Date of Award

August 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Edmond P Bowers

Committee Member

Lauren N Duffy

Committee Member

Lauren E Stephens


Collegiate student-athletes are expected to balance academic and athletic requirements successfully. Student-athletes are required to attend rigorous practice sessions while maintaining the academic requirements for the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) to remain eligible to compete competitively for their institutions. How well student-athletes find this balance depends on how they view themselves as students, as athletes, or as student-athletes. Additionally, although many student-athletes aspire to play sports professionally, only a small percentage make this transition. Therefore, it is critically important to understand better the potential ways to promote student-athlete identities beyond the field.

This qualitative study explored how student-athletes at a Division I University perceive their identity and how these perceptions influence their academic engagement. In addition, this study also examined how student-athlete relationships with coaches and teammates might influence these constructs. Interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of student-athletes (n = 19) representing all Olympic sports at this university. Grounded Theory was used to gather and analyze the data. The findings of the study revealed that student-athletes wanted to be remembered for their non-athletic contributions and they valued the importance of education; which was evident in their engagement level in their classes and degree program. Additionally, their coaches had a positive influence both in terms of academics and athletics, and they motivated those student-athletes with professional aspirations. Lastly, parental influence emerged as a theme as parents were very influential in instilling the importance of education in student-athletes during their formative years. Findings may have implications for student-athlete programming, preparation of coaches and professors, and NCAA requirements.



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