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The Health and Environment Blog

MSU researchers trying to dispel stereotype of "dumb jock"


By Isabella Shaya          Posted: 04/25/13 5:32pm         

Athletes are called a lot of things — strong, fast, tough — but, MSU is trying to not make “dumb jock” one of those names.

According to a recent study conducted by MSU researchers, college coaches who stress their players’ academics might help fight the “dumb jock” stereotype.

Deborah Feltz, university distinguished professor in kinesiology and one of the study’s researchers, said the study found there is a sense of “stereotype threat” among student athletes.

“They perceive that there’s a stereotype, an academic stereotype, of what student athletes are capable of,” Feltz said. “This perception, though, was correlated with their belief in their coaches belief in them, in terms of being academically capable.”

More than 300 male and female student athletes from all divisions and a variety of sports were surveyed for the research, according to the study, published in the Journal of College Student Development.

“The ‘dumb-jock’ stereotype portrays athletes as intellectually inferior to their peers in the general student population,” the study said. “This stereotype generally suggests that student-athletes, particularly minority males in high profile ‘revenue’ sports, enroll in higher education only with intentions of playing sports, with little or no interest in academia.”

MSU also has resources to help student athletes with their academics, including Student Athlete Support Services.

William Donohue, professor and acting chair of the Department of Communication, said he has had numerous athletes in his classes, some of which he did not even know were athletes.

Donohue said the negative “dumb jock” stereotype is no different from other stereotypes, such as the “dumb blond” or “nerdy engineer.”

“We don’t single any of those out,” Donohue said. “A stereotype is a negative generalization.”


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