excellence. Jocks also tended to hang onto some typical masculine models more than athletes. The study also revealed that more men than women identified with both of these personae.

Kathleen Miller, the study's author and a researcher at the University at Buffalo, believes that for some, identifying as a jock could be associated with risky health behavior, especially in high-profile athletes.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Christof Stache / AP