Crying in football linked to high self-esteem

Oct 3 2011 - 1:24pm

Men aren't supposed to cry in our culture, and football players are really not supposed to cry. But a study finds that football players who see crying after a game as appropriate had higher levels of self-esteem.

In the study, published in the October issue of the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity, researchers surveyed 150 collegiate football players about their perceptions of crying after they were randomly assigned to read four different scenarios about a player who cried. In the first scenario the player, named Jack, teared up after losing a critical game; in the second, he sobbed after losing, with "tears flowing continuously down his face"; in the third, he tears up after winning; and in the fourth, he sobs after winning.

Those who read the vignettes in which the player teared up after losing saw Jack's actions as more appropriate than when he sobbed after winning or losing. Tearing up after winning was viewed as more suitable than sobbing after winning or losing. Tearing up after losing was seen as more typical of football players' behavior than sobbing after winning.

Football players who didn't hold on as strongly to the masculine standard of emotional control and who viewed Jack's crying as OK had higher levels of self-esteem compared with other players. However, those who perceived Jack's crying as inappropriate but who thought they might do the same thing in his situation had lower levels of self-esteem.

"Overall, college football players who strive to be stronger and are emotionally expressive are more likely to have a mental edge on and off the field," said co-author Jesse Steinfeldt of Indiana University-Bloomington, in a news release.

Seeing football players and coaches cry isn't always well received by the public, let alone by other players. Tim Tebow's crying episode caught on camera in 2009 drew negative reactions, including the criticism that he was crying like a baby or a little girl. One commenter on an online news story simply said, "Stop crying, you big baby."

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