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Initiation intervention programme to be rolled out nationally

Associate Professor in Health Sciences Dr Caroline Wakefield has co-designed a workshop to educate students around the country about the negative consequences of initiation activities in sport.

Dr Wakefield collaborated with Professor Moira Lafferty, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Chester, to develop CHANGES (Challenging Hazing and Negative Group Events in Sport), which uses a proactive, rather than reactive, method of challenging unwanted behaviours.

It comes after previous research by Professor Lafferty and Dr Wakefield, demonstrating no relationship between initiation activities and team cohesion in sports, despite many teams citing this as the reason for them.

CHANGES involves working with student sport leaders to explore their attitude before and after watching short clips of initiation stories and then working to establish positive behaviour change, including alternative activities and developing the skills to challenge unwanted activities.

It is the first programme of its kind to be developed and implemented in Higher Education. To date, the workshop has been successfully trialled at the University of Chester, the University of Worcester and Liverpool Hope University. It has also been presented at the senior management conference for BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport), the governing body for university sport in the United Kingdom. The president of BUCS, Vince Mayne, visited Liverpool Hope to learn about the initiative and to support the national roll out of the workshop to universities and colleges across the country.

Associate Professor Caroline Wakefield said: “Our previous research showed that initiation activities can actually have the opposite effect of damaging team cohesion. We are hoping that these workshops will educate teams in a proactive, participatory way, on how initiation activities can lead to unwanted, alienating and risky behaviour, while offering more inclusive alternatives which can actually be more positive for team dynamics.”    

Professor Lafferty said: “It was really important to us that we developed a workshop where the sport leaders were active participants, where we helped them challenge their views of these activities rather than just saying: ‘Don’t do it’.

“It’s really positive that other universities now want to work with us on this initiative – we believe strongly in inclusivity, and involvement in sport should be a positive experience not a health risk.”

Published on 20/03/2018