Across the Threshold: A Comparative Analysis of Communitas and Rites of Passage in Sport Hazing and Initiations

Jay Johnson


Hazing rituals and ceremonies have been described in traditional, historical world cultures, junior and high school, the military, private schools, paramilitary organizations, fraternities and sororities as well as sport (Allan and Madden, 2008; Bryshun and Young, 1999; Campos, Poulos and Sipple, 2005; Fields, Collins, and Comstock, 2010; Linhares de Albuquerque and Paes-Machado 2004; Nuwer 1999; Winslow 1999; Zacharda 2009).

Despite the often humiliating and abusive nature of hazing practices the hazing ritual is often perceived to be a necessary stepping stone in the movement from outsider to insider. Student-athletes often endure hazing practices with 80% of NCAA athletes having reported being initiated in some way (Hoover 1999) in exchange for membership affiliation.
This paper uses Van Gennep’s three stage model (1960) of transition as basis of comparison and deviation between contemporary initiations and historical traditions defining both the importance of cultures to establish “Rites of Passage” membership gateways and metamorphous from non-member to group member (irrespective of potential harm frequently inherent in sport initiations).


sports hazing; communitas; rites of passage; identity; abuse

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