Football players are usually frowned upon when they let their feelings show, but new studies are finding that when athletes are strong both emotionally and physically, there are positive effects on and off the field.

In one study, participants read a short story about a football player named Jack who teared up and then began crying after losing a game.

“In 2009, the news media disparaged University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for crying on the sidelines after losing a big game, even labeling him Tim ‘Tearbow,’” said lead author Y. Joel Wong. “However, the college football players in our study who believed Jack’s crying was appropriate had higher self-esteem. In contrast, players who believed Jack’s crying was inappropriate yet felt they would likely cry in Jack’s situation had lower self-esteem.”

In another experiment, researchers asked 153 football players various questions about emotions and sports, including whether they felt that they had to conform to society’s views of masculinity, whether they feel as though they are allowed to express emotion or affection toward their teammates, and about their overall satisfaction of life. While the players did feel the pressure to conform to the societal view of masculinity, those who were not affectionate toward their teammates were less satisfied with life.

A third study found that the drive for football players to work out and be muscular stems not only from a desire to be strong enough to avoid injury but also to come across as more manly and have more sex appeal.

“These guys have to be physically stronger for athletic performance and to reduce injury,” said co-author Jesse Steinfeldt. “Yet they also acknowledged some masculine stereotype pressures, and previous research has shown that can have a negative impact on a player’s psyche.”

Sources: American Psychological Association

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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