Academic journal article Nine

Career, Family, or Both? A Case Study of Young Professional Baseball Players

Academic journal article Nine

Career, Family, or Both? A Case Study of Young Professional Baseball Players

Article excerpt


Historically, managers in most workplaces have maintained the "social context of rigid separation" of the work sphere and the family sphere. (1) Thus they have considered committed employees to be those who spent the most quantifiable time in the office as opposed to the amount of work accomplished in that time. (2) As modern-day managers aim to optimize organizational success as well as that of individual employees, they must address the family obligations of those employees more often than ever before. Organizations trying to accommodate the family needs of their employees have offered such benefits as family leave, flexible schedules, and on-site childcare. (3)

Sport, as a social institution, is subject to similar cultural and social constraints as other organizations. However, it often brings an additional strong culture and structure suggesting that athletes sacrifice anything (their bodies, other interests, significant others, and so forth) that hinders pursuit of their athletic success. Concerning work and family, a number of sport sociologists contend that sport in general--and the traditional sports of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey, in particular--assumes a separationist perspective in which athletes must keep work and family separate and where management does not consider the family lives of their employees. (4) This is a long-held tradition of male hegemony that some suggest will never change.

It is possible, however, that just as work and family integration becomes more important in other male careers and more critical to men's self-definition, sport could also be evolving as a social institution to embrace the positives purported to result from integrating work and family life. (5) For example, the Houston Astros' recent signing of veteran pitcher Roger Clemens included considerations that he will have time off from baseball (that is, missing some home games and not traveling with the team to all away games) to attend family activities, including his sons' baseball games. (6) In addition, a number of Major League teams have begun to accommodate players' families on road trips. Some teams even provide child care, family lounges, and special sections for players' families so they can enjoy the games with few inconveniences. (7)

A strengthening literature base has developed to explore the issue of work-family conflict (WFC). (8) WFC is a form of inter-role conflict in which "role pressures associated with membership in one organization are in conflict from membership in other groups," or the degree to which one's responsibilities from work and family domains are incompatible. (9) Inevitably, participation in the work (family) role is made more difficult by virtue of participation in the family (work) role. (10) In the management literature a number of studies have focused on the challenges of WFC in established families and established careers. At their core these studies center on the conflicting roles of men and women as workers and family members, and on the social and structural constraints on individual behavior. (11)

In addition to the general WFC literature, sport psychology, sport sociology, and sport management literature has also given some attention to WFC related to professional athletes. Studies have focused on the issue of sex-role identity and on work-family conflict for male professional athletes at the end of their careers, particularly as a reason for exit or as a source of support during the transition from sport to nonsport roles. (12) Several pieces have also explored the impact of a husband's professional athletic career on his marriage, particularly from a wife's vantage point. (13) These studies have sought to understand the relationship between sport and men's identities, and between sport and gender relations. Many of the findings have argued that sport socializes men into rigid role definitions that address only the man's pursuit of sport and ignore other intimate and social relationships. …

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