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An Exploration of the Relationships between the Qua lity of the Sport, Social, and Academic Experiences of College Student-Athletes an d Their Adjustment to College: A Qualitative Analysis By Susan L. Freeman Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Higher Education, Administration Department of Adult, Career and Higher Education College of Education University of South Florida Co-Major Professor: William Young, Ed.D. Co-Major Professor: Thomas Miller, Ed.D. Donald Dellow, Ed.D. Robert Sullins, Ed.D. Date of Approval: March 25, 2009 Keywords: football, soccer, coaches, intercollegiat e athletics, transitions Copyright 2009, Susan L. Freeman
Dedication This dissertation is dedicated to my family; in lo ving memory of my grandmother, Grace Thompson who always provided abundant love and supp ort; my mother Nina Freeman for understanding the importance and the value of highe r education and being sure that I had the resources to achieve my academic dreams; my father Henry Freeman for his quiet inspiration; my sister Judith Freeman for being oncall during this entire process and providing much needed encouragement and stability; and my dearest friend Debbie Smith for having faith in me, for knowing when to infuse humo r in the process, when to provide support and when to remind me to relax. Without the se very important influences in my life this dissertation would not have been possible.
Acknowledgements Many people provided support during the writing o f this dissertation. My committee provided constant support and guidance. Dr. Miller sacrificed countless hours reading drafts, fielding my telephone and email inquiries, and prov iding the necessary feedback to lead me to success. Dr. Sullins has always been a guiding f orce for me throughout my entire degree program and this was never more evident than during the dissertation process. Dr. Dellow brought a unique perspective to the committee and a lways provided support and thought provoking questions. Dr. Young encouraged me to mai ntain a balanced approach to this process. I owe many thanks to Amy Haworth, Justin Miller, and Brooke Wiggins from the athletic department for assisting me in gaining int erview time with the student-athletes. Most of all, to the student-athletes who were willing to give of their time and to share their valuable insights into their first year of college goes my highest level of appreciation. It was their willingness to share that made this study pos sible. To Art Safer I say thank you for your invaluable investment in this process. To Sue Wyar I owe thanks for providing graphic support. To Samantha Simmons-Morin I owe thanks for her awesome display of strength. To Ther esa Lewis I offer gratitude for encouraging our study sessions. Finally, to Ellisti ne and Collins Smith I am eternally grateful to both of you for being outstanding and long time mentors. There were many others not mentioned here who provided support and understandi ng during this process.
i Table of Contents List of Figures iv Abstract v Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Statement of the Problem 8 Purpose of the Study 11 Design of the Study 12 Research Questions 13 Key Terms 14 Other Definitions 14 Limitations 15 Chapter 2: Literature Review 17 Introduction 17 History 17 Mission and Core Values of the NCAA 18 Academic Advisors 20 Career Maturity 21 CHAMPS Life Skills 25 Identity 26 Relationship with Faculty 27 Social 28 Coaches 31 Chapter 3: Methods 35 Introduction 35 Design 39 Existential Phenomenology 40 Holistic, Inductive and Naturalistic Approache s 41 Sampling 42 Participants 42 Data Collection 43 Interviews 44 Coding Procedure 45
ii Reliability and Validity 48 Chapter 4: Results 52 Introduction 52 Sports Experience 58 Relationship with Coaches 59 The Competitiveness of the Team 61 Participation in Games and Practices 62 Accomplishments as a Team Member 64 Ability to Meet the Physical Challenges R equired to Compete on Game Day 66 The Impact of Physical Injuries 67 Social Experience 69 Interaction Within the Respective Team and Among the General Student Population 70 Participation in On-Campus Non-Athletic Ev ents 72 Academic Experiences 74 Relationship with Faculty 74 Accomplishments in Class 76 Challenged or Overwhelmed 77 Perception of Grades 79 Adjustment to College 81 Level of Comfort in College 81 Feeling of Attachment to the University 82 Intent to Persist at the University 83 Relationship Between any Two of the Three Expe riences and Adjustment to College 84 Relationship Between All Three Experiences in Any Comprehensive Way 85 Quality of Interactions and Adjustment to Coll ege 86 Summary 92 Chapter 5: Conclusions 93 Summary of the Study 93 Sport Experience 94 Social Experience 95 Academic Experience 96 Adjustment to College 97 Interactions Between or Among the Experiences 98 Implications 98 Recommendations for Practice 100 Recruitment Process 100 Sub-Culture Existence 101 Career Counseling 102 Faculty Interaction 103 Monitoring Adjustment to College 104
iii Recommendations for Future Research 105 Dialogue with Non-Completers 106 Dialogue while in High School 106 Follow the Study Group 106 Female Student-Athletes 107 Conclusion 107 References 110 Appendices 121 Appendix A: Informed Consent to Participate in Research 122 Appendix B: Initial Conversation Guide 126 About the Author End Page
iv List of Figures Figure 2. Venn Diagram: Illustrating the three area s under study and their individual and comprehensive relationships to adjustment to col lege .. 46
v An Exploration of the Relationships between the Qua lity of the Sport, Social, and Academic Experiences of College Student-Athletes an d Their Adjustment to College: A Qualitative Analysis Susan L. Freeman ABSTRACT Intercollegiate athletics at major universities p rovide a variety of opportunities and challenges for student-athletes who choose to p articipate. This qualitative project studies the quality of interactions in the sport, t he social, and the academic experiences for freshman football and male soccer student-athle tes and their adjustment to college. The five research questions under review were as fo llows: Is there a relationship between the quality of the sport experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Is there a relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Is there a relationship between the quality of the academic experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman footb all and male soccer studentathletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution?
vi Are there relationships between any two of the thre e experiences (sport, social, and academic) that affect adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Does the adjustment to college relate to interactio ns among all three experiences in any comprehensive way as reported by freshman fo otball and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A inst itution? The purpose of the study was to hear in the student-athletes authentic voices their descriptions of the quality of the sport, the socia l and the academic endeavors and how those interactions impacted their adjustment to col lege. The results imply that the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes, while enduring some challenges, find ways to adjust to college as both students and as a thletes. Several themes were ascertained in relation to each of the three areas under review. While the student-athletes expressed feelings indicating that their collegiate experiences were different from the experiences of students not participating in interc ollegiate athletics, the majority of them revealed a high level of comfort in their college e nvironment. They all felt attached to the university, and they all planned to return for thei r sophomore year.
1 Chapter 1 Introduction Student-athletes comprise a unique population among students in higher education. These individuals enter colleges and uni versities with a wide range of athletic, social and academic expectations. Pendergrass, Hans en, Neuman, & Nutter (2003) noted that many student-athletes, especially those in spo rts such as basketball and football, expect to play professionally after completing thei r eligibility at a college or university. Indeed, regardless of the competitive level, studen t-athletes competing in revenueproducing sports often seem to attend college to sa tisfy their interests in athletic competition and to prepare for athletic careers rat her than take advantage of the other educational opportunities that college offers (Mart inelli, 2000). With such a varied selection of goals and expectations, this populatio n often presents special challenges. These challenges will become apparent through the f ollowing examination of what relationship, if any, exists between the quality of the sport experience, the social experience and the academic experience to the adjus tment to college for freshman student-athletes who play football or mens soccer. Student-athletes must make complex adjustments when they enter colleges which are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Ass ociation (NCAA) at the Division I-A level. These student-athletes experience not only a shift from high school to college in their athletic environment, but also must navigate the same transition issues facing the
2 general first-year student population. Competing at a Division I-A NCAA member institution will likely be much different from the high school programs to which the student-athletes were accustomed. They must meet n ew and more rigorous athletic and academic challenges, identify career paths, and dev elop new social networks. One might propose that because student-athletes hav e such high profiles on campus, the opportunity for them to feel lonely wil l be lessened, but in fact developing new social networks is one of the most difficult ta sks these first-year participants may face. First, student-athletes often find themselves challenged to discover the time for relationships outside their respective teams becaus e there is limited time for socializing or participating in other college activities (Howard-H amilton & Sina, 2001). Additionally, it has been suggested that student-athletes develop th eir own sub-culture that flourishes, isolated and insulated from the larger campus cultu re, and that colleges and universities allow this to happen (Pascarella, Bohr, Nora, & Ter enzini, 1995; Shulman & Bowen, 2001). Finally, Gerdes and Mallinckrodts (1994) fi ndings reported that emotional and social adjustments predict attrition more accuratel y than academic adjustments which support the contention that students often drop out of college due to feelings of personal isolation. Conversely, students provided with more opportunities to develop personal relationships tended to be less lonely and more lik ely to be successful as they adjust to the social dimension of college. In view of the fact that male student-athletes often do not engage in activi ties outside of their teams and sports, they are potenti ally at a greater risk of leaving their institutions related to these feelings of isolation whereas freshman female students
3 tended to feel secure and maintain new social conne ctions much more successfully than freshman male students (Cutrona, 1982; Shaver, Furm an, & Buhrmester, 1985). If a student-athlete drops out of college or transf ers to another school, there might be little or no recorded follow-up on why the indiv idual left the institution. Although there are data documenting student-athletes who lea ve for academic eligibility reasons, what is unclear is why these participants leave if they are in good academic standing. Furthermore, if there is an academic issue, is the issue entirely curriculum based? Oftentimes, there are a variety of reasons why a st udent-athlete becomes academically ineligible and why this person might leave a college or university while in good a cademic standing. Many of these factors may be non-academic in nature. While there are well established academic checks for this population, th e evidence is less developed and structured as to the rationale for dropping out due to non-academic issues. For purposes of the research presented here, the fo cus is on the NCAA Division I-A category. While there are several NCAA categori es, this classification requires that member institutions have an average of 15,000 peopl e in actual or paid attendance at football games, and field at least seven sports for men and seven sports for women or six sports for men and eight sports for women (NCAA web A). Division I-A athletic departments have significantly improved their strat egies and support for assisting studentathletes with academic issues. Currently, many of those athletic departments have a well-designed student services unit. Most of these units have a number o f academic advisors with some designated to serve specific sports. This assignmen t of academic advisors allows student-
4 athletes to have a specific contact in case of acad emic difficulty or if academic guidance is needed. Having a designated academic contact not only provides a sense of security for the student-athlete, but also provides an opportuni ty for the academic advisor to become familiar with each participants needs and challeng es. Astin (1977) and Tinto (1993) both discovered that students who are able to acces s academic and social support systems are generally successful at a college or university These athletic department based student services divisions provide such an academic support piece. In concert with the NCAA guidelines and the servic es available through the department of athletics another monitoring componen t is eligibility standards. Initial eligibility requirements, coupled with specific pro gram requirements and continuing academic eligibility rules, further enhance the aca demic tracking process. Studentathletes who entered colleges and universities on o r after August 1, 2003 are required to complete 40% of specific degree program requirement s before entering the third academic year, 60% of specific degree requirements prior to enrolling in the fourth academic year, and 80% of specific degree requireme nts before the fifth year of collegiate enrollment (Kulics, 2006). This informa tion allows one to efficiently locate a student-athletes grade point average (G.P.A.) and the number of attempted and completed student credit hours. It is more difficul t, however, to determine if academic struggles are a result of the course work studied o r if there are other unrecorded factors. One assessment tool that has been developed to iden tify these non-cognitive factors is the Non-Cognitive Questionnaire (NCQ) used by Sedlacek and Adams-Gaston in their research. When the NCQ was administered to a group of incoming freshman student-
5 athletes, the NCQ showed that non-cognitive variabl es were stronger indicators of first semester grades than the more academic measure of S AT scores (Sedlacek & AdamsGaston, 1992). Although the 2003 NCAA academic reform package in i ts entirety does not have a significant non-academic development variable, on e component of it may promote more comprehensive discussions between academic adv isors and student-athletes. The progress toward degree requirement insists that stu dent-athletes declare a major at the certifying institution by the beginning of their th ird year of enrollment (fifth semester or seventh quarter) and make progress toward that degr ee each semester. It may be critical for student-athletes to determine their academic ma jor area of interest prior to the mandated third year (NCAA Manual, 2007-2008, p. 363 ). If the chosen major is housed in a limited access college and/or has prescribed p rerequisites for admission, these specific courses should be a part of the academic p lan prior to the start of the third year. While there are some concerns regarding the shift t oward degree mandates, the NCAA academic reform package at the very least draw s attention to the monitoring of academic progress prior to graduation. While this a pproach may be somewhat limiting, it does permit academic advisors to focus on more long -range academic planning while still assessing semester to semester eligibility. Having discussions with student-athletes related to the selection of an academic major, earl y in the matriculation process, and thus their progress toward successful completion of the degree, may encourage more focus on the individuals multidimensional identity and assi st in eliminating the singular focus of
6 being an athlete. Choosing an academic major early in the college experience will require the student-athlete to think beyond the sport exper ience. Regardless of the chosen major, it is helpful for t he student-athletes to have positive relationships with their professors. Perh aps this would enhance the perception that they are truly student-athletes not athletic s tudents. Student-athletes must feel confident communicating with their professors about not only their class assignments and materials, but also about developing procedures for missing a class as a result of a scheduled athletic competition (Kulics, 2006; Pende rgrass et al. 2003). Given that the focus tends to remain primarily on t he academic success of the student-athlete, the NCAA also promotes a program t o spotlight the more comprehensive improvement of the person. The CHAMPS (Challenging Athletes Minds for Personal Success) Life Skills program, initiated in 1991 by the NCAA Foundation, was first marketed to the NCAA membership in 1994 and initial ly signed on 46 NCAA member institutions to participate in the program. Additio nally, in 2007, 128 Division I-A schools are sponsoring this program (NCAA web B). This pro gram marks the first organized effort by the NCAA and its member institutions, to address the student-athletes total development. The six categories of the program are equity, healthy choices, positive life skills, community leadership, safe environment and academic success. As stated, there are strong NCAA programs in place which address the academic side of the equation but fewer that concentrate on the area of non-academic development. Non-academic circumstances may exist that prompt st udent-athletes to drop out of their degree programs. Bloland (1987) writes that freshma n student-athletes move from high
7 school where they were adulated as stars to college where they compete with other stars as good as or better than they are. This can create great psychological pressures. Thus, student-athletes entering as freshmen are in a most critical position as it relates to successful adjustment to college. Lang, Dunham, & A lpert (1988) discovered that many student-athletes attend college primarily to extend their athletic careers, rather than to earn a college degree. Other studies support this c onclusion that student-athletes are unprepared and come to college to advance their ath letic interest (Edwards, 1984; Nyquist, 1979). This rationale is not supported by data collected b y the NCAA. In 2007, the NCAA acknowledges that only 1.2% of collegiate men s basketball players go on to play professionally, while only 1.8% of collegiate footb all players, 1.7% of mens soccer players and 1% of womens collegiate basketball pla yers advance to the professional sports ranks (NCAA web C). Even as student-athletes advance through their collegiate careers and experience little playing time, the goa l of playing professional sports remains strong. In many of these cases the person identifie s themselves as more of an athlete and not so much as a student. Making the leap to being paid for playing a sport is the only path to a higher socioeconomic position with which many of these student-athletes can identify. It is asserted that many African-American student-athletes view sport proficiency and success as one of the few roads to upward mobility (Sellars & Kuperminc 1997). This is further collaborated by the Center f or the Study of Athletes in that 44% of African-American and 20% of non-African-American fo otball players at predominantly white colleges and universities expected to become professional athletes. As mentioned
8 earlier, the reality is that only a very small perc entage of collegiate student-athletes move on to the professional sport ranks. Meggyesy (2000) reports that revenue from the sport s of football and mens basketball financially supports not only these two programs but also the non-revenue sports and ultimately the entire athletic departmen t. Acknowledging the growth and popularity of highly competitive collegiate revenue producing sports, he also finds that there has been an 8000% increase in NCAA revenues m oving from $6.6 million in 197778 to $267 million in 1997-98. With that in mind, o thers question whether the studentathletes participating in these sports that produce such revenue are truly students and athletes or if, in fact, they are unpaid profession al athletes. Critics argue that these extraordinarily high profits in football and basket ball tend to blur the mission of the NCAA member institutions athletic departments as it relates to the success of the studentathlete. Statement of the Problem Evidence appears to substantiate that an extraordin ary amount of attention is paid to the graduation rates of student-athletes at NCAA member institutions. However, this type of measurement only tracks the student-athlete in his or her first semester of attendance and then again at the conclusion of the fourth, fifth or sixth year when graduation from an undergraduate program is anticip ated. Only modest attention is given specifically to the first-year student-athletes bey ond the semester to semester eligibility checks. It is no secret that the first year of any college students life is critical. Yet there is very little literature available that focuses on the adjustment to college of freshman
9 student-athletes. Without this information, little can be undertaken to decrease the attrition and increase the successful adjustment to college of freshman student-athletes. Upon arrival at a Division I-A NCAA member institut ion, many aspects of life will be different for the freshman student-athletes The teams practices will be more difficult, the academic challenges will be more int ense, and the student-athletes will be transitioning from being high school seniors back d own to the bottom of the rank-order as freshmen. Hyatt (2003) reported that a student-athl ete moves from being big man on campus where he is recognized and given positive f eedback by his peers, faculty, and high school community to existing as more of an amb iguous figure. She goes on to write that some students, from the general population at colleges and universities, may be resentful of the special attention it is presumed s tudent-athletes receive. Engstram and Sedlacek (1989) suggested that institutions should create social programs to encourage interaction between athletes and non-athletes. Addi tionally, they advised faculty to provide opportunities for student-athletes to displ ay their academic achievements in the company of their non-athlete classmates. It is hop ed that these staged interactions can curb these undeserved stereotypical judgments. Student-athletes participating at a Division I-A in stitution may also feel a sense of isolation from the general student population. This isolation is challenging as these young people attempt to develop social networks. Unfortun ately, Terenzini, Pascarella and Blimling (1996) posited that athletic-related time demands on football and basketball players eliminates much of the time they have avail able to devote to studies and
10 socializing within the general student population. Although there is a 20 hour weekly limit and a 4 hour per day limit imposed by the NCA A related to the amount of mandatory time any student-athlete can be required to participate in structured athletic activity, most student-athletes dedicate many more than the allowable 20 hours per week (NCAA manual, 2007-2008, p. 220; Phillips, 2004). P articipating in practices and games, analyzing game film, attending team meetings, worki ng out on their own and traveling to away games are just a few of the additional demands student-athletes have on their time. Freshman student-athletes must also adjust to new c oaches with motivational styles that may be different from those used by the ir high school coaches. Developing positive relationships among coaches and these stud ent-athletes is paramount in creating a cohesive unit. Hollembeak and Amarose (2005) cite d that a democratic coaching style has a positive impact on autonomy and thus boosts s tudent-athletes intrinsic motivation. Conversely, they find that autocratic behavior has a negative affect on intrinsic motivation. These freshmen all respond slightly dif ferent to leadership styles and reward processes. While they may have a few encounters wit h the coaches at the colleges or universities of their choice prior to signing to pa rticipate, it is likely they are not yet aware of the true leadership styles of the coach or coaches with whom they will interact. The student-athletes ability to successfully adjus t to the rigors of a Division I-A program will depend on many factors. Athletic depar tments allocate large sums of money to recruit these student-athletes and pay for their tuition, books, and fees. If these freshmen student-athletes leave the college prior t o or at the completion of their freshman year, both the institutions and the student-athlete s have much to lose. Currently, there are
11 few statistics that provide a comprehensive estimat ion of how many student-athletes are dropping out of their degree programs and why they might leave. Thus, without such information, it is difficult to determine the most prevalent reasons for their attrition. Additionally, student-athletes may struggle athleti cally, socially, academically or in all of these areas. If any one of the aforementi oned areas breaks down, this puts the participants in a psychological place they probably never previously experienced. Therefore, freshman student-athletes need to be mon itored frequently in their athletic, social, and academic progress. Also, records of the freshman student-athletes who drop out of their degree programs need to be uniformly k ept at each institution. These records should include both academic and non-academic reaso ns why the student-athlete drops out. This information will definitely help in devel oping, designing, and implementing comprehensive programs to promote successful adjust ment to college with specific attention to the freshman student-athletes. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to determine if there was a relationship between the quality of interactions and the adjustment to colle ge for freshman student-athletes whose initial matriculation began in either the summer se mester or the fall semester of 2007. The specific segment of the student-athlete populat ion that was examined in this research study was freshman football players and male soccer players attending a Division I-A institution. Intercollegiate football at major Divi sion I-A colleges and universities is commonly referred to as a revenue producing sport. Although not considered a revenue producing sport, mens soccer has many th ings in common with the football
12 program. Both sports have their competitive seasons during the fall semesters, both provide opportunities to play professionally, and b oth require similar time commitments for practice and other game preparation. Specifically, the research focused on how the footb all and male soccer student-athletes described the sport, the social, a nd the academic challenges of college and how they felt the quality of their experiences in each of these respective areas impacted their adjustment to college. The results o f this study may encourage the NCAA member institutions to become more sensitive to the factors that could undermine the football and male soccer student-athletes ability or willingness to successfully adjust to a Division I-A college or university. Compiling data in the spring and the summer 2008 te rms permitted the collection of feedback data following the completion of one co mpetitive athletic season and at least one full academic semester. This allowed coaches a nd appropriate athletic and college or university staff to intervene in a timely manner if there appeared to be adjustment struggles for the football and male soccer players. It also provided information on those strategies geared to assist in successful college a djustment that are already in place and that are viewed as successful. Design of the Study This study was qualitative in nature and focused on freshman student athletes, at a selected NCAA Division I-A institution, participati ng in the sports of football and mens soccer and the relationship that might exist betwee n their adjustment to college and the quality of their encounters in the areas of their s port experience, their social interactions,
13 and their academic challenges. Following the initia l introduction to the study, the communication consisted of two in person interviews for some and one in person session for others not to exceed two hours during the 2008 spring or summer terms and occurring in an interval of at least one week. The discussion s occurred as private and group semistructured interviews. Research Questions The study focused on these five questions: 1. Is there a relationship between the quality of the sport experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 2. Is there a relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 3. Is there a relationship between the quality of the academic experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman footb all and male soccer studentathletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 4. Are there relationships between the sport, soc ial, and academic experiences that affect adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 5. Does the adjustment to college relate to interactio ns among all three experiences in any comprehensive way as reported by freshman fo otball and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A inst itution?
14 Key Terms Academic experience includes the student-athletes relationships with faculty, the accomplishments he has made in his classes, the level to which he feels challenged or overwhelmed and his perceptions of th e grades he may receive. Social Experience includes the student-athletes evaluation of his ability to interact both within his respective sport team and among the general student population, his participation in on-campus events a nd/or activities sponsored outside the athletic department, and the participan ts evaluation of his level of accomplishment in assimilating into this new enviro nment. Sport Experience includes the student-athletes e valuation of his relationship with his coach or coaches, the competitiveness of t he team, the individuals level of participation in games and practices, the partic ipants evaluation of his accomplishments as a team member and his ability to meet the physical challenges required to contribute on game day, and the impact of any physical injury. Adjustment to college includes the student-athlet es evaluation of his level of comfort in the collegiate environment, if he feels attached to the institution, and if he plans to persist. Other Definitions Division I colleges and universities in this clas sification must have an average of 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance at fo otball games and among other
15 things they must field at least seven sports for me n and seven sport for women or six sports for men and eight sports for women. The NCAA is currently modifying the name of this classification to the Football Bow l Subdivision. (NCAA Web A). Freshman student-athlete is any student who parti cipates in intercollegiate athletics and has not yet attended the fall semeste r of the second year of college. National Collegiate Athletic Association is an or ganization of members which include colleges, universities, and conferences wit h the purpose of governing competition in a fair, safe, equitable, and sportsm anlike manner and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount. (NCAA web D). NCAA member a college, university or conference t hat has voluntarily joined the National Collegiate Athletic Association. (NCAA web D) Student-Athlete a student who also participates i n an intercollegiate sport. Limitations The research design provided for a sample which was from one university so generalizing to a larger population might not be po ssible. The research design required participants to provid e the researcher with blocks of time not to exceed two hours which might have reduc ed their commitment to the study given that it might have infringed on their t ime for other activities. The research design included student-athletes who h ad participated heavily and those with no game experience thus these two popula tions had different experiences.
16 The research design required the student-athlete to reflect on their experiences following an extended break from the environment in question which challenged the accurate recall of their experiences. The research design included only freshman football and male soccer studentathletes therefore the results may not apply to the upper level participants in these sports. The research design was limited in the amount of in terview time available with each participant which limited the research categor ies that developed.
17 Chapter 2 Literature Review Introduction For many years, administrators at colleges and univ ersities have examined ways to best integrate intercollegiate athletics program goals into the institutions educational mission. As major college athletic programs continu e to grow and generate more revenue, integrating the goals of collegiate athletic depart ments into the educational missions of colleges and universities becomes more complex. At the center of this contradiction are the student-athletes; specifically, those who parti cipate in the revenue-producing sport of football and also the similarly intense sport of me ns soccer. These freshman male student-athletes bring with them a diverse set of a thletic, social and academic skills. Creating an environment which allows these football and mens soccer players to most effectively develop and adjust to college in all th ree of these areas is a complex task. History One of the most noted pieces of history in intercol legiate athletics is the first recorded game of football in the United States play ed on November 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton (Crowley, 2006; Lumpkin, 1998 ). The teams consisted of 25 men each and the ball was similar to a soccer ball. Th e National Soccer Hall of Fame asserted that what happened that afternoon was the first American intercollegiate soccer game (though there were also some rugby features in the rules of play that day)
18 (Crowley, 2006, p. 2). Crowley also noted that thos e participating in the game called it football. Thus the sports of football and soccer ha ve long been associated. Other popular sports played in the late 1800s inc luded boat racing and baseball (Crowley, 2006; Lumpkin,1998). However, football wa s the sport gaining the most interest with its mass plays and physical brutality College presidents, faculty, and students began to call for reform in this savage ga me. The Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA), formed in 1873, changed some rul es in 1876, moving away from soccer toward rugby, but was largely ineffectual in stemming the violence that was so characteristic of the game in 1880s and 90s (Crowl ey, 2006, p. 3). Crowley went on to note that due to low membership and member disagree ments, the IFA was soon disbanded. After several additional unsuccessful at tempts to reform intercollegiate football, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States was formed in 1906, and in 1910 the name was changed to the National Co llegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) (Lumpkin, 1998). Mission and Core Values of the NCAA The NCAA members include colleges, universities and conferences that make up its membership. The collegiate members appoint volu nteer representatives that serve on committees which introduce and vote on rules called bylaws. They also establish programs to govern promote and further the purposes and goals of intercollegiate athletics (NCAA web E).
19 The NCAA currently defines its core purpose as gove rning competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to in tegrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount. The core values are listed as follows: The Association through its memberinstitutions, conferences and national office staff shares a belief in and commitment to: The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics expe riences. The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship. The pursuit of excellence in both academics and ath letics. The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions. An inclusive culture that fosters equitable partici pation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds. Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophica l differences. Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletic s at the campus, conference and national levels. (NCAA web F).In order to uphold its mission and core values, the NCAA must develop and implement a myriad of athletic, social, and academi c guidelines and programs. One example of how the NCAA attempts to create an athle tic, social and academic balance in the lives of the student-athletes is with the rule which limits to 20 hours the total amount of time student-athletes can be required to partici pate in structured athletic activity
20 (NCAA manual, 2007-2008, p. 220). However, most stu dent-athletes voluntarily dedicate much more time than allowable by the NCAA (Phillips 2004). By limiting the amount of allowable time for preparation and competition, the NCAA rule encourages studentathletes to pursue not only their athletic interest s but also academic and social options that more closely mirror those of their non-athlete classmates. A second example of how the NCAA is working to bett er balance the lives of student-athletes is through the 2003 Academic Refo rm Package which mandates that student-athletes identify an academic major by the beginning of their third year of enrollment (fifth semester or seventh quarter) and make academic progress toward that degree (Kulics, 2006; NCAA manual, 2007-2008, p. 36 3). This directive stimulates more academic-related discussions between academic advis ors and the freshman football and mens soccer participants. These conversations shif t a portion of the focus away from athletics and instead highlight both the academic m ajor and career interests of these freshman football and male soccer student-athletes. This shift in concentration from athletic to academic should be helpful in emphasizi ng the importance of the intellectual mission of the colleges and universities. Academic Advisors Employing academic advisors who are knowledgeable a bout NCAA eligibility requirements and understand the culture and sub-cul tures that exists in the world of major college athletics is essential to best guide studen t-athletes through the academic process. Critics feel that housing a student services unit w ithin the athletic department shields student-athletes from experiencing the challenges o f selecting courses, completing the
21 registration process, and being aware of their acad emic records (Pendergrass et al. 2003). This protection from participating in a part of the regular college process not only allows the student-athletes to direct more focus toward th eir sport but also has the potential to create a learned sense of helplessness. It is inte resting to note that the success of studentathletes performance in the classroom has in fact coincided with the dramatic development of athletic support programs (Kulics, 2006, p. 78). As early as 1975 there was a grassroots effort to e stablish a national association for professionals working in the area of academic a dvising for student-athletes (N4A Web A). This organization is now titled the N4A. W hile only 15 members attended the inaugural national convention in 1975, more than 40 0 collegiate academic advising professionals were present at the most recent natio nal gathering (N4A Web A). On Friday, September 28, 2007, the NCAA announced publ icly its partnership with the N4A to better educate these academic advising professio nals on the intent, goals and improvement strategies of the NCAAs Academic Progr ess Rate (N4A Web B). This collaboration should assist administrators with the on-going project of better meshing the dual roles the freshman football and male soccer st udent-athletes manage, which is being both a student and an athlete, with the educational missions of colleges and universities. Career Maturity Career development has been defined as having matur e, realistic career plans grounded in assessing ones career goals, interests and abilities, as well as having an awareness of vocational opportunities and requireme nts (Crites, 1978). The Career Pattern Study, which investigated the career develo pment of men, (Super, Crites,
22 Hummel, Moser, Overstreet & Warnath, 1957) powered the discovery that career maturity was a combination of physical, psychologic al, and social dynamics. Super (1990) identified five stages of career development and implied that image norms play a role in career decisions. A student-athlete through sources such as the media, family influence and peer association may have determined that his image aligns well with a specific career such as a professional athlete. Co nsequently, the level of career maturity a football or mens soccer player has achieved may de termine how quickly the academic major and the career aspirations and can successful ly be matched. Studies on career maturity specific to participants in intercollegiate, revenueproducing sports have been conducted and have asser ted that many from this population lack adequate wisdom in this area (Kennedy & Dimick 1987; Smallman & Sowa, 1996). This lack of career maturation may be a result of t he desire of many of these athletes to ultimately enter the professional ranks in their re spective sports. Weatherspoon (2007) suggested that for African-Amer ican athletes, The dream of playing professional sports starts as early as e lementary school (p. 31). Similarly, Smallman and Sowa (1996) discovered in their study, in which 41% of the subjects were from revenue producing sports, and that included th e use of the Career Development Inventory (CDI) tool, 66% of the black student-athl etes and 39% of the white studentathletes expected to play professional sports. Thi s positioned these male athletes in the 25th percentile of norms as it relates to career maturi ty.
23 The NCAA, in published research, declared that only 1.8% of collegiate football players and 1.7% of collegiate soccer players will have an opportunity to compete in the professional ranks (NCAA web C). An even smaller nu mber of these athletes will actually establish successful careers as profession al athletes. This disconnect between the desired career in professional sports and the actua l chance that it will happen is an ongoing challenge that the athletic staff and the co llege or university career specialists must collaborate to better educate the student-athletes on their potential for achieving their desired jobs. Additionally, the remarkable salaries being paid to professional athletes make it difficult to persuade many of these student-athlete s to explore other career options. Many devote their entire missions to being drafted into the professional ranks as they view this leap as their only way to reach higher socioeconomi c status (Adler & Adler, 1991; Sellars & Kuperminc, 1997). Moreover Martinelli (2000) imp lied that student-athletes from revenue producing sports, no matter at which NCAA d ivision level, may enroll in an institution of higher education specifically to dev elop their athletic careers rather than to devoting time toward educational opportunities. Weatherspoon (2007) likened this drive to focus mor e on the athletic identity while forfeiting important educational opportunitie s to the plague. He reported: Black male athletes often state that they seek to escape a life of economic despair and to buy mama a new home or a Cadillac Escalade. But liste n to grandma who normally understands that obtaining a college degree is more valuable than playing sports (p. 31). To support his strong feelings for the importance o f education, Weatherspoon identified
24 once-successful Black collegiate athletes who encou ntered a variety of issues that shortened their professional athletic careers and l eft them without the ability to cope with everyday life. In contrast to these beliefs that student-athletes should be encouraged to concentrate more on their academic endeavors and ex plore and fully develop their academic identity, some feel that they should be al lowed to focus on their athletic identities and be paid for their contribution to th e intercollegiate game. By way of NCAA rules, compensation that the student-athletes are a llowed to receive is well defined and clearly prohibits payment in the form of a salary f or participation in NCAA sanctioned intercollegiate athletics. Differing opinions point to different payment options. Malveaux (1995) advised beginning with something as small as spending money as compensation but then offered up the option of p roviding a salary and benefits similar to those received by the faculty. While Zimbalist ( 1999) pointed to the monetary value of tuition, meals, and housing that student-athletes r eceive, he also acknowledged that compared to the amount of money institutions earn f rom major sports programs studentathletes participating in these revenue producing s ports are being exploited. He went on to communicate that many variables make this an una ffordable venture. To name a few of the hurdles, there would be the cost of the salarie s, that due to Title IX rules would need to be paid in some proportion to all student-athlet es, the market values that would dictate the amount paid for play, the workers compensation insurance, and the tax shelter enjoyed by the institutions and the NCAA would be l ost as a result of these payments.
25 As described here, these student-athletes are faced with balancing the important components of academics and athletics as they relat e to career choice and academic major selection. As populations of male freshman fo otball and soccer players enter these colleges and universities they must be provided wit h skilled leadership in order to make quality decisions and ultimately achieve successful adjustment as they experience this new college environment. CHAMPS Life Skills While selecting an appropriate academic major that aligns with the career choices of our freshman football and male soccer participan ts, which is highly important to the successful adjustment to college, so are the other aspects of these peoples lives. Accordingly, the NCAA participation rules along wit h other NCAA programs such as the CHAMPS (Challenging Athletes Minds for Personal Su ccess) Life Skills program, which provides education outreach services in the a reas of equity, healthy choices, positive life skills, safe environments, academic s uccess and community leadership (NCAA web B) are all diligent efforts in assisting the football and male soccer studentathletes in experiencing a successful well-rounded collegiate career. Because the individuals enter college with a wide range of precollege characteristics these plans require further tailoring to effectively assist in the successful adjustment to college of the freshman football and mens soccer student-athletes Even with all of these efforts, there may remain a peculiar challenge in motivating freshman student-athletes participating in football and mens soccer to utilize rules and services created to protect and assist them. Watson (2006) found that a majority of
26 student-athletes indicate they do not have time to use counseling services and even if they did they would not feel comfortable doing so. The very population for which these parameters and programs are created may feel that u sing them will show a sign of either physical or emotional weakness. Identity In the process of working their way through this ho st of programs and services and constantly adjusting to the new rigors of being a college student and a college athlete, the identity of the freshman football and male socc er student-athletes may become blurred and generate athletic, social and academic challenges. As a member of a sports team at a college or university, these freshman foo tball and mens soccer players assume two identities; that of being both a student and an athlete. Because of pre-college experiences many of these individuals view themselv es more as athletes than as students (Sellars & Kuperminc, 1997). After all, they are ac knowledged publicly through the media, for scoring the winning touchdown in footbal l or blocking the winning goal in soccer or on the other hand failing to do so (Theli n, 1996) but not much is printed in the headlines when football players or mens soccer pla yers receive a top grade on an academic test or project. While it is not impossible to balance the two roles it has been found that when there are limited resources, in this case the limit ations of time and energy, the chance for conflict is greater (Adler & Adler, 1985; Sack & Th iel, 1985). This conflict may eventually have a negative impact on the adjustment to college for the freshman football and male soccer players. At times the student-athle tes are just too tired from practicing
27 their sport, participating in conditioning drills, and studying game film to successfully manage their role as a student (Carodine, Almond, & Gratto, 2001; Howard-Hamilton & Sina, 2001; Pascarella, Truckenmiller, Nora, Terenz ini, Edison & Hagedorn, 1999). As previously pointed out, another distraction for many of these freshman football and mens soccer student-athletes is the desire to play professional sports. As identified by the Center for the Study of Athletics a staggeri ng 44% of African-American and 20% of non-African-American football players expect to play their sports professionally. This career goal further complicates the management of t he dual identities. Killeya-Jones (2005) reported that when there is le ss discrepancy between the role of student and athlete, the level of both life sati sfaction and academic satisfaction are higher. A variety of current and pre-college factor s assists freshman football and male soccer student-athletes in either being able to man age the dual identity role harmoniously or to struggle to achieve the balance of being prod uctive as a student and as an athlete. Student services units both within the athletic dep artment and within the institution must be aware of this identity issue and form ways to as sess the student-athletes coping and adjustment potential. Relationship with Faculty One collegiate environmental factor that can have a major impact on how the dual identity role is managed is the attitude of the fac ulty toward the student-athletes. Adler & Adler (1985, 1991) found that many student-athletes felt that faculty viewed them as jocks first and as students second. This is further supported by the findings of Potuto and OHanlon (2007) who discovered that 49.2% of studen t-athletes, surveyed at 18 NCAA
28 Division I institutions, believed a faculty member had discriminated against them because of their membership on an intercollegiate athletic team. Faculty, who show respect for the student-athletes, have a positive affect on the stu dents abilities to handle their dual roles (Comeaux, 2005). Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whitt (2005) posited that students and faculty must experience worthwhile interactions in order fo r high level scholarly work to occur. Not all student faculty communications affect ident ity, learning, and satisfaction outcomes equally. Research suggested that faculty w ho share guidance in a way that assists student-athletes in reaching their career g oals are received very positively by the student-athletes and in some cases this show of und erstanding motivates the individuals to achieve a higher grade point average (Comeaux, 2 005). Further, not all football and mens soccer particip ants benefit equally from interactions with the faculty. Students entering co lleges and universities with lower grade point averages and those who are from families with little or no college education tended to benefit most highly from engaging with faculty b eyond the allotted classroom time (Astin, 1984; Carini, Kuh, & Klein, 2006; Comeaux, 2005). Providing special attention to appropriately matching the freshman football and ma le soccer student-athletes with faculty who have an understanding of the demands th ese young people are facing both in and out of the classroom is one of many retention t ools that can be exercised by academic support professionals in assisting the student-athl etes in successfully adjusting to college. Social First-year football and mens soccer players must a lso navigate their way through new social territory. Developing social networks on campus may be the most difficult
29 task these freshman student-athletes encounter. In high school these freshman football and mens soccer student-athletes are likely treate d like the big man on campus however upon arrival on the college or university c ampus they may find the reception a bit less welcoming (Hyatt, 2003). Astin (1993) found that the students peer group is the single most important form of support during the pursuit of the bachelors deg ree. Tinto (1975) supported this by adding that the more students are engaged socially the more likely they are to succeed. Thus, it is paramount that these individuals are su ccessful in locating and developing a positive network of friends. The academic and athletic requirements these freshm an football and male soccer student-athletes face make it difficult for them to find time to participate in social events with the general student population. This challenge can lead to the creation of subcultures within the student-athlete population and more specifically in the groups that are established within the individual sport teams. It h as been suggested that athletic departments in collaboration with others on campus should work to dissolve this subculture and craft social programs to facilitate oncampus interactions between athletes and non-athletes (Engstram & Sedlacek, 1989; Pascar ella et al. 1995). When surveyed by Potuto and OHanlon (2007) only 36% of the NCAA Div ision I-A participants indicated they were involved in any non-athletic campus organ ization. This reduction of the sub-cultures will require a g reat amount of time, planning, and maintenance. Many factors will make it difficul t to eliminate or lessen the formation of these sub-cultures. These freshman football and mens soccer players spend many
30 hours with their respective teams each day preparin g to reach a common a goal thus limiting the time available for establishing new fr iendships (Chartrand & Lent, 1987; Jordon & Denson, 1990; Pascarella et al. 1999; Phil lips, 2004; Terenzini, Pascarella, & Blimling, 1996). In support of this concept, it is also reported that the athletes may simply be too fatigued or may be experiencing physical inj uries from their participation in their sport which may prohibit them from pursuing non-ath letic related activities on campus (Adler & Adler, 1991; Carodine et al. 2001; HowardHamilton & Sina, 2001). It might be assumed that these high-profile freshma n football and mens soccer players will take on a celebrity type status around campus and never experience a sense of loneliness or difficulty developing relationship s. As previously mentioned, the constraints these participants encounter create a r eal challenge as these freshman football and male soccer players attempt to sculpt out time to establish new friendships with students who are not athletes (Adler & Adler,1991; Carodine et al. 2001; HowardHamilton & Sina, 2001). This issue may, in fact, cr eate a sense of isolation from the general student population. This separation coupled with living away from home for the first time may generate a true sense of loneliness. Ponzetti, J. J. (1990) explained that, Loneliness reflects an interpersonal deficit that exists as a result of fewer or less satisfying personal relationships than a person desires (p. 336). This feeling of loneliness has b een found to be a problem among college students (Cutrona, 1982; Shaver et al. 1985 ). It might boost the possibility of successful adjustment to college if the athletic de partment staff would work together with their colleges or universitys student affairs dep artment to develop programs that target
31 this issue and to work to bring the student-athlete s together with the general student body to foster opportunities for new friendships. If the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes find social fulfillment they are l ikely to perform at a higher level both academically and athletically. As a method to provide the student-athletes with mo re non-athletic time, the NCAA has implemented a 20 hour rule (NCAA manual, 2 007-2008, p. 220) which should assist the freshman members of the football team and the mens soccer team with having more time available for pursuits similar to those of their non-athlete peers. However, freshman football and male soccer studentathletes volunteer much more of their time to watching game films, conditioning, an d any other activities that will better promote their success in football or soccer (Philli ps, 2004) which significantly reduces their opportunities to connect with new non-athleti c peers. Coaches As these freshman football and male soccer players attempt to construct new social relationships they must also build successfu l bonds with their coaches. Beyond a few personal meetings these rookie football and men s soccer players know little about the philosophy and style of their respective coachi ng staff. The initial type of relationships established between the coaches and t he student-athletes will likely play a powerful role in the overall successful adjustment to college of each team member. The leadership these coaches provide is a key facto r in the overall success of the participants. Chelladurai (1984) acknowledged the i mportance of this leadership by stressing that leadership is, The behavioral proce ss of influencing individuals and groups
32 toward set goals, is interpersonal in nature, entai ls a high degree of direct interaction with athletes and bears directly on the motivation of th e team (p. 329). Just as there are athletes with different levels of expectancy from their coaches so are there varying levels of expectancy of the coach for their team members. The differences between high and low expectancy athlete s perception of their treatment by the coach was examined by Wilson and Stephens (2007 ). They hypothesized that a coach can establish a social reality for the student-athl etes. If the participants perceived that the coach had high expectations of them and they receiv ed less negative feedback than their peers this person was more likely to persist. On th e other hand, those who felt that the coach had lower expectations, and thus provided les s instruction and less positive feedback were more likely to struggle to adjust to the athletic demands of college athletics. Wilson and Stephens (2007) using the six-stage Expe ctancy Confirmation Model (Darley & Fazio, 1980), paid specific attention to the first three steps, as a way to analyze the information collected from the athletes. They a lso found that all student-athletes tended to be aware of the differential coaching con duct and consequently suggested that coaches must make a conscious effort to lessen the ability of the student-athletes to determine the coaches level of expectations and cr eate an environment filled with balanced reinforcement and education. Magill (2001) supported this notion by pointing out that feedback assists the athletes in working t oward a specific goal. Jowett & Clark-Carter (2006) reported on the three Cs of a relationship between the coach and the student-athlete: closeness, commi tment and complementarity. These
33 three words resemble the information delivered by W ilson & Stephens (2007) in that the student-athlete interprets how the coach feels abou t him which may ultimately determine his level of satisfaction and performance and his d esire to persist. Along with making every individual member of the te am feel equal, the coaches also have the task of motivating their teams to per form at the highest possible levels. Creating cohesion among the team members and betwee n the coaches and team members will play a dominate role in the success of the tea m and ultimately the individuals participating. Turman (2003) asserted, Because the teams cohesion level affects individual group member behavior, it is important t o establish a level of cohesion that builds a climate for team success (p.87). Coaching styles may be defined in a number of ways. Turman (2001) noted autocratic, democratic, social support and training and instruction as leadership styles. Freshman football and male soccer players will brin g with them an expectation of how they anticipate the coach to lead the team and much of this preconceived notion may be a result of a coach or coaches who they encountered i n high school. Hersey & Blanchard (1969) advised that effective leaders are flexible and adjust their style of leading to best fit their audience. Regardless of the style, the r elationship that the freshman football player or male soccer player has with their coach o r coaches also may be one of the better predictors of overall satisfaction with the sport e xperience. Because, each participant enters a college or university with unique experien ces and abilities, effectively creating satisfying relationships will require a varied skil l set which includes flexibility and understanding.
34 The challenge to successfully integrate the freshma n football and male soccer student-athletes into the general student populatio n at colleges and universities is a complex task. At many institutions with major NCAA sponsored football and mens soccer programs the educational missions do not alw ays align well with the goals of the athletic departments and more specifically with the ambitions of the individual studentathletes. The research to date implied that the suc cessful adjustment of these freshman football and mens soccer student-athletes may be d ependent on their ability to map a balanced and successful course athletically, social ly, and academically. It is also noted that colleges and universities should continue to s trive, through a variety of programs, to produce well-rounded experiences for these freshman football and mens soccer studentathletes.
35 Chapter 3 Methods Introduction This study was qualitative in nature and was design ed to investigate whether there is a relationship between the quality of aspects of student-athletes experiences and the adjustment to college for freshman student-athletes participating in the intercollegiate sports of football and mens soccer. Specifically, the research focused on the quality of the sport experience, the quality of the social exp erience, and the quality of the academic experience and whether those respective experiences impacted adjustment to college as described by the participants. In an attempt to exp lore how this population explains their navigation through this college experience the meth od of phenomenology was exercised. Dialogue was established with freshman football and male soccer players using the semi-structured and open-ended interview techni que. The information was collected via digital voice recorder and through written note s. The recordings and notes were managed via the Atlas/ti software program and revie wed by both the researcher and a second party to establish the development of themes The establishment of themes or lack there of guided the assessment of the results. The following five research questions guided this i nvestigation: 1. Is there a relationship between the quality of the sport experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman footb all and male soccer
36 student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 2. Is there a relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman f ootball and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 3. Is there a relationship between the quality of t he academic experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman footb all and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A inst itution? 4. Are there relationships between the sport, soci al, and academic experiences that affect adjustment to college as rep orted by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 5. Does the adjustment to college relate to interac tions among all three experiences in any comprehensive way as reporte d by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Divis ion I-A institution? College administrators, athletic administrato rs and coaches are all keenly aware that the ability of the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes to successfully adjust to their new lives on campus is a critical c omponent of their desire and ability to succeed and remain at the institution. Learning abo ut the participants experiences in their own words may assist in developing new or imp roving upon current practices to provide support with successful adjustment to colle ge. Adler and Adler (1985; 1991) are the most well note d for their qualitative research related to intercollegiate athletics. They immersed themselves, over a 4-year period, in the environment of a major collegiate ba sketball program and completed
37 interviews with almost 40 participants. This was co nsidered one of the first times that non-athletic staff persons were allowed to explore the otherwise private world of intercollegiate athletics. They were granted access to this population because the head coach was interested in providing assistance for hi s players as they adjusted to college life and athletics (Adler & Adler, 1985). Following the same dynamic, the Director of Athletics and the Associate Director of Athletics/A cademics at the enrolling institution were interested in learning more about the freshman football and male soccer studentathletes and thus consented to provide access to th is population. Miller & Kerr (2002) following the Adler & Adler qu alitative foundation of inquiry completed a study more closely related to t he current investigation in number of participants and time of engagement. Their study in vestigated, with a qualitative design, the athletic, academic, and social experiences of i ntercollegiate student-athletes in Canada. This study included eight student-athletes and initial questioning lasted approximately 1530 minutes with some follow up cl arification probes and a total time of 90 150 minutes. It is common that most new students entering colleg e experience a period of adjustment. In fact, for the general new student po pulation two of the primary areas of adjustment are in the academic and social environme nts they experience as they begin life on a college campus (Gerdes & Mallinckrodt, 19 94). In addition to the new challenges of a more rigorous curriculum and a more diverse social community, freshman football and male soccer student-athletes must also adapt to an advanced level of athletic competition.
38 Many ways of adjusting to college life have been s tudied but few writers commit to the development of a definition. Baker & Siryk ( 1984a, 1984b, & 1989 in H. Gerdes & B. Mallinckrodt, 1994) defined academic adjustment as, Along with scholarly potential, motivation to learn, taking action to meet academic demands, a clear sense of purpose, and general satisfaction with the academic environm ent (p. 281). Gerdes and Mallinckrodt (1994) determined that social adjustme nt, Includes becoming integrated into the social life of college, forming a support network, and managing new social freedoms (p. 281). For purposes of this research the definition for t he sport experience focused on how the freshman football and male soccer student-a thlete felt about a number of things including his relationships with his coaches, the c ompetitiveness of his team, his level of participation in games and practices, his evaluatio n of his accomplishments as a team member, his ability to meet the physical challenges required to contribute on game day, and the impact of any physical injuries. Other comp onents were addressed as they related to the social experience. Factors that were evaluat ed included the student-athletes evaluation of his ability to interact both within h is sport team and among the general college student population, his participation in on -campus events and/or activities sponsored outside the athletic department, and his evaluation of his ability to assimilate into his new environment. Further, the quality of t he academic environment emphasized the student-athletes relationships with faculty, t he accomplishments he has made in his classes, the level to which he felt challenged or o verwhelmed, and his perceptions of the grades he received and may receive. For this study, adjustment to college was defined as
39 the student-athletes evaluation of his level of co mfort in the collegiate environment, if he felt attached to the institution, and if he planned to persist. Design In an effort to gain critical insight into the liv es of the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes the researcher chose to use a qualitative form of inquiry. Moreover, the goal of the study was to learn more t han could be gained by using a quantitative method in which responses are more res tricted. Allowing the opportunity for unrestricted descriptions allowed the participants to communicate their own thoughts and feelings in their own language and with genuine emo tion. This study was grounded in Mezirows theory of the transformation of adult learning. Cranton (1994) and Mezirow (1991) describ ed this theory as the process of effecting change in a frame of reference. Mezirow a lso posited that it is through transformative learning that independent thinking i s developed. Each freshman football and male soccer student-athl ete brings with him preconceived ideas about how he will experience the sport, social, and academic worlds of college life. It is through this frame of refere nce that he will make judgments related to his adjustment to college. One piece of the frame of reference is established by the habits of mind which is generally developed to mirror those of the primary care giver. A second element is the point of view which is more flexible and easier to alter than the habits of the mind (Mezirow, 1997). In fact, experimenting with and di scussing another persons point of view carries little associated risks.
40 Given that each of these freshman football and male soccer student-athletes brings with him a frame of reference which includes being one of the most talented and most recognized figures at his high school a change in r eference is probable. This change is likely to happen quickly as a result of him now bei ng one of many talented athletes and being essentially unrecognized across campus. This transformational process may affect how these participants evaluate the quality of thei r sport, social, and academic experience and these interactions might impact his assessment of his adjustment to college. There are a variety of approaches to qualitative re search. Phenomenological research was the form of qualitative design employe d in this study. ODonoghue and Punch (2003) described that the use of phenomenolog y began in Europe as part of Edward Husserls philosophy. This style of research has continued to develop and includes three branches that include transcendental existential, and hermeneutic. Existential Phenomenology This research was concerned with a persons existen ce and because the researcher agrees with the philosophy that the world already e xists and that individuals interact in this pre-existing world, existential phenomenology was the guiding tool. Sartre, Heideggar, Merleau-Ponty, and Marcel are three of t he most well-recognized twentieth century writers who used existential phenomenology (ODonoghue & Punch, 2003; Patton, 2002; Sherman & Webb, 1988). This existenti al model differs from Husserls transcendental method that posited that the world i s not already in existence and is developed through ones consciousness and also seek s to determine ones essence.
41 Sartre did not believe that people had an essence, instead he theorized that people shaped their own lives. He felt an individuals ess ence was revealed upon death (Greene, M. in R. Sherman & R. Webb, 1988). Additionally, He ideggar and Merleau-Ponty both dispelled the possibility of essences and also opte d for lived experiences. Heideggars existential phenomenology is also called ontologica l phenomenology that means, concerned with being (Patton, 2002). In considering these options it seems clear that t he existential form of phenomenology as opposed to the transcendental meth od is an appropriate match. This research after all revolves around the lived experi ences of the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes as captured through their v erbal expressions. Holistic, Inductive, and Naturalistic Approaches In remaining consistent with the design of qualitat ive research and the constructs of the phenomenological method the researcher used a holistic view, an inductive and a naturalistic approach to inquiry. Indeed, the holi stic view allowed the researcher to inspect the accumulation of individual responses as it related to the whole group. This review focused on the notion that the combined arti culated experiences of these freshman football and male soccer student-athletes were more powerful than each individual report. This information may be useful in determining how t he single pieces of the whole might help improve the various programs as a unit. Further Patton (1980) described the inductive appro ach as, Attempts to make sense of the situation without imposing preexisting expectations on the research setting (p. 40). Using the inductive approach, which is con sistent with the qualitative collection
42 of data, allowed for categories to develop as infor mation was gathered from the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes. This pro cess permitted themes to develop which guided the follow-up round of interviews. Finally, the naturalistic approach was employed, as there was no experimental portion involved in the study. This method allowed the communications to occur in an open and flexible manner. Sampling Purposeful sampling was chosen in an attempt to col lect information-rich data. Purposeful sampling focuses on selecting informati on-rich cases whose study will illuminate the questions under study (Patton, 2002 p. 230). The sample for this study was freshman football and male soccer student-athle tes. These participants represented different sports with both teams practicing and par ticipating at similarly intense levels and functioning under identical NCAA eligibility re quirements. Participants Participants in this study were freshman student-at hletes participating in the sports of football or mens soccer. Some of these individu als may have participated heavily in game play but others had no game experience. Regard less, all had completed one competitive sport season. The student-athletes were both students and athlete s at a large research university located in the southeastern United States. Their re spective teams are considered high level competitors in the Big East Conference and at the national level.
43 Data Collection The researcher conducted private and in person inte rviews which were recorded on a digital voice recorder and through written not es. At the suggestion of the athletic department administration and with the support of t he supervisory committee one group interview was also completed. This capture of the i nterviews allowed the comments to be reviewed numerous times in order to identify themes if any, as the data collection developed. Freshman student-athletes participating in footbal l and mens soccer at a NCAA Division I-A institution in the southeastern United States were interviewed individually and some were a part of a group session. Initial co ntact was made with the administrative staff of the athletic department to assess the poss ibility of meeting with the studentathletes. These young men have such extreme demands on their time, finding a way to successfully collect information from them without eliminating otherwise unscheduled time was a very important part of the process. It w as determined that the researcher would be granted meeting time with the participants as an attachment to other scheduled athletic time. It was hoped that this flexibility i n scheduling would maximize the studentathletes commitment to the study. Two in-person interview sessions occurred with som e participants and one in person session was completed with other student-ath letes and each were no more than two hours in length. The interval between contacts was at least one week. The researcher met with the participants in an assigned room in th e building that houses the athletic department. Clarification probes were used if the intent of the dialogue was not clear.
44 Additionally, the researcher sought to compare the student-athletes evaluation of their academic experience with the actual grades th ey earn. With the assistance of knowledgeable athletic department administration, t he grade point averages for the participants were secured. This comparison provided insight into the varying determinations of what a successful academic experi ence meant to each of these freshman football and male soccer student-athletes. When conducting quantitative research it is quite clear when data collection ends and analysis begins. Conversely, the separation of data collection and analysis in qualitative research is less defined. In using semi -structured interviews the participants answers drove the researcher to analyze a response or responses and establish a need for further or restructured questioning. Interviews Skilled interviewing techniques are very important when conducting phenomenological research. This study used the semi -structured technique and openended interview method. By way of these interviews the researcher attempted to have the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes describe the quality of the experiences in their sport, their social interactions, and thei r academic challenges. And they also described their ability to adjust to college in gen eral. This, in fact, was seeking the participants analysis of their lived experiences. Spiegelberg (1975) stated, Essential insight requires that on the basis of such variatio n we determine what is essential or necessary and what is merely accidental or continge nt (p. 64).
45 The interview sessions occurred in an environment t hat was familiar to the participants and this assisted in creating a more s ecure and trusting setting. This atmosphere resulted in the freshman football and ma le soccer student-athletes having a sense of security in the location of the talks and thus the focus remained on developing trust in the researcher as opposed to adjusting to new surroundings. As a strategy to establish a relaxed and legitimate rapport with the student-athletes the researcher chose to begin each interview session by discussing the spor t experience. Initially displaying some knowledge of the student-athletes sport seemed to increase the credibility of the researcher for the participants While there was one group meeting, all of these con versations occurred in a private setting with only the participants and the researcher in attendance. Given that these freshman football and male soccer student-ath letes were possibly still developing relationships and working to feel secure in both th eir social networks and their surroundings, it was thought that allowing the indi viduals to communicate confidentially might prompt more open and honest communication. Coding Procedure Two layers of coding occurred in this study. Initi ally, computer software was used to process the data. Specifically, Atlas/ti was the software used as a way to assist in managing the information collected from the intervi ew sessions. Atlas/ti was chosen as a result of its most flexible structure.
46 This software has the ability to process informatio n from an audio source and was helpful, as all of the communications were recorded Additionally, this product has unlimited coding possibilities and assists with the management of research data. Second, a well qualified professional was recruited to serve as an additional code checker. This Professor Emeritus from Loyola Univer sity Chicago is well published and holds his Ph.D. in Educational Administration. He c urrently serves an external evaluator for a local non-profit organization that receives g rant funding from the Department of Education. The interviews were transcribed from the recordings by a person not involved with the study who routinely transcribes interviews as a part of her job. A second person not involved in the study checked the transcription s for accuracy. After the researcher had completed the data analysis and the identification of possible themes, the paid assistant analyzed the data managed by Atlas/ti. In a separat e review, the hired code checker independently coded the transcribed interviews and identified themes that resulted from the interviews. This secondary review helped to ver ify the accuracy of the analysis. Further, participants were contacted to confirm the description of their information. Patton (1980, 2002) stressed that thick, rich descr iptions are a requirement for exceptional qualitative research. Moreover, the researcher and the paid code checker were able to come to an agreement in determining the emerging themes. If th ere was discrepancy in this process then clarification probes were employed and consens us was reached.
47 This analysis of data collected for this study was guided by the suggestions of Berkowitz (1996). They included: What patterns and common themes emerge in the respo nses dealing with specific items? How do these patterns (or lack ther e of) help illuminate the broader study question(s)? Are there any deviations from these patterns? If ye s, are there any factors that might explain atypical responses? What interesting stories emerge from responses? How can these stories illuminate the broader study question(s)? Do any of these patterns or findings suggest additi onal data may need to be collected? Do any study questions need to be rev ised? Do the patterns that emerge corroborate the finding s of any corresponding qualitative analysis that have been conducted? If n ot, what might explain these discrepancies? The findings of the study were reported in a writte n narrative and were further supported by the use of the Venn diagram. D iagrams, although found to have originated earlier, are popularly associated with J ohn Venn. This depiction of intersecting circles represented the three experiences and the p otential for interaction between and among them as they related to adjustment to college
48 Figure 1. Venn Diagram: Illustrating the three area s under study and their individual and comprehensive relationships to adjus tment to college. Reliability and Validity Reliability and validity are critical components of any qualitative or quantitative study. Reliability has been defined as the ability to measure consistently (Black & Champion, 1976). Validity has been described as acc urately representing those features of the phenomena this it is meant to describe (Hamm ersley, 1987). Achievement of each of these varies based on the specific type of inqui ry. Stenbacka (2001) posited that referring to reliabil ity in a qualitative study is misleading and she goes on to inform that because r eliability involves measurements it should be deleted from qualitative use. Conversely, Patton (2002) asserted that reliability
49 and validity must be included in the design of a qu alitative study. Some researchers feel that without reliability there can be no validity ( Lincoln & Guba, 1985). While most agree that some type of measure is impor tant, not all qualitative researchers support the use of the term validity as associated with qualitative research. For instance, Creswell and Miller (2000) propose th at the researchers thoughts of validity for a study affect the choice of paradigm assumption. Based on this notion, terms such as quality, rigor, and trustworthiness h ave emerged (Golafshani, 2003). Often researchers and readers may find these words interm ingled. Choosing an appropriate sample significantly booste d the reliability of the study. For this research, purposeful sampling was used to invite freshman football and male soccer student-athletes at this NCAA Division I-A m ember institution to participate in this study. The researcher estimated that 20 studen ts would agree to participate fully. Recording clear and thorough notes as to how the r esearch was conducted allowed for transparency in the research that suppo rts the reliability of the study. Indeed, providing a complete description of the research pr ocess should allow for future successful replication of the present study. Rubin and Rubin (2005) stated, A transparent report allows the reader to assess the thoroughness of the design of the work as well as the conscientiousness, sensitivity, and biases of t he researcher (p. 76). Having voice recordings and written notes of the interactions be tween the researcher and the participants allowed for verification of content if or when necessary. Golafshani (2003) reported, Reliability and validity are conceptuali zed as trustworthiness, rigor, and quality in the qualitative paradigm (p. 604).
50 The researcher places high value on the reliability and validity of the study and employed measures to be sure there was transferabil ity and transparency. Campbell (1996) indicated that consistency in the data can b e verified by the raw data, data reduction, and notes. One way this research support ed this notion was through the raw data and by providing detailed notes of the interac tions along with digital voice recordings. Additionally, the two intervals used t o conduct interviews allowed the researcher to employ rigor through the interview pr ocess and assisted in reaching saturation with initial statements and with any add itional clarification probes. The use of the software Atlas/ti assisted in provid ing consistency for managing the data. The use of this product, along with the r esearcher and the paid assistant independently completing the coding procedure, will allow one to validate if the research has measured what it intended to measure. In an attempt to avoid researcher biases the resear cher followed Pattons (2002) suggestion and minimized the influence of personal values and preconceptions on the data analysis. As an administrator working in highe r education the researcher did not have any familiarity with any of the participants o r the athletic department staff prior to discussions related to the feasibility of conductin g the study. The researcher has experience as a collegiate coach at the community c ollege and Division II levels with female student-athletes. It was hoped that the information gathered and then analyzed in this research would allow for an increased awareness of a possibl e relationship between the quality of the sport experience, the social experience, and th e academic experience and the
51 successful adjustment to college for freshman footb all and male soccer student-athletes at a major NCAA Division I-A member institution. The q uotes that were provided assisted in the authentication of the results. In summation, this research investigated if there was a relationship between the sport, the social, and the athletic experiences of the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes, at a NCAA Division I-A institutio n and the adjustment to college. This study was qualitative in nature and specifically em ployed existential phenomenology as the form of inquiry. It was hoped that this work wo uld provide some insight into how these participants communicate their thoughts on th e quality of aspects of their experiences and if the quality of the experiences a ffect the adjustment to college.
52 Chapter 4 Results Introduction The purpose of this study was to investigate wheth er there is a relationship between the quality of interactions and the adjustm ent to college for freshman studentathletes participating in the sports of football an d mens soccer through the use of phenomenological inquiry. The researcher, through i n-person communication, discussed with these student-athletes the quality of their sp ort, social, and academic experiences. As the student-athletes reflected on their experiences of their first year in college as both students and as athletes, they were asked to share their positive and their negative encounters. The interviewees were all male freshman student-at hletes from the football or mens soccer teams. The participants included both United States citizens and international student-athletes. A total of 18 stude nt-athletes were a part of the interview process, with 56% (n=10) being African-American, 33 % (n=6) being Caucasian, and 11% (n=2) being Latino students. One African-Americ an participant was excluded from the reporting process after it was revealed that he transferred to the university in January, which would have omitted him from being on the foot ball roster for the competitive season.
53 Some of these young men were on the active sport r oster during their first year and others were designated as non-active roster par ticipants. The majority of 17 the subjects were recruited to participate in their spo rt as a result of their athletic ability and their potential for academic eligibility. Most were granted athletic scholarships while three of the football participants and one of socce r participants were non-scholarship contributors. All of the subjects were a part of a nationally recognized athletic program at a major research university. Access to these participants was made possible thro ugh the assistance of the athletic department administration. Student involve ment in the study was woven into already scheduled athletic time and therefore did n ot produce any significant additional burden on their heavily scheduled time. Study parti cipants included 18% (n=3) freshman soccer student-athletes and 82% (n=14) freshman foo tball student-athletes. Of the 14 football players, 79% (n=11) were students who were not a part of the active sport roster and 21% (n=3) were members of the active roster. Th ose student-athletes not on the active roster will have four years of eligibility f or athletic participation at the start of their sophomore year of college. The Atlas/ti software program was used as a way to organize the collected data. The researcher completed a data analysis by followi ng the suggestions of Patton (2002), Berkowitz (1996), and Miles and Huberman (1994). In itially in the inductive process, discoveries were made relative to emergent themes. These themes surfaced as a result of questioning the participants concerning the quality of their sport, social and academic
54 experiences during their first year at the universi ty. The student-athletes responses provided rich descriptions of these happenings. Further, a well qualified paid assistant served as an additional code checker who completed a separate review of the data and confirm ed the emergent themes as identified by the researcher. As mentioned earlier, this addit ional code checker is a Professor Emeritus from Loyola University Chicago where he se rved as the Associate Dean of the School of Education. He was provided with a copy of the transcripts and independently completed the code checking procedure. Themes were then discussed and agreed upon by the researcher and the code checker. There were a variety of themes that materialized, each one being associated with a specific area of the sport, the social, and the aca demic experiences along with the adjustment to college of these young men. In examin ing the sport area, six themes came to light. They were: (a) well connected to coaches, (b) pleased but not satisfied with the competitiveness of the athletic team, (c) satisfied but eager for more participation in games and practices, (d) confident and growing in a ccomplishments as a team member, (e) pleased and motivated to meet game day challeng es and (f) experiencing unavoidable but minimal impact when describing physical injurie s. The social experiences of these male freshman foot ball and soccer studentathletes provided four themes. One difference in th e description of a social experience appeared between the football and male soccer inter viewees. The themes were: (a) diversity in mix of friends (soccer), (b) subcultur e existence (football), (c) fatigue
55 restricts participation in non-athletic on-campus e vents and (d) athletic time constraints negatively impact assimilation to on-campus involve ment an accepted reality. In the participants academic encounters, five the mes were noted and one difference between the evaluation of the football a nd male soccer student-athletes was evident. The themes were: (a) found support from fa culty, (b) accomplishments in class were acceptable but improvable, (c) challenged but supported in workload and assignments (soccer), (d) overwhelmed by class size (football) and (e) knowledgeable and interested in the grades they earn. Further, as the participants were questioned relating to their sport, social, and athletic exper iences, they were also queried on how experiences in any one of these areas might impact one or more of the other areas. For the adjustment to college three major themes w ere discovered. The themes were: (a) team members were like family, (b) fans a nd alumni provided a sense of connectedness, and (c) persistence was inevitable. Based on their remarks, these young men, using a diverse set of tools, had all created ways to adjust to college. As a way to assist the student-athletes to feel co mfortable and confident in discussing their personal experiences, the intervie ws were conducted in person in the athletic department building. The athletic departme nt staff was helpful in granting meeting time for the student-athletes as a part of their already scheduled athletic commitments. This form of scheduling allowed the st udents to maintain their unscheduled time and assured that participating i n the interview process did not further tax their ability to meet other responsibilities. T he participants were energetic and
56 expressive during our interactions and were quite w illing to share their experiences during their first year at the university. Their affiliation with this university requires th ese student-athletes to develop ways of managing all areas of their lives. Most of these young people were living away from home and family for the first time, with some living on campus and others residing in apartments located in close proximity to campus. Indeed, independently organizing appropriate time for the sport, the social, and the academic experiences was a new responsibility. In this chapter, the participants recollections of these experiences will be reported. As well, adjustment to college for these student-athletes will be based on their level of comfort in the collegiate environment, the ir level of attachment to the university, and their commitment to persist at the university. Common themes will be presented in this chapter as they relate to the research questions. The research questions are as follows: 1. Is there a relationship between the quality of the sport experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 2. Is there a relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution?
57 3. Is there a relationship between the quality of the academic experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman footb all and male soccer studentathletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? 4. Are there relationships between any two of the thre e experiences (sport, social, and academic) that affect adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA D ivision I-A institution? 5. Does the adjustment to college relate to interactio ns among all three experiences in any comprehensive way as reported by freshman fo otball and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A inst itution? As suggested by Patton (2002) literal and related quotes from the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes are inser ted as themes are discussed. This way of realistically reporting responses will better al low the student-athletes expressions to be revealed. Remaining consistent with Berkowitz (1996) guideli nes for data analysis, findings will be reported by identifying common themes to sp ecific items. Individual quotes will be included and presented in a manner as to allow t he reader access to the participants genuine voices. The conversations were conducted in such a way to make the participants feel at ease and to speak in a colloquial fashion a s opposed to generating a more formal dialogue to recall their first-year experiences.
58 Sport Experience Is there a relationship between the quality of the sport experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? While each student-athlete was recruited for his in dividual talents and unique attributes, most were athletic stand-outs at their respective high schools. Transitioning to a large university with nationally recognized sport teams requires some adjustment. Hyatt (2003) and Bloland (1987) both highlight this notio n that moving from a position of notoriety to a position of ambiguity may be a facto r in the transition process. One football student-athlete recounts his first season on the te am and places a positive perspective on this issue: I think in high school, or at least everyone that c omes to play in college, in high school they were the star or, you know, or o ne of the top players and once you get here youre back down on the totem pole and its like a fresh start. A second football player adds: I think its weird coming from high school, I guess being one of the top guys and they come into college and everyone is at the t op, everyone is the best in the state, whatever. Wherever you came from, ev eryone is good and its like youre going against the best in the state so its kind of weird. Competition is that much better. Im just doing everything that the coaches ask me to do. Ive been getting stronger, faster in the weight room an d working out all season.
59 In addition to these accounts, six possible indica tors were identified to assist in determining how the student-athletes felt about the ir first-year sport experience. Those gauges included the student-athletes evaluation of their relationship with their coaches, the competitiveness of the team, their level of par ticipation in games and practices, their accomplishments as a team member, their ability to contribute on game day and any physical injuries they may have endured. Relationship with Coaches Indeed, the freshman football and male soccer stud ent-athletes seemed pleased with the interactions they had with their coaches. For the soccer players, there was more of an inclusive involvement with all of their coach es. Conversely, the football players indicated that they were much more involved with th eir position coaches but clearly understood why they did not have more exposure to t he head coach. One Latino soccer player explains: Our coach is very cool because he always looks out for his players both in sports-wise and academically. One reason they go to [this university] is they want the athletes to bond good with coaches; behind that they want the athletes to bond good with academics and soccer, so I think that is good our coach is behind that. I think that make us better athletes. A second soccer team member acknowledged, They rea lly nice, pretty nice. The three of them exceptional guys. Yeah they work pretty nic e between each other. From another perspective one football player cited:
60 I say at first my position coach, hes really, hes to me hes li ke the best position coach. he can boost you up when he needs to boost you up and, you know, he can break you down when you need to b e broke down and you know hes a good, he can see that really well. Another football student-athlete surmised about his position coach, Hes a good coach, we get along real well, hes like a players coach. To further support the camaraderie between the football players and their position coaches, one participant pointed out, Were very close, he calls once a w eek to see how Im doing, see how my grades doing, he always tell me to make good cho ices and stay focused. Conversely, student-athletes from the football tea m explain their relationship with the head coach as less personal. One young man conc luded, Kind of with your head coach, you know you kinda straight up forward you k now you really wont talk to him unless theres a really, pretty much a big problem or you in trouble. Another supports these remarks by describing, We dont hardly talk that much. I mean, it doesnt affect me, Im still going to do what I have to do. You really dont do much interacting with him but I mean you go up to his office and stuff was another description of one freshman football players relationship with the head coach. All of the soccer student-athletes expressed quali ty interactions with each of their coaches and every one of the football players seeme d to feel more of a bond with their position coaches than with the head coach, comprehe nsively, each student-athlete with the exception of one football player described a re lationship with a coach who cared
61 about his well-being and success. Chelladurai (1984 ) points out that direct contact with a coach is an important factor for success and impact s the motivation of the team. Closeness, commitment, and complimentarity were des cribed by Jowett and Clark-Carter (2006) as important pieces in how the athletes eval uate how the coach feels about them. Certainly these male football and soccer student-at hletes have provided statements that indicate some positive contact with at least one of their coaches and all seem to be motivated to continue to work to elevate their leve l of skill to provide a maximum contribution to the success of the team. The Competitiveness of the Team Each football and male soccer student-athlete arriv ed at the university with varying levels of expectations for the success of t heir respective teams. Both the football team and the mens soccer team are nationally recog nized as a part of a major athletic program. For the season in question, both teams exp erienced high levels of success at the national level. This outstanding achievement by bot h teams allowed for positive thoughts and feelings from participants on both athletic ros ters. When asked how he felt about the success of his team, one Latino soccer player expla ined: Honestly, I didnt know how the system works up her e. I just came to play. During the semester I was asking questions, it got a lot harder I think it was good reaching the final 16; we ranked 11 in the country in the end. We set a high standard for ourselves, just continue an d we can sustain throughout. Additionally a soccer teammate agreed by sharing: We made it to the sweet 16 and that was it. We lost the first round to the sweet
62 16 against, Connecticut. I dont think we were expe cting it for us to go pretty far. We didnt make it in to the national tournamen t. Or we did but we lost. Because the football team reached athletic heights never before achieved, the excitement displayed by the student-athletes was ea sy to identify. This success clearly appeared to be a motivator for the student-athletes to continue to improve their athletic skills and generated a sense of excitement in think ing about what the next season might hold. One football player announced: I think just like everyone else would say that it w asnt expected. When I decided to come here I knew that we would be a good team but I didnt expect to jump up to number two in the country. I d ont think anyone did. His teammate supported his comments by stating, Th is past year was pretty awesome, you know, being ranked number two, but I think our ultimate goal is to be, you know, national champions. At the time we were pleased but not satisfied I guess. Moreover, another participant declared: I think its very successful, you know, just a new school its an upcoming school, I know in the future this school going to b e doing big things, and I just want to be a part of it. I know we can do bett er, but just losing games by a few points and stuff you just, you know, just ima gine like we would have won it and just thinking about that is so exciting. Participation in Games and Practices As previously mentioned some interviewees had been a part of the active roster and others did not participate during their first y ear and thus saved a year of sport
63 eligibility. This combination assured that some pla yers who were interviewed experienced a high level of game and practice parti cipation, others may have received very little or no game or practice time and others fell into the moderate range of inclusion. Two of the three soccer student-athletes seemed to be pleased with their levels of participation and to understand that they still had much to learn. One of the soccer participants experienced a serious health problem a nd only gained minimal participation in games and practices as a result of this medical challenge. From one soccer player it was declared, Well, pla ying soccer we reach the final 16 teams and being a freshman I played, like, 18 ou t of the 22 games. Another freshman soccer player asserted, I think that I had a lot o f opportunity and it was my freshman year and I played all the minutes I could play so i t was really good. The football participants included more of a blend of active roster players and non-active roster team members. For this reason, th eir perceptions of their playing time would be different. An active roster football fresh man revealed, I got enough time, that I wasnt really expecting to play that much. I mean I know it was exciting just being able to go travel to the away games and all that stuff, and just play I guess. To complement that feeling, another active roster player revealed Well, I was out a half a game and whole game, had a hip pointer but played the rest. On the contrary, the football student-athletes who were not on the active roster explained their attitude toward their level of part icipation in practices and games a bit differently but still seemed to be able to extract positive results from the experience.
64 In explaining his experience one of the non-active roster participants stated: At first I [didnt want to] red-shirt because I wan ted to play right away, but when I really looked at it I was it was good that I had time to break in to learn and learn my environment and stuff, so I w as good. The next player seemed to be conflicted about his t ime as a non-active roster team member. He reflected: As a red-shirt you dont get much practice time, yo u do a lot of scouting team, so what that is, is you run the plays of the you know, the opposing team for that up coming week. I mean thats where y ou get a lot of your reps at. I mean offensively or defensively whatever sco ut team youre running has to do with our programs so I mean youre gettin g reps but youre not getting better in what our scheme of things are. Additionally a non-active roster player noted, I mean practice time, we practice the same amount of time but being a red-shirt it wa s kinda real because you want to play, but I mean after awhile I came, I kind of got used to it. Of the active roster football players, all of them were pleased with their partic ipation in games and practices. For the non-active roster football players every one of the m reported wanting to play and practice more, while also communicating a sense of understan ding related to their status. Accomplishments as a Team Member In earlier comments it was revealed that the fresh man football and male soccer student-athletes matriculating to a university with a nationally recognized athletic program were most likely athletic stand-outs at the ir respective high schools. Each
65 participant was asked to compare his skill level to the talent level of the others on his team as one way to assess how each student-athlete evaluated his accomplishments as a team member. For the football and the male soccer p layers there was a sense that they were either better than or equal in skill to others on the team or, at the very least, they were equal in talent to the other freshmen on the r oster. One male soccer participant summed up his talent a s follows, Im working on getting fast. My speed, I think Im at the same lev el as them. I want to be the best. When asked his skill level in comparison to his teammate another player declared, Im better. Two of the three soccer players felt they were as g ood as the other first year players and one felt his skills were better than those of his t eammates. When discussing their contributions to the team, t he football players made similar observations. One young man concluded, For the sam e players that are my age I think Im, you know, towards the top but when it comes to the upperclassmen, I know I have a lot of work to do to catch up to where they are at. A second football respondent disclosed: Ive gotta say that, yeah most guys are the same. T here are some things that Im, kind of better at but that can help me in the future making this team better and winning a championship. My foot wor k, Im pretty quick to my side and knowledge of the game Ive been play ing the position most of my life. An additional response from a football player ackno wledged: Well compared to when I first got here they were a little, they werent as
66 high as theirs, because I mean when you first get h ere you know, they know what to expect and theyre used to being here so th eyre going to have the upper hand whatever there is youre doing when you first get here but as time went on, you start progressing. But, I think my skills are just better, you know, in a group theres going to be some that are better than others. Like, different aspects of what we do, you know, so me might be faster and some might be stronger, but as time went on I think my skills, you know, came up to par with everybody elses. This year I n eed to start to compete, you know, to get some playing time so, my skills ar e progressing I think, its pretty much an even playing field. In sum, seven of the football players evaluated th eir skills as better than the other freshmen on the team, two felt they were better tha n all of their teammates and five described their talents as being at the same level as the other first year players. Ability to Meet the Physical Challenges Required to Compete on Game Day Meeting the physical challenges on game day was a question that was limited to the student-athletes who had been on the active ros ters of their respective teams. It was clear that those freshman football and male soccer players who had been selected as active participants were confident in their ability to compete on game day. As an example of this confidence one soccer player explained, I started, 11 games so I think that is good for my progress I can move on strength to strength and as the years go by just gradually improve. This level of assurance was also described by an
67 active roster freshman football player when he cont ended, I think Im stronger, my bodys much more younger, not as beat up as theirs is. The Impact of Physical Injuries Further, each student-athlete was asked if he had experienced any physical injuries. It was undisputed that a collegiate stude nt-athlete participating in the sports of football or mens soccer would not be able to compl ete an entire year without some type of physical challenges. While admitting to some inj ury, most were reluctant to admit they had missed practices or games as a result of physic al injuries. As reported by the soccer players, two indicated they missed minimal if any p ractice or playing time as a result of injury. One soccer player suffered a significant he alth issue and reported that he would like to have played and practiced at a higher volum e. This was supported by one soccer player who described: Nobody wouldnt go through a whole season without g etting injured. I got some but not major. I am not one to sit out of prac tice because of injury. I always try to work on it even if I dont practice fully. Injury was not really a concern. Sometimes I got rehab three times a day just to get better just to play. Thirteen of the football players reported that they did not let injury impact their playing or practice time. This notion was supported by a fo otball player who stated, In football youre going to have some kind of injuries after ev eryday, but are they serious? Nah, not really, I had, some, you know, some bumps and nagging injuries, but nothing real serious.
68 In summation it appears that based upon the commen ts shared, all but one of these freshman football and male soccer student-athletes have experienced a quality adjustment to college athletics. The football student-athletes repeatedly praised their position coaches and displayed a sense of being connected to at leas t one of their coaches. When they discussed the coaches with whom they had the closes t relationship, there was noticeable excitement in their voices and smiles on their face s. All of the male soccer studentathletes identified well with all of their coaches and showed the same enthusiasm for the interactions they had encountered with their coache s. In addition, every one of the student-athletes int erviewed shared that he was pleased with the success of their respective teams in the previous competitive season and they were all eager to have a better season the nex t year. As a bit of a contrast, the freshman football players included young men who we re included on the active roster and some who were a part of the non-active roster. While the freshman football participants on the active roster were pleased with their playing time, the non-active roster players presented a desire to play but an un derstanding of their role on the team and a clear motivation to take the necessary steps to play an active role on game day. Further, all of the freshman football and male soc cer student-athletes demonstrated a strong level of confidence in their accomplishments as team members. Although they all acknowledged that the upperclassm an members of their respective teams initially had an advantage as a result of kn owing the system each felt that currently their athletic skills were either superio r to or equal to the other freshman athletes who play their same position.
69 The interviewees who were on the active football a nd soccer rosters were pleased with their contributions on game day. Each of these participants exhibited delight in knowing that the playing time they had gained in th e previous competitive season was going to pay dividends in the following season. Likewise, the result was unanimous when discussing the impact of any physical injuries obtained during this first-year of partici pation. Of the interviewees, each and every one of them agreed that it would be impossibl e to complete one year of participation as a collegiate student-athlete witho ut having some bumps and bruises. Each of these freshman football players with the excepti on of one and all but one of the male soccer student-athletes affirmed that no physical i njury had significantly impacted his playing or practice time. In reviewing the six areas under investigation, th e data collected was rich and intriguing. While some of the participants were mor e active members of the team than others, all communicated a commitment to improve th eir individual athletic skills and to use this improvement for the betterment of their re spective teams. Social Experience Is there a relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and mal e soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? In analyzing the quality of the social experience, three indicators were identified: (a) the student-athletes evaluation of his ability to interact within his respective sport team and the general student population, (b) his pa rticipation in on-campus events and/or
70 activities sponsored outside the athletic departmen t and (c) his evaluation of his level of accomplishment in assimilating into this new enviro nment. Indeed, assimilating into a new environment with a multitude of challenges may be an overwhelming task for most. To further complicate this process for the freshma n student-athletes, they are making this transition while gaining independence f rom their parents or other adult figures to whom they are accustomed to being accoun table. For some, this move proved to be more of a test than for others, and for the f ootball participants having their teammates support seemed to be the equalizer they needed to feel secure. On the other hand, the male soccer student-athletes shared that their social supports included teammates but they also identified their social cir cles to include many friends from the general student population. It was clear that these student-athletes were willi ng to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to find success and acceptance on th e respective sport teams. These sacrifices created unique time commitments for thes e student-athletes, because of their freshman status. This could have meant spending ext ended hours working out to improve physical skills, allotting more time to study hall to achieve academic eligibility, or a variety of other means to gain attention and fit in to this new environment. Interaction Within the Respective Team and Among th e General Student Population When asked to describe his friends, one internatio nal soccer player specified: I have, friends from, the place I stay I make friends easily. The first thing they say, Where are you from? I have my iPo d, I sing and people stop me and be, like, Where you from? Thats how you make friends.
71 Another soccer participant agreed, I have some fri ends outside the team and friends on the team. I share with them with both of them. They treat me excellent with respect and I think they like me and I like them. Conversely, the football student-athletes disclose d a different scenario when asked about their social experiences. Of the footba ll freshman student-athletes, 13 of them pointed out that the majority, if not all, of their friends were other football players or other athletes. This information aligns well wit h the research findings of Shulman and Bowen (2001) and Pascarella, Bohr, Nora, and Terenz ini (1995) that describes subcultures that are established within the athletic d epartment. These sub-cultures are thought to be established because these student-ath letes spend such a large amount of time together and in many cases these participants view themselves as athletes more than they see themselves as students. In support of thes e notions, when one football player was asked to describe his friends he proclaimed: Theres a bit more athletes than regular students, you know, because were around each other 24 hours a day pretty much, some of us live together, have the same classes, have the same workout schedu le, all that, so were around each other all the time. When asked the same question, another football play er explained: Well my football teammates, theyre kind of like fa mily really, but I mean, well you have to like them, we see each other every day, all the time. Were coming up on two-a-days now and were definit ely going to see each other every day all the time.
72 A third football participant declared, I really do nt get there really I dont get out that much to meet new people around campus, besides bein g busy with football, Im used to, being around just the people in athletics and tha ts it. Participation in On-Campus Non-Athletic Events To gain further insight into how the student-athle tes were interacting on campus, each participant was asked about the time he spent participating with organizations or attending events on campus that were not related to athletics. As indicated by the majority of the freshman football and male soccer p layers comments, none of those interviewed were members of any organization outsid e athletics. Moreover, all of the male soccer student-athletes attended two or fewer non-athletic activities, two of the football players could recall attending more than o ne function not related to athletics and one attended an on-campus non-athletic related even t as a way to earn extra credit for a class. As explained by a soccer player, If I had time I would have. If I would have time I dont mind doing other things. My time is kind of stacked up. When asked about his experience with non-athletic groups or activities a nother soccer participant shared, No, none, no interest. The stories were much the same from the football p layers. Lack of free time and fatigue seemed to be the primary factors that prohi bited these young men from assimilating more successfully into the general stu dent population. One football studentathlete reported, I dont think we have much time in the day to do any extracurricular
73 stuff so I dont think theres much time in the day you know, to do all that other extra stuff. When discussing how fatigue from practice a ffected him, one football player described: It kind of plays a part in your decisions on, say if you want to go out. I mean theres been times where, Ive been hu rt so bad that I wanted to go but my body kind of wont let me so I had to make a decision. Certainly the demand from athletics on these stude nt-athletes time and energy seemed to emerge as primary reasons that they were not more involved in on-campus non-athletic events. This information appears to su pport findings by Howard-Hamilton and Sina (2001) and Terenzini, Pascarella, and Blim ling (1996) who reported that athletic demands eliminate much of the time student-athletes have to socialize or study, which would include participating in other college activi ties. Based on the information these young men were will ing to share, the lack of time for other activities did not have a negative impact on their assimilation to this new environment. From their perspective there was a clear acceptance that the sport was more important than developing networks outside of athletics. Of those interviewed, every one of them was planning to return to this in stitution to participate as a student and as an athlete for his sophomore year.
74 Academic Experience Is there a relationship between the quality of the academic experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman footb all and male soccer student athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? In considering these freshman football and male so ccer student-athletes adjustment to college, their academic experiences w ere examined. The four indicators that were used to assess the quality of their acade mic experiences and adjustment to college were: (a) the student-athletes evaluation of his relationship with faculty, (b) his accomplishments in the classroom, (c) the level to which he felt challenged or overwhelmed and (d) the perception of the grades he may receive. Each participant was asked a number of questions related to the quality of their academic adjustment. Relationship with Faculty To describe his thoughts about his interaction wit h faculty, one soccer player asserted: I never really had any trouble with them. Now and t hen I might just have some difficulties in grading. I might send an e-ma il saying that my assignment was not graded and they would grade it r ight away. The professors here are here to help you, not to bring you down, s o if you need help you e-mail them and they will get it. In reinforcing this sentiment another soccer parti cipant reported, I like the way they treat us and they help us out with whatever we need.
75 Indeed, the football student-athletes seemed to sh are the same sentiments as the male soccer student-athletes did when discussing th eir interactions with their professors. One football player disclosed, Athletics finds us, good professors or whatever. Most of them be like laid back and give us a little extr a time to help or whatever because they know we have busy schedules. Additionally, another football participant when discussing his relationship with faculty described: Theyre easy to go to if you have a problem I guess you know, yeah, if you need to talk to them just go up to them and usu ally theyll listen and maybe not do what you want, but you can always go u p to them and talk to them. Further, a football player supported this concept a nd indicated: I think they have an understanding that, you know, football takes a lot of time, and, you know, daily in our lives, and there s some times they have, you know, I guess, extensions you could say on ce rtain projects. You know, when we need a little extra time you could h ave class on Thursday but, you know, we leave on a Thursday, to travel so I mean, you couldnt get your work done so, you know, they give you unti l the next class which would be the next week. So, I mean thats always a good t hing that they, the professors do. Accomplishments in Class Besides having high expectations for themselves on the playing field, these interviewees also had aspirations of success in the classroom. When asked to evaluate
76 their own academic performance, most were satisfied with their grades for the moment but had plans to improve their grade point averages Indeed, at the time these interviews were conducted, all of these student-athletes had a lready successfully completed at least one academic semester and had been able to maintain their eligibility for NCAA competition. Each participant was asked to share his opinion of his academic performance. The first soccer player declared, I have been doing go od so far. Right now in my freshman year there is, writing in all of the classes and my writing ability has improved. Another soccer player continued this positive refle ction on his academic accomplishments by asserting, Im in love with the math and I was so confident for the first test that I didnt even study and I got a 70. So, I decided to keep going with the class and I got an A. Moreover, the football student-athletes displayed a similar confidence with their academic feats. One football player revealed, One day I had a project due, a four page paper. I waited until the last minute, stayed up al l night on it and ended up getting a 92. As a way of showing further commitment to the acade mic cause, another football participant submitted, I think Im doing pretty go od. Im staying on top of my grades and I like going to class and getting good grades. Additionally one football player added: I think really, I so far can do better, but, you kn ow, I can get focused up a little more and get down to business, but like I said so far Ive done pretty good Im pretty satisfied where Im at.
77 At times during the interview process and prior to asking specific questions related to their academic achievements, it appeared that non-athletic time might have been at such a premium that academic performance wo uld be revealed as marginal. This assumption was clearly not correct and the academic success we learned about might be attributable to the strong academic support systems provided by the athletic department for these studentathletes. All of the interviewees acknowledged that they were aware of the academic support programs and all shared that t hey had participated in mandatory study hall during their first fall semester. Tinto (1993) and Astin (1977) suggested that students who were able to access academic support s ystems were likely to be successful and this pattern of positive outcomes and optimisti c attitudes toward their personal academic achievement tend to support this finding. Challenged or Overwhelmed As another way to gain insight into the academic l ives of these freshman football and male soccer student-athletes, a series of openended questions were asked related to their evaluation of their level of preparedness for the academic rigors at a large research university. Additionally, their feelings about bein g challenged and/or overwhelmed in their classes were investigated. In this area, ther e was a differing of responses between the soccer players and the football players. The soccer participants while feeling challenged b y the class assignments, clearly identified the academic assistance provided by the tutors and indicated their complete confidence in receiving guidance with their coursew ork. One soccer student-athlete said: In high school I thought the work was harder. I som etimes didnt understand
78 what was going on. Up here the work is not easy but it is challenging. Its a lot more; you have assignments every week like two essays. The good thing about this school is it provides tutors. They are here to help you, not to do the work for you. That is also a good th ing. To further support this feeling another soccer play er shared, A tutor they are helping me with all my classes. Without them I dont know what I would, where I would be without them. For the freshman football student-athletes, the ob vious challenge was the large number of students enrolled in most of their classe s. In some cases, their responses showed complete astonishment that a class roster co uld be so sizeable. To describe his experience in his classes, one football player note d, I mean, I come from a small high school, its, , 2A and its probably maybe 18, 12, 10 people in the classroom, so and here its like 100 to 70 people in a classroom In confirmation of this feeling, another football player responded: It was, 200, 300 people, or 250 people something like that, that was the biggest change, but other than that its not really much different from high school. I mean, its different from having, you know, a normal size class. You dont really get that one-on-one from th e teacher because theres so many people, you know. I personally never reall y even tried. I just paid attention to what the teacher was saying and kind o f taught myself a little bit. You dont get the one-on-one like you want and teac hers arent as patient with, that many people because theres so many st udents that they cant
79 just focus on you and its understandable. To strengthen this description, a football teammate pointed out, when we first got here in the summer when we had a class and there wa s, like, 300 people in it, it was like, wow, class size, and thats not even all the class Perception of Grades Finally, as another measure of the freshman footbal l and male soccer studentathletes academic experiences, they were asked to share their thoughts about the grades they had already received and their perceptions abo ut grades they were anticipating receiving at the end of the term. These participant s seemed to have a firm grasp on their current level of academic standing and their goals for future achievement. This appeared to be a component of their college life in which ea ch of them was very concerned. To substantiate this observation one soccer partic ipant noted, Last semester I got a 3.3. This semester I have two As, a B, and a C, the C might get changed to a B or it might just stay; Im not sure about that. Ive been doing good. An additional soccer student-athlete stated, I go t a 3.7 or a 3.6 this semester. So Im trying to get higher I like to know all my stuff. Having the same confidence and understanding, one football player expressed, I have a 3.5. I think Im doing pretty good. Im st aying on top of my grades and I like going to class and getting good grades. Moreover, another football player indicated, I feel pretty good, I mean, theres a lot of stuff th at everybody can say they should do better, but, and theres stuff I should do better t oo, but its pretty good for now. I have a 2.7.
80 Finally in an expression of success a football part icipant concluded: I was surprised, you know, to be doing as good as I am doing right now. You know that kind of surprised me the most. At fir st I was nervous, you know, when I first got here I wasnt doing so good in my classes, for the first couple days and the first couple weeks I wasnt doing so good, then after while, you know, I got with the program and i t just kicked off. My G.P.A is probably like 3.4. As a way of comparing the self-reported grade poin t averages to the actual grades earned, a check of this information was conducted a nd it revealed that these young men were all within a few tenths of a percentage point of accurately sharing their academic triumphs. Reported grade point averages ranged from a low of a 2.0 to a high of 3.7. Regardless of the variation in actual academic perf ormance, all of the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes who were interview ed reported that they were pleased with their individual effort. Adjustment to College Adapting to a new environment with differing expect ations for the sport, the social, and the academic experiences can bring feel ings of stress, anxiousness, and excitement to those living this process. The subjec ts interviewed indicated a variety of levels of these emotions and most displayed a level of confidence in their ability to transition to college life at a large research univ ersity with a nationally recognized athletic program. In this study, as a way to assess their adjustment to this new atmosphere
81 three measures were employed: (a) the student-athle tes level of comfort in college, (b) his feeling of attachment to the university and (c) his intent to persist at the university. Level of Comfort in College For a wide range of reasons, every one of the inte rviewees now felt some level of comfort in college. Many suggested that initially t hey were concerned about making the transition to a large university and now they have all found some point of support at the university. This connection might be associated wit h the sport, the social, or the academic experience or a combination in these areas. As previously mentioned, all of the student-athlet es interviewed indicated that they had made a positive connection with a coach an d could all identify social supports at the university. According to the responses, these c onnections translated into an acceptable level of comfort in college. In support of this notion one soccer player cited, The thing about it is my team is like family e verybody is friendly and is so good to you. The football players echoed the same sentiments wh en thinking about their level of comfort at the university. One player stated, T he best thing for me was coming in last summer before everyone. I got to get the feel for n ot only the campus, the classes and football at once and that helped me because I knew the area. A second football participant responded, I mean everyone is nice and being on the team you know you have so many friends and were like family and its just a good place for me.
82 Feeling of Attachment to the University Each of the freshman football and male soccer playe rs did exude a sense of pride in his association with the university. When asked about their attachment to the university, the primary answer related to the suppo rt these student-athletes received at the respective games. The fan and alumni support tended to create an environment that generated pride and a sense of being connected amon g the participants. Among the soccer participants, two identified the l arge number of spectators at the game as a source of support that linked the stu dent-athletes to the university. One of them reported, I found myself liking the crowd mor e now than in high school so it inspired me to play better. Hearing the cheers made me proud of my skills and so happy to be at this school. As well, nine of the football players identified t he large crowds and fan support as very important to their sense of attachment. To the point one football participant remarked, The crowds and excitement are great. See ing all of these fans and alumni come out to watch us play lets me know I made the right decision to come here, Im in the right place. Intent to Persist at the University The goals and aspirations of this distinctive popul ation are as varied as their backgrounds and levels of preparedness. At the time our communications, every one of the participants were planning to return for their sophomore year at the university. In looking beyond the next year, the responses related to persistence were not as uniform.
83 When asked if they plan to graduate two of the socc er interviewees indicated that they were planning to graduate from the current uni versity. One soccer player explained: I am here on a soccer scholarship so I have to fulf ill that duty and I am fulfilling it for me because I want to improve. I k now I want to graduate with degree so I know I have to do my school work s o it is not like somebody is forcing me to do anything cause I want to do it. For the football student-athletes, seven planned to graduate from the current university, two did not plan to graduate, three int ended to graduate early and pursue a graduate degree from the current university, one in dicated he might graduate, and one did not provide an answer. In describing his plan for g raduation, one football player declared, Yes, its kind of an easy degree I guess... I have a 3.5 G.P.A. I want to make good grades and graduate. The young men who did not plan to graduate were pla nning to leave early as a result of being drafted into the National Football League (NFL). In all, nine of the football participants planned to eventually play fo r a team in the NFL. On the contrary, the NCAA website reports that only 1.8% of collegia te football players will be drafted by a NFL team. Relationship Between any Two of the Three Experienc es and Adjustment to College Are there relationships between any two of the thr ee experiences (sport, social, and academic) that affect adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Divis ion I-A institution?
84 An analysis of the interview data from the 17 stud ent-athletes indicates that all three experiences: (a) quality of the sport experie nce, (b) quality of the social experience and (c) quality of the academic experience related positively to their perception of their adjustment to college. In only one case did a footb all interviewee share that the academic experience and the sport experience may have had an overlapping impact. He described these experiences by sharing: Some days I might have bombed a test. I be stressed out and be thinking about it at practice and cant focus on this, you k now. Then the same thing, turn around you have a bad practice, youre in cla ss and cant focus and, you know, just sometimes youve got to block it out and just, you know, keep going and come around and do the best you can. There seemed to be a relationship between the athl etic and the social domains. One of the soccer players indicated that he would b e more involved in social activities on campus if the time demands of being an athlete were not so great. Of the freshman football student-athletes, four offered that they w ould participate in more on-campus activities if athletic time demands were lessened. When queried as to why he didnt attend more non-athletic related social functions, one football player said, I dont think we have much time in the day to do any extracurricu lar stuff. Another four of these football participants submit ted that they would be more involved in on-campus social events if they were no t so fatigued from football practice and other sport-related responsibilities. One footb all player, when asked why he didnt interact outside of athletics more, explained, Im too tired from working out.
85 Even with eight of the football student-athletes s uggesting that they would be more socially active on campus if they had more ava ilable time or were less fatigued, ultimately they were all satisfied with the quality of their social interactions because they had the support and loyalty of their teammates. Relationship Between All Three Experiences in Any Comprehensive Way Does the adjustment to college relate to interacti ons among all three experiences in any comprehensive way as reported by freshman fo otball and male soccer studentathletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? A review of the interviews indicated that these st udent-athletes made little or no distinction between the sport, social or academic e xperiences in terms of their success in acclimating themselves to their freshman year. In f act, when the researcher specifically requested that they consider all three experiences to determine if they felt they intersected in any way, not one of the participants offered any example of such a relationship. Although one might have considered that one or more of these experiences would have had a bearing on the quality of the student-athlete s transition to college life, it appears from their individual and collective reactions that this was not the case. Quality of Interactions and Adjustment to College The quality of the sport experience did seem to ha ve an impact on the studentathletes adjustment to college. The six criteria that were explored to evaluate the sport experience pointed to the majority of the participa nts describing quality sport interactions that led to the successful adjustment to college.
86 It was clear that both the football and the male s occer players had established quality relationships with at least one of their co aches. Based on the quotes included this positive relationship was a driver of their desire to remain at the institution and to continue to improve their performances. This qualit y connection with the coaches seemed to instill a sense of self-confidence for these you ng men whether they were active or nonactive roster team members. The football team and the mens soccer team comple ted very successful competitive seasons during the time of this study. Each one of the student-athletes shared that he was pleased with the success of his respect ive team. The competitiveness of each of the teams appeared to invoke a feeling of pride among the team members. This quality performance allowed the teams to receive national m edia attention which was very rewarding for these rookie participants. All of the se factors indicate that the quality of the teams performances did have a positive effect on t he adjustment to college. Moreover, the quality of the participation in game s and practices was an area that also looked as if it was associated with the adjust ment to college. Each one of the active roster players displayed some level of satisfaction with his playing and practice time. For the non-active roster players there was a mix of em otions related to their involvement. Some were frustrated with the hard work they contri buted at practice that resulted in no game day action. Other non-active roster players be tter understood their role as team members. The active roster players and many of the non-active players explained satisfaction with their roles. For those non-active roster players who were initially frustrated, they eventually gained an appreciation for their contributions and expressed
87 quality interactions that seemed to fuel their desi re to work hard to improve their athletic skills. This high level of quality interaction was motivating for them and they planned to be more prepared for the next season. Physical injuries did not seem to impact the adjus tment to college as it related to the sport experience. Every one of the student-athl etes expressed an understanding of the physical demands of his respective sport. All of th em indicated that they had experienced some type of physical injury and they all had recei ved expert treatment from the athletic training staff and missed little if any playing or practice time. When assessing the relationship between the qualit y of the sport experience and adjustment to college, using the gauges identified for this study, it appears clear that the quality of the interactions that all of these stude nt-athletes experienced did have a positive impact on this process. These young men we re encouraged by the way they had bonded with their teammates and coaches and all of them felt comfortable in their new athletic environment, all of them felt attached to the institution and all of them planned to persist at their present university. For the football players, the quality of the socia l experience did not seem to have an impact on the adjustment to college when examini ng their interactions outside the athletic realm. However, the quality of their inter nal social networking did influence the adjustment to college. These participants clearly i dentified their social network to consist of an overwhelming majority of other student-athlet es and more specifically other football players.
88 The male soccer players revealed a slightly differ ent social scenario. While feeling well attached to their teammates they also described quality connections with students from the general population. They expresse d the ease of developing new relationships outside the team and the friendliness of the other students. Participants from both teams declared no membershi p or affiliation with any groups outside of athletics. Not one of them expres sed a desire to join any other unit. Accordingly, the majority of these student-athletes had not participated in or attended more than two non-athletic on-campus events. The primary reason provided by the football player s for their closed social network was the extraordinary amount of time they s pend together. This time was shared between athletic and academic preparations. Many of the descriptions provided referred to their teammates and coaches as family. The devot ion and support these young men received from within their sport team satisfied the ir need for a social network and replaced any need to partner with other groups. Thi s display of loyalty in this athletic sub-culture also substituted for any real need to a ttend on-campus events unrelated to athletics. Additionally, the soccer players were satisfied wi th their social experiences. These young men felt well supported by both their t eammates and others from the general student population. Attending non-athletic on-campu s events or joining other organizations did not seem to hold a high level of importance. In evaluating the relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college, using the indicators establi shed for this study, it appears that there
89 was a minor difference detected between the student -athletes perceptions of the quality of the social experience. Even with this difference players from both teams communicated that they had experienced high quality social interactions. Each group had an obvious understanding for the time demands assoc iated with their participation in intercollegiate athletics at a nationally recognize d university. Because the measures for assessing the quality of t he social interactions allowed for the student-athletes personal evaluations the result is evident. So, while the expectations for what a quality social experience s hould be differed slightly, the outcome was the same. The perceived quality of the experien ces whether through the unwavering support of teammates and coaches for football playe rs or a combination of those factors plus the support from other students for soccer pla yers this quality did have a positive effect on the adjustment to college. This quality i n the social interactions was one more feature that influenced the fact that all of them f elt comfortable in their new social environment, all of them felt attached to the insti tution and all of them planned to persist through their sophomore year at the present univers ity. The quality of the academic experience also seemed to effect the adjustment to college for the student-athletes. Each participant expressed some positive interaction with at least one faculty member. Whether the relations were in-person or via email, there had been some communication between these two parties. This contact appeared to create a sense of confidence among the student-athletes in t heir academic potential. Every one of the student-athletes proclaimed accept ance of his current accomplishments in class and all of them planned to improve their grade performance in
90 future semesters. They credited their achievements in class to a number of different factors but the principle reasons were personal stu dy time, assistance from academic resources provided by the athletic department and s upport from the universitys faculty members. An area of academic difference surfaced when examin ing if the football and male soccer student-athletes felt challenged or overwhel med in their classes. For the football players they were overwhelmed by the large student enrollment in their classes and for the soccer players they were challenged by the acad emic rigor. But the football players established successful strategies for connecting wi th the faculty teaching these large sections and the soccer players felt full academic support as a result of the resources providing by the athletic department. In using the indicators for this study to evaluate the relationship between the quality of the academic experience and the adjustme nt to college it can be surmised that there was a positive relationship between the two a reas. All of these young men displayed some positive interaction with faculty, an understa nding of their current level of academic performance and an appreciation for the ac ademic support resources provided. These factors made it possible for these participan ts to state that they all felt comfortable in their new academic environment, all of them felt attached to the institution and all of them planned to persist at the present university, The adjustment to college did not relate, in many o f the descriptions, to the quality of any two or all three of the experiences in any comprehensive way. In one case a football player shared that a poor academic perfo rmance may affect his athletic output.
91 In a few cases both football and soccer players sug gested that if they had more time and were not so fatigued they might participate in more on-campus social functions. The descriptions related to the sport, the social a nd the academic experiences and how the quality of these experiences related to the adjustment to college were interesting and thorough. Due to the small sample size that inc luded only freshman football players and freshman male soccer players, the results may n ot be applicable to student-athletes participating in other intercollegiate sports. Furt her, as a result of the small sample size of three soccer student-athletes the comparisons may b e affected between soccer and football. In addition the data did provide excellent information that can be applied to the specific populations under review. The three male s occer participants provided their information during a single interview session that did not last more than two hours. Four of the football student-athletes were involved in o ne interview session of two hours or less. Eight other football participants were a part of a group interview meeting as well as part of a follow-up individual interview session of which neither exceeded two hours. The remaining two football student-athletes partici pated as only a part of the group interview session. Finally, value was found in both the individual and the group sessions. The individual sessions allowed for more direct and int ense interaction between the studentathletes and the researcher. The group session seem ed to generate more recall of information among the participants. Each student-at hlete in the group was given an opportunity to respond to each question and to prov ide additional information he felt
92 important. These participants clearly had individua l opinions and were confident in sharing unique thoughts and experiences. Summary Each of the freshman football and male soccer stud ent-athletes shared a wealth of information related to the quality of his sport, so cial, and academic experiences during his first year at the university and the relationsh ip to the adjustment to college. The comments provided by the participants supported the se encounters and shaped the emergent themes. While accomplishments and challeng es were revealed in each of the three areas, all of these participants seemed to be well-adjusted and to have an unmistakable grasp of the tools needed to move forw ard. There were several differences in experiences for the freshman football and male soccer players. Indeed, the soccer players felt wel l-connected to all of their coaches, while the football players were most bonded with th eir specific position coach. In the social realm, the soccer players described a more d iverse group of friends, while the football players emphasized their ties within the t eam. For the academic realm, the soccer players found the work assignments challenging and found support from tutors, whereas the football players found challenge in the large s ize of the enrollment in their classes. Overall, there were many more similarities than di fferences among the quality of the experiences for these two groups. Each intervie wee explained that he felt comfortable in his college environment, that he felt attached t o the university and that he planned to persist. The superior quality of his experiences in the sport, social, and academic areas did produce a positive relationship to the adjustme nt to college.
93 Chapter 5 Conclusions As student-athletes graduate from high school and t ransition to college they must prepare themselves for a higher level of both acade mic and athletic interaction as well as plan to establish a new social network. Indeed, th is period of transition may have an effect on this populations adjustment to college. The purpose of this study was to consider the relationship, if any, between the qual ity of the sport, social and academic experiences and the adjustment to college for fresh man student-athletes competing in the sports of football and mens soccer. Student-athletes must fulfill dual roles when they enter college. In this study a qualitative research methodology used a personal in terview approach to ascertain how the student-athletes adjusted to the demands of these r oles and how their experiences were evolving. It is this data that permit the assessmen t of the quality of interactions and the adjustment to college. Summary of the Study Data relative to the quality of the interactions an d adjustment to college were retrieved via in-person interview. Phenomenology wa s the guiding method for this study. From the information gleaned in these interviews th emes emerged related to each of the research questions and provided insight into the qu ality of these interactions and adjustment to college.
94 Access to this population of freshman football and male soccer student-athletes was made possible with the assistance of the athlet ic department administration. Of the 18 participants, 17 of these interviewees were incl uded in the study. The remaining subject had transferred in for the spring semester, so he had no sport experience to report. Sport Experience Each of the interviewees was very enthusiastic abou t his affiliation with his respective sport team. Six measures were used to as sess the quality of the sport experience. These were: (a) his evaluation of his r elationship with his coaches, (b) the competitiveness of the team, (c) his level of parti cipation in games and practices, (d) his accomplishments as a team member, (e) his ability t o contribute on game day and (f) the effect of any physical injuries he may have endured Football and mens soccer teams at nationally recog nized universities are similar in several ways: (a) the competitive season is duri ng the fall semester, (b) both provide opportunities to play professionally and (c) both r equire similar time commitments for practice and other game preparation. Because of the se similarities, the information gathered from the student-athlete participants in t he respective sports as related to the quality of the sport experience was similar. In the analysis of the data recurring ideas materia lized. The responses were considered significant if they were communicated by a majority of the participants. The replicated ideas were determined to be themes. The emergent themes connected to the sport experience were as follows: (a) well connecte d to coaches, (b) pleased but not satisfied with the competitiveness of the athletic team, (c) satisfied but eager for more
95 participation in games and practices, (d) confident and growing in accomplishments as a team member, (e) pleased and motivated to meet game day challenges and (f) experiencing unavoidable but minimal impact when de scribing physical injuries. The football and male soccer players revealed only one major difference in the sport experience. The football players confirmed a close relationship with their position coaches and more of a distant association with the head coach while the soccer players described a close relationship with all of their co aches. In the other five areas used to gauge the quality of their sport interactions, the responses from members of both teams were very similar. Social Experience Every student-athlete was clear and concise when di scussing his social interactions. The indicators associated with the so cial experience were: (a) the studentathletes evaluation of his ability to interact soc ially within his respective sport team and the general student population, (b) his participati on in on-campus events and/or activities sponsored outside of the athletic department and (c ) his evaluation of his level of accomplishment in assimilating into his new environ ment. One difference between the descriptions of the social experience appeared betw een the football and male soccer interviewees. The football players expressed a soci al system that existed with other athletes and particularly with other football playe rs. Conversely the soccer players described a more diverse group of social contacts. Potuto and OHanlon (2007) reported that only 36% o f the NCAA Division I participants were involved in any non-athletic camp us organizations. In this study not one
96 of these participants was involved in any non-athle tic organizations. The two primary reasons for this circumstance were lack of time and physical fatigue. The participants were pleased to share their experi ences and the themes that developed were: (a) diversity in mix of friends (so ccer), (b) subculture existence (football), (c) fatigue restricting participation i n non-athletic on-campus events and (d) athletic time constraints negatively impacting assi milation to on-campus involvement, an accepted reality. Even as time constraints and fati gue hampered these student-athletes ability to be more connected to general campus life all of them appeared to understand the need for the present commitment and be well adj usted to this athletic culture. Academic Experience These young men attributed a high level of importa nce to academic achievement. Each was confident in sharing his grade point avera ge and each and every one of them did so with a high degree of accuracy. All of them had maintained academic eligibility for their freshman year. To measure the academic interactions the following four indicators were studied: (a) relationship with faculty, (b) accomplishments in class, (c) challenged or overwhelmed and (d) perception of grades. In each o f these areas the football and the male soccer players provided powerfully descriptive experiences of their academic endeavors. The following themes emerged: (a) found support fr om faculty, (b) accomplishments in class were acceptable but im provable (c) challenged but supported in workload and assignments (soccer), (d) overwhelmed by class size (football)
97 and (e) knowledgeable and interested in the grades they earn. Through the conversations it was discovered that the academic experiences wer e quite similar between the two sport teams with the exception of being challenged or ove rwhelmed. The football players were clearly astonished at the size of the enrollment in their classes. On the other hand, the soccer players felt challenged by their class assig nments and found the needed academic support in the tutors provided by the athletic depa rtment. Ultimately, they all wanted to earn better grades, but for now they were satisfied with their academic progress. Adjustment to College Three gauges were employed when assessing the adju stment to college. These measures were: (a) level of comfort in college, (b) feeling of attachment to the university and (c) intent to persist. In discussing these area s with the participants it was evident that at some level all of them had adjusted to college. There was little variation in the responses received related to these topics. The themes that emerged relative to adjustment to college were: (a) team members were like family, (b) fans and alumni provi ded a sense of connectedness and (c) persistence was inevitable. It should be noted that both the football and the mens soccer teams experienced highly successful seasons during the year of this study. This athletic success seemed to have generated a high level of en thusiasm and motivation for every one of these student-athletes to return more prepar ed and committed to be a part of this well-supported environment.
98 Interactions Between or Among the Experiences Finally, the study attempted to determine if there were interactions between any of these experiences and if so what they were and h ow they affected the adjustment to college. While it seemed difficult for most of thes e young men to identify how all three of these experiences impacted each other, there was one description of an interaction between the sport experience and the academic exper ience. There were also several reports of how the time constraints of athletics an d the physical fatigue from athletic participation eliminated opportunities for social c ontact with the general student population. These student-athletes did not provide information that would indicate that adjustment to college was affected between or among the sport, social, and academic experiences in any comprehensive way. Every one of them explained an understanding of his role as an athlete as being his dominate role w ith a clear knowledge of the importance of his academic responsibilities. Implications The findings of this study suggest that while thes e young men have discovered the strategies and resources necessary to adjust to col lege they are having a collegiate experience that lacks balance between the sport, th e social and the academic realms. This lack of balance may also be realized by students wh o are employed, who participate in other functions related to their academic majors su ch as theatre and music or those who participate in other organizations. This lack of ba lance seemed to play a significant role in the development of the identity for these studen t-athletes. During the discussions, the
99 role of athlete appeared to have a dominant positio n when compared to the role as student. This one-dimensional identity may well cha nge as the student-athletes gain more prominence and status on their respective teams and the use of their time becomes more self-regulated. As reported, most football players developed social networks consisting primarily of other football players or other student-athletes These young men gave the impression that they were athletes first and seemed to depend on the loyalty of their teammates to provide the necessary supports. Discovering that a sub-culture exists supports the findings of Phillips (2004), Pascarella et al (1999), Terenzini, Pascarella, and Blimling (1996), Jordon and Denson (1990) and Chartrand and Lent (1987) as it relates to spending large quantities of time together. During this time of closeness these young men are devoting their efforts to achieve a common goal. Further this upholds HowardHamilton and Sina (2001) and Adler and Adler (1991) discoveries that athletes ma y be too tired or they may be suffering with physical injuries and therefore not able to attend social functions outside of athletics. To this end, the athletic department ad ministration might consider collaborating and forming bonds with non-athletic o n-campus groups to assure that interactions with the larger campus community becom e a reality. This recommendation backs similar proposals brought forward by Pascarel la et al. (1995) and Engstram and Sedlacek (1989). An additional part of the college experience usuall y includes the selection of an academic major, often based on future career expect ations. While many of the
100 participants had identified an academic major, the overwhelming majority planned to have professional sports be their first career expe rience. Indeed, nine of the football players and two of the soccer players expressed this plan. In reali ty, and as reported on the NCAA website, only 1.8% of all collegiate footb all players and 1.7% of all collegiate soccer players actually secure employment as profes sional athletes. Recommendations for Practice Athletic recruitment procedures should consider whe ther the institution is the correct fit for the student-athlete. Athletic Department Administration and University A dministration should work together to provide more opportunities for studentathletes to interact with the general student population. Career Counseling should be an integral part of the student-athletes scheduled time. Athletic Department Administration should facilitat e deliberate communication between the faculty and the student-athletes. Adjustment to College should be monitored in a more comprehensive way and should not be based exclusively on the grade point average and athletic performance. Recruitment Process The overwhelming response from the football players related to their adjustment to their college classes was that the enrollments i n the classes were extremely large. Because of the size of the classes these young men felt it was almost impossible to seek
101 out the professor for individual attention. This ch allenge created a sense of stress so the student-athletes tried to figure out things for the mselves. For the soccer players the challenge was found more in the class assignments and requirements. The Latino participants pointed to la nguage interpretation challenges and it was clear that without the support of the academic resources provided by the athletic department these young men would struggle to meet a cademic eligibility requirements. When choosing prospective student-athletes to pursu e as recruits, athletic administrators should consider whether the environm ent at their institution is the correct fit for the potential recruit. These considerations should include, but are not limited to, the enrollment size of the high school the prospect is attending, the curriculum undertaken at the high school, and the competitiven ess of the high school athletic team. If there are questions regarding the potential for the student-athlete to find success at the institution, either the recruitment process should be terminated or a process for appropriate support measures should be established prior to the first day of his attendance. Sub-Culture Existence It was evident that a sub-culture exists within the athletic department for football participants and it is further developed within the respective teams. This formation of such a closed culture and limited social network ha s been identified and discussed by a wide range of writers (Chartrand & Lent, 1987; Jord on & Denson, 1990; Pascarella et al.1999; Phillips, 2004; Terenzini, Pascarella, & B limling, 1996).
102 Even though the student-athletes seemed to be satis fied with their social network of other student-athletes, this lack of balance cou ld have future implications in their lives. At some point, each of their sport careers will end With the loss of this athletic involvement, the par ticipants will then be forced into unfamiliar surroundings. This isolation within the athletic culture may have a negative effect on the development of appropriate social ski lls as they relate to the comprehensive advancement of their lives. The athletic department administration, in collaboration with other suitable departments on campus, should initia te creative ways for student-athletes to socialize with students who are not on the athletic rosters. Pascarella et al. (1995) and Engstram and Sedlacek (1989 ) suggested that athlet ic departments should communicate with other collegiate departments to construct on-c ampus opportunities for studentathletes to establish more varied social connection s. This collaboration might involve bringing the general student population to the athl etic environment as well as having the student-athletes visit other physical locations on campus. Career Counseling Smallman & Sowa (1996) and Kennedy & Dimick (1987) found that many participants in intercollegiate athletics lack suff icient knowledge to make mature career decisions. The discoveries in this study seem to su pport these findings. Two of the soccer participants and nine of the football participants planned to have their first career experience be in the professional sport ranks. As p reviously mentioned the NCAA reports that only 1.7% of all collegiate soccer athletes an d 1.8% of all collegiate football athletes actually secure a career in the professional sports
103 As a way to combat the potential disconnect between career belief and the actuality of a career, student-athletes could be co nnected with community or business leaders for exposure to the availability of actual career paths. Gaining insight into job requirements and the possible related compensation might stimulate thinking about employment opportunities other than professional sp orts. This mentor program with local community and business leaders could allow the stud ent-athletes to adjust their thoughts related to their own image and move them into Super s (1990) stage of career exploration, while stimulating thoughts of career c hoices beyond that of a professional athlete. Furthermore, student-athletes might benefit from mo re realistic exposure to career paths through the use of the on-campus career cente r. Creating career education and planning opportunities that are a part of scheduled athletic time might also lead to development of a more well thought out academic maj or selection. This path of career study could motivate these young men to establish a career plan that would include several options. In many cases, the academic succes s of these participants is driven by the desire for achieving and maintaining eligibility fo r participation in their respective sports and not by thoughtful consideration for future care er plans or actually learning the course material. Faculty Interaction Every one of the student-athletes reported being sa tisfied with his present grades, but had plans to improve his academic performance i n future semesters. As a part of this conversation, it was revealed that there was little or no out-of-class interaction between
104 the student-athletes and the faculty. The most comm on form of communication was through the use of email. If each student-athlete w as partnered with a faculty member and time was scheduled into his week to establish a rel ationship with this person, the academic goals of this population might expand and produce more of a sense of connectedness to campus life. Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, and Whitt (2005) indicated tha t student and faculty interaction helps bolster higher level academic wor k. Comeaux (2005) suggested that a positive relationship with a faculty member helps t he student-athlete manage his dual roles. While the current email communication model seemed to fill the need of gaining answers to specific questions, there seemed to be n o stimulation for any serious academic exploration. It might be beneficial for the athleti c department to establish meaningful relationships with faculty and to match the student -athletes with appropriate academicians as a way to generate more interest, un derstanding and enthusiasm for various academic areas. Ultimately, these connectio ns might assist in creating a balance in the dual roles these student-athletes must manag e. Monitoring Adjustment to College Adjustment to college should be gauged by more tha n academic eligibility and athletic performance. The NCAA has attempted to be proactive in this area with the creation of the CHAMPS Life Skills program. The aim of this program is to address the areas of equity, healthy choices, positive life ski lls, safe environments, academic success and community leadership (NCAA web B). During the d iscussions with the student-
105 athletes there was no indication that any of these areas, with the exception of academic success, were a focus of their development. As the intentions of this program are admirable, n ot all schools are implementing it and others may not be presenting each component in ways that have a positive impact on the participants. Developing a more individualized approach to the comprehensive evaluation related to the overall adjustment to col lege for these student-athletes would be helpful. Because each participant arrives from a un ique background and with a different level of maturity, distinctive assessment tools and intervention practices would be ideal. Recommendations for Future Research Freshman student-athletes who are enrolling at a la rge nationally recognized university will face a multitude of challenges and changes during their first year in college. Using qualitative research should help to provide strategies for success and insight into the lived experiences of this popula tion. The information gained in this study leads to six recommendations for future resea rch: Study of the student-athletes who did not complete the freshman year at college. Study of the student-athletes longitudinally from t heir senior year in high school through the completion of college. Study of female student-athletes. Study of student-athletes attending a small college Study of the academic progress of student-athletes admitted to college as exceptional admits compared to those admitted as re gular admits. Study of student-athletes on less competitively suc cessful athletic teams.
106 Dialogue with non-completers As previously revealed all of the participants in t his study had successfully completed at least one semester at the university a nd most had finished two terms. To speak with the student-athletes who did not complet e the first-year of college would allow for insight into their sport, social, and aca demic experiences. With this information, the NCAA, the athletic department and the universit y could evaluate current services and procedures and attempt to make positive adjustments to assist those who did not adjust to college and left the team and the institution. Dialogue while in High School When the student-athletes initially arrive at the university, they each bring with them a perception of what their lives will be like in this new environment. Many factors may lead to these perceptions and might relate to i mpressions received from high school coaches, the experiences of peers, and the influenc es of the family. If this type of information was retrieved prior to the participants arriving on campus, interventions could be put in place to help these young people av oid pitfalls based on preconceived notions. Follow the Study Group Each of the student-athletes in this study disclose d a wide range of new experiences and demands in the sport, the social, a nd the academic realms. When asked about strategies to avoid future difficult challeng es most of them had not developed any clear plan to improve their environment. The majori ty of the student-athletes felt confident about their adjustment to college and sug gested they would work through it.
107 By following these student-athletes through their r emaining college years, these ways of working through it might develop into identifiabl e initiatives that could be used to assist future student-athletes shape clear and defi ned strategies. Female Student-Athletes By initiating talks with female student-athletes, c omparisons between the two populations could be evaluated. There are fewer opp ortunities for female intercollegiate participants to continue their careers in the ranks of professional sports and thus insight into how this group assesses career options and aca demic major selection could be determined. This in turn might expose differing way s of balancing the roles of being an athlete and being a student. Differences in other w ays of adjusting to college could also be studied, and if applicable, applied to the male student-athlete population. Conclusion In our society today, intercollegiate sports at na tionally recognized colleges and universities continue to draw the support and atten tion of millions of people. This spotlight has led college sports to be a huge econo mic driver in our nation. With the hope of landing multi-million dollar salaries as members of the professional sport ranks, many young men are willing to make sacrifices that are n ot required of other college students. In fact, many people question whether the goals of athletic departments at nationally recognized colleges and universities ali gn well with the overall mission of the institutions. In some cases, the student-athletes a t these institutions are viewed as unpaid professional athletes, and college athletics is dee med to be a minor league sport training
108 ground. The pressure to succeed in their sport impa cts the way these student-athletes experience and adjust to college. This study revealed that the NCAA, the athletic de partments and the colleges and universities are making efforts to provide necessar y resources to assist in the adjustment to college for freshman student-athletes. It was al so determined that these efforts are unbalanced and seem to place an overwhelming import ance on academic eligibility and athletic performance. This current lack of balance may eventually have a negative impact on the student-athletes overall development. At so me point, the athletic careers of these young men will end and interaction with a more dive rse population will be necessary. The strong focus on the athletic identity may pose adjustment issues. Additionally, this singular identity created a cha llenge when attempting to recognize whether adjustment to college related to interactions among the experiences. Within the student-athletes comments there was an indication that perhaps there might be a relationship between two of the experiences, b ut it was not clear how the three areas were comprehensively involved. This inability to di stinguish a connection may be further associated with the lack of emphasis the student-at hletes place on their identity as a student. Even though every one of the student-athletes inte rviewed disclosed quality interactions in his sport, social and academic expe riences and these encounters had a positive impact on his adjustment to college additi onal balance is needed. With well crafted collaboration between the NCAA, the athleti c department, the appropriate university administration and the faculty, these st udent-athletes would likely encounter a
109 more complete college experience. Their expressed c ommitment to their respective institutions and their motivation to succeed makes them deserving of such a united effort.
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122 Appendix A: Informed Consent to Participate in Rese arch Informed Consent to Participate in Research Information to consider prior to taking part in thi s Research Study Researchers at the University of South Florida (USF ) study many topics. To do this, we need the help of people who agree to take part in a research study. This form tells you about this research study. We are asking you to take part in a research study that is called: An Exploration of the Relationships between the Quality of the Sport, Soc ial, and Academic Experiences of College Student-Athletes and Their Adjustment to Co llege: A Qualitative Analysis. The person in charge of the research is Susan Freem an. This person is called the Principal Investigator. Data will be collected during two in-person private interview sessions. Each session will not last longer than two hours each and occur at an interval of at least one week. The research will be completed at the University of South Florida Tampa campus. Purpose of the study The purpose of the study is to examine if there is a relationship between the quality of interactions in the sport, social, and academic env ironments and the adjustment to college for freshman football and male soccer student-athle tes. You are being asked to participate due to your affi liation with the football or mens soccer team. Your participation may have an impact on programs and services offered to freshman football and male soccer student-athletes in the future. This study is being conducted for a dissertation by a Ph.D. candidate.
123 Appendix A (continued) Study Procedures If you take part in this study you will be asked to : Answer questions and provide information related to your experiences in your sport, social, and athletic environments and about your adjustment to college. Participate in a total of two interview sessions no t to last longer than 2 hours each and to be conducted at intervals of at least one we ek. Participate in interview sessions as a part of your weekly schedule. Complete these interviews in the Athletic Departmen t building. Our conversations will be recorded via digital voic e recording and will be held in confidence. Alternatives You have the alternative to choose not to participa te in this research study. Benefits The potential benefit to you is an opportunity to i mpact programs and services offered to freshman football and male soccer student-athletes in the future. Risks or Discomfort There are no known risks to those who take part in this study. Compensation We will not pay you for the time you volunteer whil e being in this study. Confidentiality We must keep your study records confidential. The a udio tapes will be kept secure and in my personal possession and will be kept for three y ears. After three years the information will not be destroyed but stored in a secure locati on. All information you provide is protected by strict laws regarding confidentiality. Nothing you share will be tracked back to you. The informat ion will be used in completion of a dissertation paper and may be used in future articl es for academic purposes.
124 Appendix A (Continued) Certain people may need to see the study records. B y law, anyone who looks at your records must keep them completely confidential. The only people who will be allowed to see these records are: The research team including the principal investig ator and the supervisory dissertation committee. Certain government and university people who need t o know more about the study. For example, individuals who provide oversig ht on this study may need to look at your records. This is done to make sure tha t we are doing the study the right way. They also need to make sure that we are protecting your rights and your safety they include: the University of South Florida Institutional Revie w Board (IRB) and the staff that work for the IRB. Other individuals who work for USF that provide oth er kinds of oversight may also need to look at your records. the Department of Health and Human Services We may publish what we learn from this study. If we do, we will not let anyone know your name. We will not publish anything else that w ould let people know who you are. Voluntary Participation / Withdrawal You should only take part in this study if you want to volunteer. You should not feel that there is any pressure to take part in this study, t o please the investigator or the research staff. You are free to participate in this research or withdraw at any time. There will be no penalty or loss of benefits you are entitled to rec eive if you stop taking part in this study. Your decision to participate or not to participate will not affect your student or athlete status. New Information about the study During the course of this study, we may find more i nformation that could be important to you. This includes information that, once learned, might cause you to change your mind about being in the study. We will notify you as soo n as possible if such information becomes available. Questions, concerns, or complaints If you have any questions, concerns or complaints a bout this study call Susan Freeman at 941-408-1504. If you have questions about your rights as a partic ipant in this study, general questions, or have complaints, concerns or issues you want to dis cuss with someone outside the
125 Appendix A (Continued) research, call the Division of Research Integrity a nd Compliance of the University of South Florida at 813-974-9343. Consent to Take Part in this Research Study It is up to you to decide whether you want to take part in this study. If you want to take part, please sign the form, if the following statem ents are true: I freely give my consent to take part in this study I understand that by signing this form I am agreeing to take part in research. I have received a copy of this form to take with me. ___________________________________ ___________________ Signature of person taking part in Study Date ____________________________________ Printed name of person taking part in Study
126 Appendix B: Initial Conversation Guide 1. How is being a student-athlete at this university d ifferent from being a student-athlete at your high school? 2. Please describe your interactions with your coaches 3. Please describe how you feel about your ability to contribute to the team. 4. Please describe your friends at this university. 5. Please describe your social interactions with peopl e outside of athletics. 6. Please describe your interactions with faculty at t his university. 7. Please describe how you feel about the grades you h ave earned and are anticipating earning. 8. Please describe how you feel about your adjustment to college.
About the Author Susan L. Freeman earned her Bachelor of Science deg ree from Georgia Southern College, her Master of Science degree from Georgia Southern College, her Master of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida and her Ph.D. from the University of South Florida. She is currently an administrator in higher education leading the growth and development of a satellite location for the Uni versity of South Florida. Susans career has been dedicated to the field of e ducation. She has teaching experience at the elementary, community college and university undergraduate levels. Further, she has successful intercollegiate coachin g experience at both the community college level and the NCAA Division II level.
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An exploration of the relationships between the quality of the sport, social, and academic experiences of college student-athletes and their adjustment to college
h [electronic resource] :
b a qualitative analysis /
by Susan L. Freeman.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 126 pages.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
ABSTRACT: Intercollegiate athletics at major universities provide a variety of opportunities and challenges for student-athletes who choose to participate. This qualitative project studies the quality of interactions in the sport, the social, and the academic experiences for freshman football and male soccer student-athletes and their adjustment to college.The five research questions under review were as follows: Is there a relationship between the quality of the sport experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Is there a relationship between the quality of the social experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Is there a relationship between the quality of the academic experience and adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Are there relationships between any two of the three experiences (sport, social, and academic) that affect adjustment to college as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution? Does the adjustment to college relate to interactions among all three experiences in any comprehensive way as reported by freshman football and male soccer student-athletes attending a NCAA Division I-A institution?The purpose of the study was to hear in the student-athletes' authentic voices their descriptions of the quality of the sport, the social and the academic endeavors and how those interactions impacted their adjustment to college. The results imply that the freshman football and male soccer student-athletes, while enduring some challenges, find ways to adjust to college as both students and as athletes. Several themes were ascertained in relation to each of the three areas under review. While the student-athletes expressed feelings indicating that their collegiate experiences were different from the experiences of students not participating in intercollegiate athletics, the majority of them revealed a high level of comfort in their college environment. They all felt attached to the university, and they all planned to return for their sophomore year.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Co-Advisor: William Young, Ed.D.
Co-Advisor: Thomas Miller, Ed.D.
x Higher Education
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.