Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Examining the Team Identification of Football Fans at the High School Level

Academic journal article Journal of Sport Behavior

Examining the Team Identification of Football Fans at the High School Level

Article excerpt

Although sport random is often stereotypically associated with negative behaviors such as poor interpersonal skills and aggressiveness (Warm, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001), theorists have suggested that, because sport fandom provides social contact with others, random is related to psychological health (Eastman & Land, 1997; Melnick, 1993; Smith, 1988; Smith, 1989; Warm, 2006a; Watt, 2006b; Zillmann, Bryant, & Sapolsky, 1989). This line of reasoning is consistent with a number of theorists who have found that social support networks are vital to psychological well-being (Cohen & Wills, 1985; Linville, 1987; Thoits, 1982; Warm & Hamlet, 1994, 1996). It has been argued that, to receive the greatest benefits of team identification, one should identify with a local sport team (Warm, Dunham, Byrd, & Keenan, 2004). Watt (2006b) argued in his Team Identification-Social Psychological Health Model that it is in this situation, when surrounded by other fans of the same team, that one should feel the most social support, camaraderie, and connections to society at large. To date, the entire literature supporting this theory has used college or professional teams as the focus of identification. The purpose of the present study is to examine whether identification with a high school sport team provides similar benefits.

Team identification is defmed as a fan's psychological connection to a team; that is, the extent to which the fan views the team as an extension of his or herself(Warm et al., 2001). The role of team follower is a central element of the self-identity of highly identified fans (Tajfel, 1981; Taj fel & Turner, 1979, Wann, 1997). Conversely, for lowly identified fans, the role of team follower is only a marginal element of their self-concept (Crocker & Major, 1989; Harter, 1986).

Sport team identification has been studied with many different sports at many different levels, including basketball, rugby, and baseball (Branscombe &Wann, 1991; Wann, 1994; Wann, Dimmock, & Grove, 2003, Wann et al., 2004; Rickard, Grieve & Derryberry, 2008). The results of these studies indicate that sport fans identify with teams from a number of different levels, from high school sport teams through professional sport teams.

Furthermore, identification with a sport team has been shown to be associated with a number of positive psychological health characteristics. For example, higher levels of team identification are associated with higher levels of personal and collective self-esteem, less alienation and depression, more positive and fewer negative emotions, more vigor, less fatigue, less confusion, less anger, and less tension (Cohen & Wills, 1985; Linville, 1987; Thoits, 1982; Watt & Hamlet, 1994; Wann et al., 2004; Warm et al., in press). However, it is not identification with just any team that brings about these benefits; the results indicate that the identification must be with a local team (Watt, 2006b).

According to the Team Identification-Social Psychological Health Model (TI-SPH; Watt, 2006b), the enduring connections that sport fans make with other fans of the same team lead to social psychological health benefits. The TI-SPH theoretical framework demonstrates how identification with a salient sport team, not just sport fandom, is correlated with social psychological health through an increased sense of a fans' social connectedness with others. Fans of local teams encounter other fans of the same team frequently; therefore, they experience the social support from these connections on a regular basis. Fans of distant teams do not gain the well-being benefits associated with high levels of identification because they are not likely to encounter other fans of the same team, and, therefore, will not experience the connections with others necessary for increased psychological and physical health. Thus, even if the team of the fan who is in isolation wins, the isolated fan does not receive the same type of well-being benefits that fans who celebrate together receive. …

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