Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

James Satterfield

Committee Member

Tony Cawthon

Committee Member

Michael Godfrey

Committee Member

Kyle Young


The focus on student athlete experiences continues to be a growing area of inquiry for researchers in higher education. While much of the focus for student athletes is on their academic performance in relation to their retention and persistence, there is an increasing concern for educational administrators to understand the experiences of student athletes in higher education settings. This study sought to gain a better understanding of the student athlete experience in higher education. To capture an understanding of the student athlete experience, the researcher asked: How do academic, athletic, and social experiences integrate to affect the freshman student athlete transition to college and impact their overall college experience? To answer this question, the researcher utilized a phenomenological qualitative methodology to depict the lived experiences of the student athletes at the participating institution. Results indicated that certain pre-college goals and expectations of student athletes influenced their experience as they transitioned into the environment of the institution. Interactions that existed from a combination of the student athletes' academic, athletic, and social perspectives impacted their overall experience of college- life. The most significant influences of the student athlete experience were those that were grounded in all three of their academic, athletic, and social perspectives to include building relationships and interacting with others in the academic, athletic, and social environment of the institution; accepting responsibility, developing time management skills, managing their role-balance, and integrating with team goals. The thematic development of this study indicated that the student athlete experience could be explained from the perspective of their transition into the institution (Schlossberg, 1981) as well as their integration (Tinto, 1987) involvement (Astin, 1984) and identity (Chickering, 1969; Chickering & Reisser, 1993) in the academic, athletic, and social environment of the institution. The general conclusions of the study were presented according to the themes that were produced through the descriptive and focus coding processes. Experiences that were exclusive to one perspective were found not as significant to understanding the overall college experience of student athletes than experiences that shared a combination of two or all three of the perspectives.



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