In order to identify factors associated with on-field moral functioning among student athletes within the unique context of football, we examined masculine gender role conflict, moral atmosphere, and athletic identity. Using structural equation modeling to assess survey data from 204 high school football players, results demonstrated that moral atmosphere (i.e., the influence of coaches and teammates) was significantly associated with participants’ process of on-field moral functioning across the levels of judgment, intention, and behavior. Neither masculine gender role conflict nor athletic identity significantly predicted moral functioning, but the results indicated that participants’ identification with the athlete role significantly predicted conflict with socialized gender roles. Results suggest that in the aggressive and violent sport of football, coaches can have a direct influence on players’ moral functioning process. Coaches can also have an indirect effect by influencing all the players so that a culture of ethical play can be cultivated among teammates and spread from the top down.
Jesse A. Steinfeldt, Leslie A. Rutkowski, and Ellen L. Vaughan are with the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Matthew C. Steinfeldt is with the Department of Athletics, Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO.