Leadership and Management Skills of Junior College Athletic Directors

Submitted by Timothy Baghurst, Earl Murray Jr., Chris Jayne and Danon Carter

The current and future funding condition for junior college (JC) athletics is unclear, and an athletic program’s budget and funding is usually the responsibility of the athletic director. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences and perceptions of junior college athletic directors to understand financial and leadership issues associated with athletic programs. Sixteen athletic directors (12 male, 4 female) from the same athletic conference in the state of California were interviewed and asked 17 open-ended questions about leadership and the financial issues associated with junior college athletic programs. Three primary themes emerged including leadership, roles and responsibilities, and an unexpected third theme of the student-athlete. Findings and their application to athletic director administration are discussed.

College athletics have become big business, and a university athletic director (AD) plays an integral role in the success of the athletic programs. Colleges and universities at all levels require the managerial skills of an AD. Although leadership and administration of athletics is a frequent focus of research at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) level, community college (hereto forth referred to as junior college; JC) programs have received little attention. For example, NCAA Division I athletic budgets may vary widely, but substantial budgets are common (14). Thus, application of findings at this level to JC athletic programs is difficult, as JC ADs may face more responsibilities in addition to fewer funding sources and athletic staff at their disposal. Therefore, the focus of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of JC ADs in order to determine how they use their leadership to overcome financial challenges experienced by their athletic programs.

Qualities of an AD
Robertson (2008) highlights several traits and skills necessary to be a successful AD. First, he or she must have the capability of creating an environment that helps all members of the program flourish, and all members of the athletic program must have the same goal in mind. Second, an AD must exhibit the ability to take risk, solve problems, think critically, and be a decision maker. Third, they must have the fiscal savvy to promote their university/college in a way that draws fan and community support thereby generating revenue. Thus, fiscal responsibilities of athletic programs are one of the most important challenges athletic administrators deal with at all levels (20).

JC Leadership Qualities
Nahavandi (2006) defined a leader as “any person who influences individuals and groups within an organization, helps them in the establishment of goals and guides them toward achievement of those goals, thereby allowing them to be effective” (p. 4). Another definition of leadership is “the capacity to influence others by unleashing their power and potential to impact the greater good” (4). Consistent with both definitions, leadership requires the ability to influence followers and guide them toward a goal.

Athletic directors are expected to display leadership skills in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the athletic department, but leadership is also necessary to manage the budget and financials of the program (13). There are several qualities of effective leadership as well as factors that impact the effectiveness of leadership. Effective leadership is defined by the effect on followers. Key traits of effective leaders as described by Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991) include drive, integrity, intelligence, motivation to lead, and knowledge of the business. Overall, leadership success is defined by the effectiveness of leaders to influence followers in every relevant aspect.

Junior college ADs must possess certain leadership qualities or characteristics to be successful. These characteristics include ethics or strong moral values, competence, self-confidence, and a desire to influence (28). Followers must trust the decisions and behaviors of ADs as well as believe in the direction being led. Leadership styles most attributed to ADs are transformational and situational leadership, as these styles incorporates change management, practicality, and flexibility as well as the success these leadership styles have on influencing others.

JC Athletic Finances
The funding for state colleges are being reduced across the country; and this is causing economic instability within many JC athletic programs (34). Junior college ADs are faced with difficult decisions when it comes to their athletic programs, which primarily revolve around the sustainability of the program. In many cases, there is outside pressure to add athletic teams to their program, while in others situations, ADs have to decide to keep a team or cut it from their program to save money (36). In 2009, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour addressed the state’s JC ADs to explain that they needed to scale back the number of athletic teams that they offered, or the schools would have to drop athletics altogether (34).

Leadership is a key to any successful company, and sports administration is no different. However, how an AD may use his or her acquired leadership techniques to maintain and allow an athletic department to flourish under his or her guidance is unclear. This is particularly true at the JC level, where research is limited. Although there are similarities between the roles and responsibilities of ADs at JC compared with larger four-year universities, there are also differences. According to Lewis & Quarterman (2006), the three most important decisions and choices ADs make for managing and leading JC athletic programs are the enjoyment of athletics, the athletic environment, and a desire to learn more about the sports business. ADs from large universities have a greater focus on fiscal management where much of their time is focused on management, leadership, finance, marketing, ethics, legalities, and governance (2). This is not to say that JC ADs ignore ethical or legal issues, for example, but it is not considered their priority.

Although there are large financial deviations within NCAA Division I athletic programs, (14; 37), only a few operate profitably (10). Thus, the university is placed with a financial burden of justifying the existence of a program, and many DI ADs must turn to donors to gain the fiscal capital needed to balance their athletic budgets (35). For example, in the summer of 2012, facing a $4 million deficit, Maryland University decided to eliminate seven competitive athletic teams (17). Similarly, other prominent universities have taken drastic measures to ensure the survival of their athletic programs as a whole: University of California-Berkley had to cut five teams in 2010 and Rutgers University was forced to drop six competitive athletic teams in 2007 (3).

Unfortunately for ADs at the JC level, the financial situation is even bleaker. Most junior colleges lack the same opportunities. Fewer boosters are available and revenue generated at events is lower. Sustainability is a larger concern because of many educational cuts in state funding (Steinback, 2010). Success at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) level does not always equal financial gain or even a program the next year. For example, in 2009 Minneapolis Community and Technical College lost only its second game of the year in the NJCAA DIII national championship game only to have the athletic department shut down completely shortly after. In order to continue to have an athletic program, some institutions have been required to cut the football program; although it is the biggest revenue provider, it is also the most expensive (34).

Study Purpose
The roles and responsibilities of an NCAA AD are well-documented, but less so are those of a JC AD, particularly as they pertain to leadership and financial skills. The current and future funding condition for JC athletics is unclear (6). A better understanding of the skills and qualities necessary for success could be vital as JCs search for their next AD. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the perceived leadership and financial skills of 16 JC ADs to better understand how leadership and financial skills in athletic programs might contribute to success. The qualitative, phenomenological study consisted of semi-structured interviews and asked ADs not only what it was like to serve in that capacity, but also to explain, (1) the relationship between ADs’ perceptions about leadership and funding JC athletic programs, and (2) the relationship between ADs’ perceived leadership skills and financing JC athletic programs. It was intended that ADs explain in general how they perceive leadership and how it is relevant in managing programs. Then, participants were asked to detail their perceived leadership skills to manage programs effectively.


Participants were 16 ADs (12 male, 4 female) from JCs in California who were purposefully selected because they were knowledgeable about athletic programs and financing (11). Participants’ experience ranged between 10 and 21 years (see Table 1). Currently employed ADs were used to provide real-time feedback as opposed to retroactive data.

Following university IRB approval, 20 ADs currently employed at a JC within the same athletic conference were mailed a letter to request an interview. From the 20 requests, three participants returned the letter agreeing to participate. The remaining 17 participants were contacted by telephone from which a further 13 agreed to participate.

Prior to each interview participants were asked to sign a consent form. All face-to- face interviews lasted between 25 and 50 minutes and were conducted within a one-month period. The interviews were conducted at a neutral site of the participant’s choosing. A mini cassette recorder was used to record all interviews in their entirety. All interviews were manually transcribed by the researcher using audacity-recording software. Following transcription, each participant was sent his or her transcript to confirm its accuracy.

In qualitative research, the researcher is the primary instrument by exploring the phenomenon under study (7). Open-ended questions navigate and focus descriptions of a particular experience through intuition and reflection of that experience. A phenomenological study requires the interviewer to achieve, or attempt to achieve, a state of epoche, the elimination of suppositions and placement of knowledge above every possible doubt (24). Thus, the primary researcher made every effort to suppress any predisposed opinions or presumptions during this study regarding the phenomenon. This allowed the researcher to grasp and freshly comprehend the participants’ experiences with the phenomenon (12).
A face-to-face interview technique with open-ended questions was the most appropriate data collection method as it allowed for some deviation while simultaneously ensuring consistent structure across interviews (12). The semi-structured, open-ended questioning interview process was designed to direct the participant toward his or her lived experiences (27).
NVivo9™ software, in accordance with the modified van Kaam data analysis method, was used to analyze interview transcripts, and identify common themes, and patterns (25). Furthermore, the software package provided a digital transcript of audio files, import, and coding of interview transcripts and aided the exploration of potential emerging themes using a step-by-step process.

Data Validity, Reliability, and Triangulation
Validity is how accurately the account represents participants’ realities of the phenomenon and their credibility (16). To establish the validity for this study, transcripts were shared with the participants to ensure that the data was accurate prior to analysis, which is an important dimension of good quality research (9). This allowed participant to edit, revise, or add information prior to data analysis, none of which did. If both validity and reliability are the goal of qualitative research, the use of triangulation to record the construction of reality is appropriate (18). Triangulation occurs when different data sources, methods of data collection, or types of data are evidence to support research data (12). In the present study, participants were sent interview transcripts and themes derived from the data to ensure its accuracy as a second data source as well as confirm thematic analysis.

Data Analysis
According to Bradley, Curry, and Devers (2007), there is no singular way to conduct qualitative data analysis, although there is general agreement that the process is ongoing. An important first step is to immerse and comprehend the meaning (5). A modification of the van Kaam method of analysis for phenomenological data, which occurs through a multi-step process, was employed in the present study (24). This method identifies common themes and patterns used by participants in a qualitative research study.

The first step requires data to be organized, transcribed, and coded. Organization of data is critical in qualitative research because of the large amount of information gathered during the study (12). The data was organized by material type: all interviews, all observations, and all documents. Finally, data was coded.

The next step in the modified van Kaam data analysis method requires participants’ statements to be categorized, clustered, coded, and labeled into groups (24). The common themes constituting the core elements of the lived experiences of the participants were most important. Coding is a process of making sense of the data, dividing the data into text or image segments, labeling the segments with codes, examining codes for overlap and redundancy, and collapsing these codes into broad themes (12).

The premise of this study was to develop an understanding about the leadership skills of ADs with a particular focus on financial expertise. A semi-structured interview process was used to develop an overall analysis of expert thinking. The analysis revealed three emerging themes: (a) leadership, (b) roles and responsibilities, and (c) student-athletes. Each theme is explained and then supported by participant quotes.

Theme One: Leadership
With respect to leadership, leadership skills, types, and supervision were considered important. Participants mentioned the skills to self-evaluate and feedback and how important it was to reflect on their own performances. Self-evaluation is necessary in addition to soliciting feedback from others who might be able to provide insight. Participant 1 said,

I think through and self-evaluate, and each year I am evaluated by the Vice President and President of the college. The evaluation process also includes coaches, the trainer, and the secretary to find out what I need to improve on and set some goals.

Participant 12 stated, “Understanding my leadership skills involves listening to feedback and asking questions about how I am doing. A good leader must be open to constructive criticism and be a good listener and respect others’ opinions.”

The leadership of ADs may also influence the success of programs. According to Participant 6,

I am a leader by example as a positive person. I am reasonable and approachable, and [I] motivate with pride. I am a leader who likes to inspire others to be better. I am successful if our programs are. I want my coaches and student-athletes to be successful. I want to get the most out of people and care about what they are doing as followers.

Furthermore, Participant 3 said that

As a transformational leader, I look at the goals and vision of the athletic department and what needs to be done for the long term. Each athletic program has different needs and I look at the short and long term goals.

Theme Two: Roles and Responsibilities
A JC AD has multiple roles and responsibilities, but balancing budgets, securing funding, and distributing it appropriately was mentioned frequently. This is supported by Participant 6 who stated that, “Overseeing the budgets is a big part of my job. We have so much money for each program. Every program has a different number of student-athletes, coaches, etc. Each budget is different.”

Athletic directors must be able to budget well for each program they oversee. This is a challenge, as they must find ways to generate revenue to keep the programs active. For example, Participant 7 referred to fundraising.

Fundraising is the best way. I do not know of a community college that does not
fundraise. Most institutions cannot provide things such as backpacks or gear. There are strict rules about what can be purchased with state or district dollars. When there is a shortfall of funds, we have to fundraise to support the programs.

Participant 16 found that securing the necessary budget for JC athletics is frequently a challenge.

Money is very tight for athletic programs at community colleges. As a staff, we must fundraise to keep the programs going. The coaches fundraise for their sport. Some fundraising activities may be charity golf tournaments, barbeques, or bake sales.

Although finances are just one component of the responsibilities of an AD, it is apparent that they are a significant concern. For example, according to Participant 14, “The budget consumes 70% of my time to ensure the programs are run effectively.”

The decisions about athletic programs are a major responsibility for ADs. Participants reported that Title IX Gender Equity was a concern when adding, removing, or maintaining a program. “Title IX gender equity and compliance is a big issue, and we have to evaluate our athletic programs when considering adding or dropping a program”, said Participant 9. Participant 15, who stated that decisions about programs were made in consideration of Title IX and gender equity, supported this. Thus, it becomes a balancing act of meeting guidelines or policies while simultaneously ensuring that there is a sufficient budget.

I try to keep all my athletic programs. I try to make sure they are maintained with enough dollars coming in to keep them going. Terminating a program is the last thing I try to do. If nothing else, adding a program is a good thing but that takes money.

(Participant 16)

In JC athletics, things can change quickly, an AD must make decisions concerning their coaching staff who are responsible for the student-athlete. Thus, a change in a staff member may directly impact the athletic program and the student-athletes. According to Participant 4,
In athletics, change happens often. I deal with change by telling my coaches about changes and we work together on making changes when the time comes. Some people resist change, but change is a reality in athletics.

It is important, therefore, for the AD to be cognizant of upcoming change, and keep the staff apprised of changes that might impact them.

My coaches must deal with change the most because they spend the most time with the student-athletes. I teach them about change, when change is going to take place, how it affect their programs, and help them with change. Some adapt to change well, and others do not. I work with them all.

(Participant 8)

Theme Three: Student-Athletes
Some ADs reported the additional responsibility of having to coach. Although an AD wants to win both as a coach and director, there is recognition of balancing athletic success with academic success. In fact, the ADs placed academics above athletics. According to Participant 16, “The student-athlete should manage time by first looking at their academic responsibilities first then sports.” This is further supported by other examples.

The balance is placing academics ahead of athletics. The student-athlete must be organized and set up time schedules. A balanced student-athlete focuses toward academics and although athletics is important, earning good grades is equally important.

(Participant 14)

Athletic directors recognize that academic success is a reflection on the future prospects of the student-athlete, but also on the JC. Transferring to a larger institution is important for many students.

A student-athlete who cares about moving on beyond a two year college will do a good job with balancing academics and athletics. Although the student-athlete can do well in a sport, the student must have a good grade point average to transfer.

(Participant 8)

Motivation plays a big role in the student-athlete performance athletically and academically. The ADs are tasked with working with coaches to assist with motivating athletes. Just as a coach is a mentor to an athlete, the AD must serve as a mentor to the coach. According to Participant 13, “The athletic director sets the stage for the coaches to motivate the student-athletes.”

I try to promote morale and motivation with my coaches who are the leaders for the student-athlete. The coaches are mentors who motivate and inspire the student-athlete to good. As the athletic director I train the coaches to engage the student-athlete.

(Participant 2)

Some student-athletes are less self-motivated than others and require external motivation to perform better in a sport or academics. The ability to prioritize athletics and completing coursework with passing grades can be a challenge, yet “Increasing his or her self-motivation in the classroom can lead to a successful student-athlete” (Participant 11). Participant 6 noted that athletics has a tendency to be placed ahead of academics.

The challenged student-athlete lacks self-motivation, direction, and the ability to manage their time. This type of student-athlete lacks the passion for being engaged academically to learn in the classroom. They place athletics ahead of academics, which may be why they have difficulties earning good grades in the classroom.

The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study was to explore ADs lived experiences and perceptions of leadership in JC athletic programs particularly in reference to finances. Interview analysis revealed three main themes of leadership, roles and responsibilities, and the student-athlete. Each theme is discussed in light of current research.

Theme One: Leadership
Athletic directors recognized the importance of leadership in influencing the behavior and actions of others. According to Smith (1997), “As leaders face greater uncertainties and changes, and compounded complexities, they strive for greater flexibility and agility” (p. 277). In the present study, ADs saw their role as leaders encompassing a variety of roles and responsibilities as evidenced in the second theme. What is most important with these varying roles and responsibilities is the opportunity to receive feedback on their performance and make the appropriate adjustments based on the feedback received. “Effective leaders learn that comprehensive systematic reviews and evaluations should include every type of resource, every competency and capacity, and every person and position that affects performance” (33). Thus, some participants acquired evaluations from superiors, such as the college president or those working for the participant such as coaches, and applied this feedback to improve their leadership styles and effectiveness. Overall, the feedback an AD receives is a measuring tool for effectiveness in their role.

Theme Two: Roles and Responsibilities
Balancing budgets and securing funding was a clear concern for the participants. Many participants indicated that they were responsible for preparing the budget. A participative budget process involves lower-level administrators and coaches who better understand the individual line items who are responsible for the athletic department’s budget than senior administrators. A top down budgeting process offers short-term budgets imposed by senior administrators more likely to be consistent with the strategic long-term goals and objectives of the athletic department (20). Thus, those ADs expected to complete budgets without the use of participative budget methodology may experience higher levels of stress (32). Participative budgeting is supported by Wickstrom (2006), as an authoritative style of leadership is not conducive to the work force of the modern era, and that to be a successful leader an AD has to be willing to listen to those they lead.

The present study further found that gender equity and the budgetary requirements that stem from Title IX was considered both a financial and leadership challenge. This is not surprising, as gender equity at JCs has been clearly documented (8). A balance needs to exist between athletic sports programs relative to women’s sports and Title IX laws (19). Some ADs are faced with the decision to cut sports programs (Steinback, 2010) and must be cognizant of their current Title IX standing so that there does not become an imbalance of participation opportunities. Thus, there remains work to be done in achieving a standard of gender equity that not only meets the intent of Title IX but fully affords the respect of dignity for female student-athletes (19). As two-year athletic programs consider new directions, the achievement of gender equity within two year athletic programs still needs to be addressed (19), which is recognized by the participants of the present study.
Theme Three: Student-Athletes
The relationship that ADs had with student-athletes was an unexpected finding. This may be in part because some ADs reported the additional responsibility of serving as a coach. The extra coaching duties may cause additional stressors because it limits the time they have to devote to the financial responsibilities of the profession (21). Participants recognized that they were responsible with the coaches for improving both student athletic and academic performance. Participants stressed the importance of academics over athletics, but this may be due to efforts by the administration to increase retention and graduation rates (29). Not only did ADs report high levels of interaction with student-athletes, they generally viewed it as part of their responsibility to motivate the student to achieve both in athletics and in the classroom. That ADs viewed this as a component of their leadership was unexpected, as this task is frequently the responsibility of a coach or even assistant (15).

Limitations and Future Research
Although the present study provides some interesting findings, they should be evaluated with respect to its limitations. First, this study was limited to current full-time ADs at JCs in the state of California, which may not translate to the experiences of ADs in other locations or athletic conferences. Second, only four participants were female. This is not uncommon (1), and future research should consider whether opinions and perceptions differ between genders. For example, impressions of Title IX may differ by gender (1), and Title IX challenges may differ between JCs and traditional four-year institutions. Third, the specific financial expertise of each participant was not assessed. Therefore, future research should consider whether financial education and training improves AD financial expertise and progress toward short, intermediate, and long term strategic goals. The recommendation may benefit both low-level and senior level administrators at the JC. In addition, future researchers should consider conducting a broader survey of the general background and experiences of ADs in JCs.

The success of collegiate athletic programs can depend upon the skills of their ADs (31). Thus, they must possess leadership skills across multiple disciplines. Because financial and budgetary concerns were most prevalent among the participants of the present study, future research needs to investigate the training being provided for ADs. The financing and budget process is vital in ensuring that athletic programs are successful, and an action plan is needed for current and future ADs to use as a model to understand the entire financial and budget process of funding athletics programs.

Empirical research has focused primarily on the Division I AD. However, these findings suggest that JC ADs encounter a variety of challenges which have not been investigated. JC administrators need to consider the budgetary and fundraising background and expertise of applicants, which is a paramount responsibility of ADs in JC.

1. Anderson, D. J., Cheslock, J. J., & Ehrenberg, R. G. (2006). Gender equity in intercollegiate athletics: Determinants of Title IX compliance Journal of Higher Education, 77, 225-250.

2. Barr, C. A., Hums, M. A., & Masteralexis, L. P. (2009). Principles and practice of sport management (3rd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

3. Berkowitz, S. (2011, June 28). Rutgers athletic department needs fees, funds to stay afloat. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/2011-06-28-rutgers-athletic-department-subsidies_n.htm

4. Blanchard, K. (2010). Leading at a higher level: Blanchard on leadership and creating high performing organizations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: BMC, Blanchard Management Corporation.

5. Bradley, E. H., Curry, L. A., & Devers, K. J. (2007). Qualitative data analysis for health services research: Developing taxonomy, themes, and theory. Health Services Research, 42, 1758-1772.

6. Byrd, L. A., & Williams, M. R. (2007). Expansion of community college athletic programs. Community College Enterprise, 13, 39-49.

7. Caldwell, L., Creswell, J., & Iwamoto, D. K. (2007). Feeling the beat: The meaning of rap music for ethnically diverse Midwestern college students: A phenomenological study. Adolescence, 42, 337-351.

8. Castaneda, C., Hardy, D. E., & Kastinas, S. G. (2008). Meeting the challenge of gender equity in community college athletics. New Directions for Community Colleges, 142, 93-105.

9. Cohen, D., J., & Crabtree, B. F. (2008). Evaluation criteria for qualitative research in health care: Controversies and recommendations. Animals of Family Medicine, 6, 331-339.

10. Cooper, C., & Weight, E. (2011). Investigating NCAA administrator values in NCAA Division I athletic departments. Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics, 4, 74-89.

11. Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (1st ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

12. Creswell, J. W. (2005). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

13. Davis, D. J. (2001). An analysis of the perceived leadership styles and levels of satisfaction of selected junior college athletic directors and head coaches. United States Sports Academy. Retrieved from Proquest, UMI Dissertations Publishing, 3026212.

14. Dunn, J. M. (2013). Should the playing field be leveled? Funding inequities among Division I athletic programs. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 6, 44-51.

15. Fitzgerald, M. P., Nelson, B., & Sagaria, M. D. (1994). Career patterns of athletic directors: Challenging the conventional wisdom. Journal of Sport Management, 8, 14-26.

16. Ferguson, L. (2004). External validity, generalizability, and knowledge utilization. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 36, 16-22.

17. Giannotto, M. (2012, July 2). Maryland cuts seven sports on ‘sad day’ in College Park, Washington Post. Retrieved from http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-07-02/sports/35486395_1_athletic-programs-track-program-athletic-director-kevin-anderson

18. Golafshani, N. (2003). Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. Qualitative Report, 8, 597-607.

19. Hagedorn, L. S., & Horton D., Jr. (2009). Student athletes and athletics. New Directions for Community Colleges, 147, 1-91.

20. Hodge, F., & Tanlu, L. (2009). Finances and college athletics. New Directions for Institutional Research, 140, 7-18.

21. Judge, L. W., & Judge, I. L. (2009). Understanding the occupational stress of interscholastic athletic directors. ICHPER – SD Journal of Research in Health, Physical Education, Recreation, Sport & Dance, 4, 37-44.

22. Kirkpatrick, S. A., & Locke, E. A. (1991). Leadership: Do traits matter? Executive, 5, 48-60.

23. Lewis, B. A., & Quarterman, J. (2006). Why students return for a master’s degree in sport management. College Student Journal, 40, 717-728.

24. Moustakas, C. (1994). Phenomenological research methods. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.

25. Mukamusoni, D. (2006). Distance learning program of teachers at Kigali institute of education: An expository study. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3, 1-10.

26. Nahavandi, A. (2006). The art and science of leadership. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Prentice Hall.

27. Nelson, B., & Rawlings, D. (2007). Its own reward: A phenomenological study of artistic creativity. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 38, 217-255.

28. Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

29. Ohlson, M., & Storch, J. (2009). Student services and student athletes in community colleges. New Directions for Community Colleges, 147, 75-84.

30. Robertson, J. E. (2008). Leadership, athletic directors and mental toughness. National Junior College Athletic Association Review, 60, 2-6.

31. Ruihley, B. J., & Fall, L. T. (2009). Assessment on and off the field: Examining athletic directors’ perceptions of public relations in college athletics. International Journal of Sport Communication, 2, 398-410.

32. Ryska, T. A. (2002). Leadership styles and occupational stress among college athletic directors: The moderating effect of program goals. Journal of Psychology, 136, 1-22.

33. Smith, A. W. (1997). Leadership is a living system: Learning leaders and organizations. Human Systems Management, 16, 277-284. Retrieved from ProQuest at http://search.proquest.ezproxy.apollolibrary.com/docview201129759?

34. Steinbach, P. (2010). Economic Storm. National Junior College Athletic Association Review, 62, 4-7.

35. Wickstrom, B. D. (2006). Message to ADs: Get to know donors. National Collegiate Athletic Association News, 43, 4-24.

36. Williams, M. R., Byrd, L., & Pennington, K. (2008). Intercollegiate athletics at the community college. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 32, 453-461.

37. Zimbalist, A. (2013). Inequality in intercollegiate athletics: Origins, trends and policies. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 6, 5-24.

2014-03-06T15:54:25-06:00March 3rd, 2014|Contemporary Sports Issues, General, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Leadership and Management Skills of Junior College Athletic Directors

Qualitative Analysis of International Student-Athlete Perspectives on Recruitment and Transitioning into American College Sport

### Abstract

Recruiting international athletes is a growing trend in American intercollegiate sport, and international student-athletes play an increasingly prominent role in NCAA competition. This research answers the following questions regarding the recruitment of international student-athletes and their transition to college life: (1) what is the most difficult aspect of the international university experience?; (2) what do international athletes identify as the most important factor for a successful transition to American college?; (3) how did international athletes hear about athletic opportunities in the United States; (4) what advice would current international athletes give international athletes considering a move to the United States to participate in intercollegiate sport?; and (5) what would the athletes have done had they not played college sports in the United States? The researchers solicited the assistance of CHAMPS/Life Skills coordinators at 15 Division I schools who distributed surveys to student-athletes, who in turn completed the survey, sealed it in an envelope, and returned in to the coordinator. A total of 355 athletes completed the survey, including 192 international athletes. Homesickness and adjustment to the U.S. culture were identified as the most difficult aspects of the university experience for international athletes, while the most important elements to a successful transition for international athletes were a strong support system from teammates and coaches and also from friends and family in their native country. Only one-fourth of respondents learned about athletic opportunities from coaches in the U.S., while one-fourth of the respondents learned about these opportunities from friends, family, and other athletes. The top piece of advice given by respondents was to realize that playing sports in the U.S. will require important traits like focus, dedication, hard work, and persistence in order to succeed. The results of this study highlight the importance of transitioning international athletes into college life. Once international athletes are on campus, a member of the athletic department staff should oversee the athlete’s transition into college life, focused on combating the top three challenges identified in this research: homesickness, adjustment to U.S. culture, and language. This staff member should serve as a liaison between athletic department personnel and other campus resources to facilitate a smooth transition.

**Key Words:** international student-athletes, recruiting, transition to college

### Introduction

Recruiting athletes from outside of the United States is a growing trend in college athletics as international student-athletes play an increasingly prominent role in NCAA competition (6, 9, 22). For coaches, who must recruit talented athletes in order to be successful, “the pressures to win, and the penalties for losing, are exacting. Many Division I coaches’ jobs are predicated on the strength of their programs, causing them to recruit the best talent they can find, in many cases from the international pool” (19, p. 860). Evidence of a worldwide search for talent is found in the 17,653 international student-athletes that competed in NCAA competition during the 2009-10 school year, a large increase from the just under 6,000 that competed a decade prior (11). Among Division I schools, over one-third of the male and female athletes in both tennis and ice hockey, and over one-eighth of male and female golfers, were born outside of the United States (11). In addition to increasing participation numbers, international athletes have dominated in individual sports like tennis and golf, and led teams to championship performances (13, 22). However, international athletes face many challenges in adjusting to the language, coursework, dorm life, food, cultural expectations, coaching, paperwork, and the style of play in the United States. As international athletes continue to leave their mark on NCAA sports, coaches and administrators benefit from understanding what difficulties come with transitioning to life as a student-athlete in the U.S. and how international athletes learn about the recruitment process.

Previous research has examined the adjustment process for both international students and international athletes to college. While researchers have noted that a lack of groups with which to socialize is a problem for many international students (7, 10, 20), international athletes have the advantage of being immediately placed within a team structure (14). However, athletes may still face similar obstacles to a successful transition including culture shock, cultural differences, academic adjustment, homesickness, discrimination, and contentment (5). Ridinger and Pastore (17) were the first to create a model of adjustment for international student-athletes, which included four antecedent factors (personal, interpersonal, perceptual, and cultural distance), and five types of adjustment (academic, social, athletic, personal-emotional, and institutional attachment), resulting in two outcomes (satisfaction and performance) to define successful adjustment to college.

Researchers have also examined the recruitment of international athletes. Not only can coaches create winning programs through the recruitment of international athletes, but coaches can also maintain successful teams with international athletes through the establishment of talent pipelines (3-4, 21). Bale (3) identified talent pipelines in which concentrations of athletes from certain countries were found in particular NCAA institutions, with coaches hoping that friend-to-friend recruiting will result in attracting elite athletes from a particular foreign country. Bale (3) noted that institutions unable to compete for homegrown talent, due to lack of prestige or unattractive campus location, established talent pipelines with a foreign country. For example, a talent pipeline of elite track and field stars from Kenya was found at schools like University of Texas El Paso and Washington State University, and a pipeline of track talent from Nigeria was identified at the University of Missouri and Mississippi State University (3). Talent pipelines are an important recruiting strategy, particularly when coaches are unable to compete for local athletes or local talent is not available for certain sports (21).

This research seeks to provide answers the following questions regarding the recruitment of international student-athletes and their transition to college life: (1) what is the most difficult aspect of the international university experience?; (2) what do international athletes identify as the most important factor for a successful transition to college?; (3) how did international athletes hear about athletic opportunities in the United States; (4) what advice would current international athletes give international athletes considering a move to the United States to participate in intercollegiate sport?; and (5) what would the athletes have done had they not played college sports in the United States?

### Methods

The sample for this study included N = 355 athletes from 15 NCAA Division I institutions, including n = 192 international athletes. Schools selected for this study were based on a need to collect data from purposive clusters of Division I institutions, given certain factors may influence international student-athletes’ experiences at their United States institution such as school size, the size of the community within which the school is located, and the geographic location of a school (3). Seven schools were members of the Football Bowl Series (FBS) conferences, while eight were not. Eleven conferences were represented in the study. Eight schools were located in large metro areas with populations over 400,000, while seven were located in communities with populations under 170,000. Six schools were located in the eastern third of the U.S., six were located in the Midwest, and three were located in the western third of the country.

The researchers solicited the assistance of CHAMPS/Life Skills coordinators from the 15 schools via phone to see if they would agree to participate in the study. The researchers then collected the names of all international student-athletes listed on website rosters. The coordinators were instructed to distribute the surveys to the student-athletes, who in turn completed the survey, sealed it in an envelope, and returned in to the coordinator. Participation in the survey was voluntary and a letter indicating the participant’s rights were included, per the approval obtained by the university Human Subjects Review Committee.

A total of 192 athletes representing 57 countries responded to the survey for a response rate of 39.6%. The top three countries represented were: Canada, 24%; England, 8.3%; and Puerto Rico, 7.8%. Males accounted for 45% of the sample and females accounted for 55%. The responses from the open-ended questions in the International Student-Athlete Survey were content analyzed. Two raters independently examined the data and codes were developed to categorize written responses (18). To test intercoder reliability, the coders independently examined 20% of the sample. The codebook and coding protocol were clearly understood, as the correction for chance agreement (Scott’s Pi) exceeded .8 for all but one question, which yielded an acceptable .77 (23).

In addition to frequency counts for each question, chi square was utilized to examine differences between demographic variables, including: gender, native area of origin (Canada, Europe, South America), length of time in the United States (0-2 years, 2.5 to 3.5 years, 4+ years), type of sport (team or individual), class standing (freshman/sophomore and junior/senior), whether or not the athlete used a campus visit, number of schools considered (0-2, 3+), and whether or not the athletes had a full scholarship.

### Results

Ten variables were identified for the first question, “what is the most difficult aspect of the international university experience?” Homesickness was the most difficult aspect, accounting for 24.1% of all answers, followed by adjusting to the U.S. culture, 20.5%; and adjusting to the language, 14.7%. Table 1 displays all ten coded answers for question 1. In order to examine the difference between various demographic variables through chi square analysis, the ten answers in Table 1 were re-coded into four variables (language and cultural adjustments, homesickness, athletic and academic transitions, financial and logistical difficulties, and other). First, chi square analysis revealed that European athletes were more likely to note language and cultural adjustments as a difficult aspect of the international university experience than non-European athletes (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 12.1, p = .017). Second, Canadian athletes were more likely to identify financial and logistical difficulties than non-Canadian athletes (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 29.8, p = .001). Third, athletes participating in individual sports were more likely to identify language and cultural adjustments as a difficult aspect than athletes on team sports, while athletes participating on team sports were more likely to identify homesickness than athletes on individual sports (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 11.4, p = .023). Finally, freshman/sophomore athletes were more likely to identify language and cultural adjustments than junior/senior athletes (χ2 (4, N = 278) = 11.7, p = .020).

Seven variables were identified for the second question, “what were the most important factors in helping you transition to university life in the United States?” Over one-third of respondents indicated that a strong support system from teammates and coaches on their college team was important, and 20.2% indicated that a strong support system from friends and family in their native county was important. Table 2 displays all seven coded answers from question 2. The answers in Table 2 were re-coded into two variables (support system identified as important, support system not identified as important). First, chi square analysis revealed that athletes from the Carribean/South America were less likely to cite the need for a support system from coaches, family, and friends than athletes not from that area (χ2 (4, N = 267) = 7.3, p = .006). Second, junior/senior athletes were more likely to identify the importance of a support system from coaches, family, or friends than freshman/sophomore athletes (χ2 (4, N = 265) = 6.9, p = .006).

Eight variables were identified for the third question, “How did you first learn about opportunities to earn university sports scholarships in the United States?” One-fourth of the respondents learned about these opportunities from friends, family, or other athletes, while another one-fourth indicated they learned from individuals who had previously participated in U.S. sports. Only 23.9% learned from personnel related to U.S. college sports (i.e. coaches and administrators). Table 3 displays all 8 coded answers from question 3. Chi square analysis revealed that athletes playing team sports obtained information regarding U.S. college sports differently than athletes participating in individual sports. Team sport athletes were more likely to obtain recruiting information from those involved in U.S. college sports (i.e. coaches and recruiters) than individual sport athletes (χ2 (1, N = 180) = 4.4, p = .030). Additionally, athletes participating in individual sports were more likely to learn about scholarship opportunities through personal relationships with family, friends, and athletes, while team sport athletes are more likely to learn about scholarship opportunities through those involved with the institutional sport structure (i.e. coaches, administrators, recruiting services) (χ2 (1, N = 180) = 4.9, p = .02)

In a related question, international athletes were asked to compare the athletic facilities and athletic opportunities in the United States and their home country. The respondents overwhelmingly indicated that both the facilities and opportunities were better in the United States. Only ten percent of the international athletes believed that either the facilities or opportunities in their home country were better than what was available in the United States.

Fourteen variables were identified for the fourth question, “what advice would current international athletes give international athletes considering a move to the United States to participate in intercollegiate sport?” However, only four variables occurred in greater than 7% of the responses. The top piece of advice given by one-fifth of the respondents was to realize that playing sports in the U.S. will require important traits like focus, dedication, hard work, and persistence in order to overcome challenges. Second, 18.9% encouraged prospective international athletes to do adequate research on schools before deciding which school to attend, such as getting to know the coaches, athletes, and athletic facilities. Third, 14.2% recommended making the decision to play in the United States because it was such as an excellent opportunity. Fourth, 11.8% indicated it is important to consider academics and majors that can be used to obtain employment in their native country, meaning it is important to find the best overall fit between academics and athletics when deciding on a school.

Finally, international athletes were asked, “what would you be doing now if you had not had this opportunity to play for an NCAA university?” Responses were categorized by what the athlete would be doing (i.e. working, attending college, playing sports) and where they would be living (i.e. native country, United States), as presented in Table 4. Only seven athletes indicated they would be attending college in the United States, while 105 respondents indicated they would be attending college in their native country and only 33 would have continued to play sports in their native country.

### Discussion

American NCAA Division I universities provide opportunities for elite athletes from outside the U.S. to pursue their university degree while continuing to train and compete at a high athletic level, an opportunity not possible in many other countries. However, international athletes face challenges in adjusting to life as a student-athlete. It should come as little surprise that international athletes felt the most difficult aspects of playing university sport in the U.S. were dealing with homesickness, cultural differences, and language barriers. Many cross-cultural sojourners find themselves dealing with similar issues once the initial excitement of being submerged in a new culture wears off (1, 12). In fact, the greater the cultural distance between the sojourner’s native country and the host nation, the greater the adjustments international athletes would be expected to make (17). As was demonstrated in the results, Canadians, whose native country is culturally quite similar to the U.S., were much less likely to indicate a concern with homesickness, cultural differences, and language barriers (for many Canadians, the language barrier is non-existent). Canadian athletes were much more concerned with financial and travel logistics. The results also indicated that freshman and sophomores struggle with these issues more than experienced athletes in their junior and senior years.

The respondents to the survey revealed two key strategies to overcoming these difficulties and successfully transitioning into life as a student athlete during the first year on campus. First, international athletes indicated the high importance of understanding what international-student athletes are “getting themselves into” before committing to an NCAA school. Advice dispensed by the sample in this study focused on understanding the dedication and commitment required of an NCAA Division I athlete, knowing the differences between schools, coaches, and athletic programs at various universities, and learning which schools and academic programs could offer international athletes the best opportunities back in their home country after their college career is complete.

This strategy aligns with prior research. Craven (8) suggested the more athletes and coaching staffs are prepared and educated about the cultural differences they may experience while submerged in another culture, the easier their transition and adjustment to the new environment will be. In Bale’s work, several of his subjects suggested the U.S. college experience was not what they thought it would be, as over 30% encountered problems with U.S. coaches, nearly 25% had difficulties adjusting to the climate in their new location, and over 20% lacked motivation with academic work (2). When offered the chance to be a varsity athlete at an NCAA Division I school, many international athletes are initially so excited about the opportunity and chance to travel to the United States that the location and environment of the specific school they attend is not a key factor (15-16). As the results of this study indicate, however, current international athletes believe it is important for international student-athlete prospects to consider many issues beyond just an opportunity to compete in the U.S. college system before making the commitment to attend a U.S. university.

The second key factor in transitioning into life as a student-athlete is the development of a support system first built on teammates and coaches, but also built on family and friends back home. It is important for coaches and teammates to understand that international student-athletes identified developing a support system with them as the most important element of a successful transition. It is clear the relationships developed with the people international athletes spend the most time with are a key determinant to a successful transition. Coaches should also ensure international athletes have the technical support to maintain relationships with those at home through various video, chat, and online communication resources.

Another key finding in this study was that most of the respondents would not have moved to the U.S. or continued to participate in sports without the opportunities presented through American intercollegiate sport. One of the attractions of U.S. college sport is access to high quality facilities and abundant opportunities. Results indicated that the respondents felt the athletic facilities and athletic opportunities available to them as an NCAA Division I athlete were superior to their options in their native country. This finding could potentially be skewed as young athletes who did have access to better facilities and opportunities in their homeland may not have considered playing in the U.S. college system. However, this finding has key implications for sport managers outside of the U.S. Administrators of sport clubs in non-U.S. countries may lose elite athletes at the peak of their career as those athletes choose to accept an NCAA scholarship. If such club administrators hope to retain these athletes, they may need to examine the attraction of competing in the U.S. collegiate sport system (namely competitive opportunities and facilities) and attempt to replicate those factors in their native country. More research examining this specific issue is needed.

Finally, one surprising finding from this study is only a quarter of respondents indicated university athletic department staff, such as coaches and administrators, were the key source of information regarding the opportunity to compete in the United States college system. As illustrated in the introduction to this paper, recruiting is arguably the most important element in developing an elite college athletic program and many university athletic departments dedicate a relatively large percentage of their resources towards this endeavor. Yet the recruiting process does not seem to be overly efficient in reaching international prospects. Many of the respondents in this study indicated family, friends, and acquaintances that had competed in the U.S. college system were more important sources of information about playing opportunities at NCAA schools than were the coaches whose job it is to recruit these athletes. This study illustrates the need for coaches to more effectively and efficiently recruit the international landscape.

### Conclusions

American college sports provide an opportunity for athletes from countries outside the U.S. to continue their playing careers and educational training in the United States where high-level athletic facilities and strong competitive opportunities abound. International student-athletes must overcome many challenges and obstacles upon arrival on campus, including homesickness, adapting to the culture, and learning the language. Coaches and teammates play an important role in helping international athletes develop a support system that will assist in the successful transition to a student-athlete. Athletic administrators also play a key role, as discussed in the next section.

### Applications In Sport

Once international athletes are on campus, a member of the athletic department staff should oversee the athlete’s transition into college life, focused on combating the top three challenges identified in this research: homesickness, adjustment to U.S. culture, and language. This staff member should serve as a liaison between athletic department personnel (i.e. CHAMPS Life Skills coordinators, compliance, eligibility, coaches) and other campus resources (i.e. academic advising, international office) to facilitate a smooth transition. The liaison can coordinate paperwork deadlines, information updates, cultural sensitivity training in the athletic department, and any programming that might benefit the international athletes. Such programming could include a peer mentoring program, utilizing transition to college coursework, placing international athletes with experts in teaching the English language, offering open forums for athletes to socialize with athletes from other teams, developing information packets with multicultural resources in the community and university, and establishing relationships with host families in the community (under the supervision of the compliance office). Acquainting athletes with American college life should begin as soon as possible, either on an official visit or having international athletes arrive on campus as early as possible to adjust to the language, culture, food, teammates, and academic expectations. Finally, developing a strong relationship with the international office is important in order to ensure all government paperwork is completely in an accurate and timely fashion.

Finally, in contrast to domestic athletes who take official and unofficial visits and have many other opportunities to develop relationships with coaches who are recruiting them, international athletes rely on their personal support system (i.e. club coaches, former athletes, family, friends) to gather information on U.S. colleges. NCAA coaches must continue to improve their international recruiting connections with former athletes and club coaches because they are still the top source of information about competing in the U.S. college system. If NCAA coaches want to successfully recruit international athletes, they should focus on improving recruiting connections with key members of an athlete’s personal support system. Previous research by Bale (2-4) has established some institutions are able to develop talent pipelines where information about an institution is disseminated by athletes who competed for a particular school in the past.

### References

1. Adler, P. (1975). The transitional experience: An alternative view of culture shock. The Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 15, 13-23.
2. Bale, J. (1987). Alien student-athletes in American higher education: Locational decision making and sojourn abroad. Physical Education Review, 10(2), 81-93.
3. Bale, J. (1991). The brawn drain: Foreign student-athletes in American universities. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
4. Bale, J. (2003). Sports geography (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.
5. Berkowitz, K. (2006). From around the world. Athletic Management, 18(6). Available online at <http://www.athleticmanagement.com/2007/01/15/from_around_the_world/index.php>
6. Brown, G.T. (2004, Dec. 6). Foreign matter: Influx of internationals in college swimming tugs on bond between campus and country. The NCAA News, p. 5.
7. Chapdelaine, R., & Alextich, L. (2004). Social skills difficulty: Model of culture shock for international graduate students. Journal of College Student Development, 45, 167-184.
8. Craven, J. (1994). Cross-cultural impacts of effectiveness in sport. In R.C. Wilcox (Ed.) Sport in the global village, (pp. 433-448). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology, Inc.
9. Drape, J. (2006, Apr. 11). Foreign pros in college tennis: On top and under scrutiny. The New York Times, p. D1.
10. Furnham, A., & Bochner, S. (1986). Culture shock: Psychological reactions to unfamiliar environments. London: Methuen.
11. NCAA. (2010). 1999-00 – 2009-10 NCAA student-athlete race and ethnicity report. Available online at <http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/SAEREP11.pdf>
12. Oberg, K. (1960). Cultural shock: Adjustment to new cultural environments. Practical Anthropology, 7, 177-182.
13. Pierce, D., Kaburakis, A., & Fielding, L. (2010). The new amateurs: The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s application of amateurism in a global sports arena. International Journal of Sport Management, 11(2), 304-327.
14. Popp. (2006, September). International student-athlete adjustment to U.S. universities: Testing the Ridinger and Pastore model. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for Sport Management, Nicosia, Cyprus.
15. Popp, N., Love, A., Kim, S, & Hums, M.A. (2010). International student-athlete adjustment: Examining the antecedent factors of the Ridinger and Pastore theoretical framework model. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 3, 163-181.
16. Popp, N., Pierce, D., & Hums, M.A. (in press). A comparison of the college selection process for international and domestic student athletes at NCAA division I universities. Sport Management Review.
17. Ridinger, L. & Pastore, D. (2000). A proposed framework to identify factors associated with international student-athlete adjustment to college. International Journal of Sport Management, 1(1), 4-24.
18. Riffe, D., Lacy, S., & Fico, F. G. (2005). Analyzing media messages: Using quantitative content analysis in research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
19. Weston, M. A. (2006). Internationalization in college sports: Issues in recruiting, amateurism, and scope, 42 Williamette Law Review 829.
20. Westwood, M., & Barker, M. (1990). Academic achievement and social adaptation among international students: A comparison groups study of the peer-pairing program. International Journal of Intercultural relations, 14, 251-263.
21. Wilson, R. (2008). A Texas team loads up on All-American talent, with no Americans. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(18), p. A30-A31.
22. Wilson, R., & Wolverton, B. (2008). The new face of college sports. Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(18), p. A27-A29.
23. Wimmer, R., & Dominick, J. (2006). Mass media research: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

### Tables

#### Table 1
Most Difficult Aspects of International University Experience

Response Frequency Percent
Homesickness 67 24.1
Adjustment to U.S. culture 57 20.5
Language adjustment 41 14.7
Adjustment to being an athlete 23 8.3
Other 21 7.6
Time management 19 6.8
Academic transition 18 6.5
Financial insecurity or finding a job 15 5.4
Paperwork 12 4.3
Finding transportation 5 1.8
Total 267

Note: Respondents could have multiple answers in their written response

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .89

#### Table 2
Important Factors for Successful Transition to University Life

Response Frequency Percent
Strong support system from teammates and coaches 91 34.1
Strong support system from friends and family back home 54 20.2
Possess of key personality traits (experience, desire, patience, etc.) 49 18.4
Strong support system from academic advisors, tutors, professors, and administrators 25 9.4
Adapting to U.S. culture and the English language 20 7.5
Other 15 5.6
Time management and organization 13 4.9
Total 267

Note: Respondents could have multiple answers in their written response

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .82

#### Table 3
Source of Information Regarding Athletic Opportunity in the United States

Response Frequency Percent
Family, friends, and athletes 45 25
Individuals who had participated in U.S. athletics previously 44 24.4
Coaches and recruiters involved in U.S. college sports 43 23.9
In native country from high school coach or administrator 29 16.1
Personal research 10 5.6
Other 5 2.8
Sport recruitment service 4 2.2
Total 180

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .87

#### Table 4
Life without American College Sports

Working Attending College Playing Sports Total
Native Country 14 105 33 152
Not Specified 9 15 13 37
U.S. 0 7 0 7
Total 23 127 46 196

Intercoder Agreement: Scott’s Pi = .85

### Corresponding Author

Dr. David Pierce
Ball State University
School of Physical Education, Sport, and Exercise Science
Muncie, IN 47306

2013-11-22T22:56:03-06:00January 4th, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Facilities, Sports Management, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Qualitative Analysis of International Student-Athlete Perspectives on Recruitment and Transitioning into American College Sport

Effects of American Football on Height in High School Players

### Abstract

The aim of the present study was to investigate height change of high school football players during a single game. Ten high school football players served as participants. The participants were selected according to position and expected playing time. The chosen positions experience the repetitive longitudinal loading of the spine that may lead to a creep response in the vertebral disk. Height was measured using a standard physician beam scale with height rod. A practicing certified athletic trainer served as the tester for all measures (pre – post). A paired samples T-test was performed to determine significance between height before and after the game. A significant difference was shown in height magnitude (Mpre = 176.56±6.9cm, Mpost = 175.81±6.94cm, p = .032). The results indicate that high school football players’ height decreases during the course of a game. This process is likely due to the creep response caused by intermittent high impact compressive loading of the spinal column, as well as low impact continuous compressive forces from equipment weight.

**Key words:** American football, compression, spinal shrinkage, creep response

### Introduction

American football (football) places many physical demands on its participants due to the aggressive nature of the sport. External forces from running, blocking and tackling can cause much stress on the human body. Even with protective equipment such as helmets and pads, these forces are inevitable. During the course of a game, football players may experience substantial longitudinal loading of vertebral column from the compressive forces of running and tackling as well as the continuous load due to equipment mass. This loading of the spine may accelerate the creep response which could result in a decrease in height after a game.

Spinal creep is a process by which continual loading or compressive forces placed upon the spinal column cause a reduction in the vertical size of the intervertebral discs. This creep response is due to the viscoelastic properties of the intervertebral discs of the spinal column, and is also referred to as spinal shrinkage. When compressive loading of the spine exceeds the interstitial osmotic pressure of the discal tissue, water is expelled from the intervertebral discs. This results in a loss of disc height which is reflected as a loss in stature (11). Since the spinal column composes about 40% of total body length, and the intervertebral discs account for roughly one-third of the length of the spinal column (Reilly, 2002), fluid loss from the discs can potentially cause substantial change in stature.

Studies of the intervertebral discs have shown that by narrowing in response to compressive forces, the discs also stiffen, which alters the dynamic response characteristics of the intervertebral disc complex (7). Once the disc has been narrowed and stiffened, its ability to absorb sudden direct and indirect changes in force is reduced, and thus the disc is therefore more susceptible to injury (9), and is often suggested to be a major causal factor of back pain (8). Some of the sports that have the highest risk of these injuries are football, ice hockey, and rugby (1). Within the sport of football it is believed that there is an increase in risk factors associated with spinal creep that may cause many athletes to develop low back pain (5). Because specific spine injuries like fracture, disc herniation, and spondylolysis are more frequent in football players (5), the occurrence of spinal shrinkage during a football game may be greater than other activities.

Studies have investigated spinal shrinkage in various activities ranging from running (4), weight lifting (3) and circuit training (6), but currently there exists a gap in the literature surrounding spinal creep and American football. The compressive loads that can affect the vertebral column include gravity, changes in motion, truncal muscle activity, external forces and external work (13) all factors that can be involved in football. These factors may lead to an accelerated creep response which could result in a decrease in height after a game. In a sport such as football, any minute decrease in stature may mean the difference between blocking a last second field goal, or making a game winning catch. Chronic exposure to these factors may also lead to back pain or injuries to the spine or discs. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the amount of shrinkage due to spinal loading during a high school football game.

### Methods

#### Participants

Ten high school football players took part in the study. Mean values for height and weight were 176.6±6.9cm and 86.4± 9.5kg, respectively. All players were high school seniors aged 18 years and were selected according to position and expected playing time. The positions chosen were ones that experience the repetitive longitudinal loading of the spine that may lead to a creep response in the vertebral discs. This information was determined after interviewing the coach for the team and from observations made at other similar games. Based on these criteria, eligible (18yr old) players were recruited who started at the following positions: linebackers, running backs, and linemen. Players were also selected who would be likely to play the entire game with very few rest breaks.

#### Apparatus

A standard physician beam scale with height rod was used in this study for measuring changes in stature before and after participation in the game. All measurements were collected by a practicing certified athletic trainer. The apparatus was accurate to within 0.01 inches and all measurements were converted to millimeters.

#### Procedures

The football game used for this experiment was an evening high school football game, which took place after a regular day of school. An evening game was selected to ensure that any shrinkage occurring from normal daily activities would not affect the results of the study. Participants were measured barefoot while standing and wore t-shirt and shorts for both pre-game and post-game measurements. Pre-game measurements were taken prior to warm ups to ensure that starting heights reflected absolutely no football activity. Post-game measurements were taken immediately after completion of the game. Three consecutive measurements were taken each time by the certified athletic trainer to ensure that the apparatus was reliable.

#### Data Analysis

The effects of playing football on changes in stature were analyzed using a paired sample T-test. Post hoc power calculations were performed following any statistically significant finding. Comparisons were made between the pre- and post-game height measurements. All statistical analyses were performed with the use of a modern computer software package (SPSS 17.0 for Macintosh, G*Power 3). Statistical significance was set a priori at an alpha level > 0.05.

### Results

The mean and standard deviation for the pre-game height measurements was 176.6 ± 6.9 cm. Post-game measurements yielded a mean and standard deviation of 175.8 ± 6.9 cm. The results show that there was a significant increase in spinal shrinkage due to participation in a high school football game (p =0.032, power = 0.674). The average height loss for the ten participants was 7.62 (±SD = 9.25) mm.

### Discussion

The present study showed that participation in a high school football game causes measurable height differences before and after the game, the demonstrated mean loss of stature was 7.62mm. It can be assumed that the decrease in height is due to the increased external forces and equipment weight that are involved in the sport. These potentially lead to a rise in the intradiscal pressure and fluid to be expelled, resulting in a reduction in disc height. Though it is logical that loss of intervertebral disc height is responsible for all variations in height, it is also possible that the cartilage in joints and the soft tissue covering the scalp and soles of the feet may have been compressed. However, the total height of the intrajoint cartilage is small and the degree of compression is thought to be negligible (6). The soft tissue covering the scalp is also thin and the height rod of the scale used for measurement would compress the tissue to an insignificant level. The tissue covering the soles of the feet might also be compressed upon standing but it is likely that equilibrium was quickly reached (6). As a result, the measured changes in stature can be considered to reflect only the changes in disc height.

The spinal shrinkage recorded during a football game was greater than what was observed in previous research of other activities. The 7.62 mm decrease in stature in this study was greater than the 3.25 mm decrease during a 6 km run (6), 5.4 mm decrease during circuit-weight training (6), 3.6 mm decrease during weight training (3), and 1.81 mm during a drop jump regimen (2). Although shrinkage during participation in football was greater than other activities, it is not the greatest recorded occurrence of spinal shrinkage. The results of this study are comparable to the 7.8 mm loss in height during a 19 km run (6), and much less than the recorded loss of 11.2 mm during static loading with a 40 kg barbell (14).

A study that examined spinal recovery in pregnant women showed that women with lower back pain were unable to recover from spinal shrinkage to the same extent as women with no lower back pain (12). These findings suggest that lower back pain may be related to the diminished ability to recover, rather than the magnitude of the spinal shrinkage imposed during the task. Since there is believed to be a relationship between football and the development of lower back pain (5), this could suggest that football players may have a diminished ability to recover from spinal compression. This may be provoked by the magnitude and frequency of spinal loading that a football player is subjected to.

The inability of the spine to recover may also lead to serious acute and chronic injuries to the spine and discs. Football is considered to be one of the sports with the highest risks for the occurrence of spinal injuries (1). Many of the spinal injuries that are common in football include fractures, disc herniation, and spondylolysis (5). There may also be a positive correlation between the years of involvement in football and the chances of developing degenerative disc disease (5).

### Conclusions

Based on prior research, it can be assumed that more spinal shrinkage occurs during participation in a football game as compared to other less impactful activities because of a greater spinal load. Football players experience this load on the spine not only from running, but also from the static load from the weight of equipment and from direct impact forces caused by collisions with other players. Both these components, running (6) and static loading of the spine (14), have been found to cause accelerated loss in stature. This combination, along with the collisions during a football game, may be the reason for greater spinal shrinkage.

Although the present study was conducted on high school players, the results should be also consistent with higher levels of play. A previous study was conducted to compare the response to spinal loading between different age groups of males (10). When comparing younger males (18-25 years of age) and older males (47-60 years of age), it was found that regardless of age the pattern of spinal shrinkage between the two groups was similar. Based on this research, high school, college, and professional football players should experience a similar response to spinal loading during a game.

### Applications In Sport

In a game such as football, winning and losing can be a matter of inches. If a player decreases in height at the end of a game, the extra length could be the difference in catching a football, blocking a kick, or batting down a pass. Thus this height difference might be the difference between winning and losing. The degree of hydration may play a role in the extent of the creep effect and should not be overlooked. It may be beneficial to conduct future research on the effects of height decrease on athletic performance. Future research may also investigate if frequent practice of spinal unloading throughout a player’s career can prevent or reduce spinal injuries and back pain.

### References

1. Boden, B., Jarvis, C. (2009). Spinal injuries in sports. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 20(1), 55-68
2. Boocock, M. G., Garbutt, G., Linge, K., Reilly, T., Troup J. D. (1989). Changes in stature following drop jumping and post-exercise gravity inversion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 22(3), 385-390
3. Bourne, N., Reilly, T. (1991). Effects of a weightlifting belt on spinal shrinkage. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 25(4), 209-212
4. Dowzer, C., Reilly, T., Cable, N. (1998). Effects of deep and shallow water running on spinal shrinkage. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 32, 44-48
5. Gerbino, P., d’Hemecourt, P. (2002). Does football cause an increase in degenerative disease of the lumbar spine? Current Sports Medicine Reports, 1(1), 47-51
6. Leatt, P., Reilly, T., Troup J. D. G. (1986). Spinal loading during circuit weight-training and running. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 20(3), 119-124
7. Markolf, K. (1972). Deformation of the thoracolumbar intervertebral joints in response to external loads. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, A, 511-533
8. Nachemson, A. L. (1976). The lumbar spine: an orthopedic challenge. Spine, 1(1), 59-69
9. Perey, O. (1957). Fracture of the vertebral end plate in the lumbar spine: an experimental biomechanical investigation. Acta Orthop Surg Suppl, 25, 1-100
10. Reilly, T., Freeman, K. A. (2006). Effects of loading on spinal shrinkage in males Of different age groups. Applied Ergonomics, 37(3), 305-310
11. Reilly, T., Tyrrell, A., Troup, J. D. G. (1984). Circadian variation in human stature. Chronobiology International, 1, 121-126
12. Rodacki, C. L., Fowler, N. E., Rodacki, A. L., Birch, K. (2003). Stature loss and recovery in pregnant women with and without low back pain. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 84(4), 507-512
13. Troup, J. D. G. (1979). Biomechanics of the vertebral column. Physiotherapy, 65(8), 238-244
14. Tyrrell, A., Reilly, T., Troup, J. D. G. (1984). Circadian variation in human stature and the effects of spinal loading. Spine, 10, 161-164

### Figures

#### Figure 1
Percent change in height pre- to post-game among high school athletes participating in American football.

![Figure 1](/files/volume-14/447/figure-1.jpg)

### Corresponding Author

Brian J. Campbell, PhD, ATC
Department of Kinesiology
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
225 Cajundome Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70506
(337) 501-0634

Brian J. Campbell is the Curriculum Coordinator of Exercise Science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dave Bellar, PhD is the Exercise Physiology Lab Director at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Kristina Estis is a Certified Athletic Trainer for Champion Sports Medicine at St. Vincent’s Birmingham. Tori Guidry is an undergraduate student of Exercise Science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Matt Lopez is a DPT student at the University of South Alabama.

2013-11-22T22:56:36-06:00January 3rd, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Coaching, Sports Exercise Science, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|Comments Off on Effects of American Football on Height in High School Players

NCAA Division I Athletics: Amateurism and Exploitation

### Abstract

In recent days, there has been increased dialogue concerning the topic of compensating college athletes above athletic scholarships. The purpose of this paper was to discuss the NCAA and its member institutions’ exploitation of student-athletes. Amateurism and exploitation were defined and discussed in relation to NCAA Division I athletics. The evolution of intercollegiate athletics and the student-athlete was reviewed in order to better understand the motives for today’s exploitive practices. Using Wertheimer’s two arguments for the exploitation of student-athletes, it was demonstrated some student-athletes are victims of exploitation. However, after examining mutually advantageous exploitation and consensual exploitation, it was determined not all student-athletes are exploited. The NCAA and those responsible for setting student-athlete policy should discuss the implications of these conclusions.

**Key words:** college athletics, NCAA, amateurism, exploitation, student-athletes, athletic scholarships

### Introduction

Last winter, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) president Mark Emmert was asked by a group of sports media members about the possibility of paying college athletes. Emmert responded, “We can never move to a place where we are paying players to play sports for us” (Garcia, 2010, para. 9). “No, it will not happen – not while I’m president of the NCAA,” he later stated (“NCAA president,” 2011, para. 17). These comments sparked the reoccurring ethical discussion concerning the topic of amateurism and exploitation in college athletics. While many believe as amateurs, college athletes are receiving more than their fair share through athletic scholarships, others argue universities are exploiting their own student-athletes. The questions remain unanswered. Should college athletes be compensated beyond their athletic scholarships, and specifically, are the NCAA and its institutions exploiting student-athletes?

The questions involved in this discussion are unable to be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” In order to knowledgeably discuss the subject, there first needs to be a foundational understanding of the basic terms of amateurism and exploitation. In addition, the relationship between the two terms and intercollegiate athletics should be clearly defined. A history of the evolution of college sports and the role of student-athletes over the last two centuries must be examined also. The author will attempt to use all of this information to answer several key questions related to the topic of paying college athletes in order to determine if student-athletes are being exploited and, if exploited should they be compensated above their athletic scholarships?

Surprisingly, studies have not demonstrated an overwhelming support for paying student-athletes above their athletic scholarships. Schneider (2001) investigated college students’ perceptions of giving compensation to intercollegiate athletes in addition to the standard grant-in-aids. Of the 458 students (275 males and 183 females from 1 Division 1 athletic conference) surveyed, only a slight majority (54%) of the students believed athletes should receive additional compensation. Nevertheless, it is a subject that has again (even recently) become a hot topic in college athletics.

#### Amateurism and Exploitation in Collegiate Athletics

When it comes to debating whether or not college athletes should be paid, the two most often used terms are amateurism and exploitation. Neither term is new to intercollegiate athletics. Actually, both subjects have been topics of discussion for the NCAA since its inception in the early 1900s (“History,” 2010). Today, these two words drive both sides’ arguments concerning paying and exploiting student-athletes.

##### Amateurism Defined

Simply put, collegiate amateurism refers to the fact the athletes do not receive remuneration for their athletic services. College athletes today are referred to as student-athletes. The governing body of college athletics, the NCAA, views these individuals as students, not as professionals or employees of their member schools. Thus, student-athletes are not currently monetarily compensated (Murphy & Pace, 1994). According to the NCAA, student-athletes’ participation in athletics is just another part of their entire education, not the primary purpose for attending college (Meggyesy, 2000).

Late in the 19th century, college authorities conceived this idea of amateurism in an effort to maintain schools’ educational integrity and middle- and upper- class standing by not technically paying athletes (Flowers, 2009). “A Gentleman never competes for money,” once wrote author Walter Camp (Flowers, 2009, p. 354). As sports’ popularity and revenues increased over the next several years, athletes were given incentives such as free room, board, and tuition. In the middle of the 1900s, the NCAA instituted its key piece of legislation, the Sanity Code, in an attempt to preserve amateur sports while still allowing schools to compensate athletes (Kahn, 2007). By including room, board, and tuition in grant-in-aids (i.e. athletic scholarships), schools were able to reward student-athletes without paying them directly. After the Sanity Code’s establishment of athletic scholarships, the term “amateurism,” not “professionalism,” would be united officially with college athletics (Byers, 1997; Flowers, 2009).

In addition to assigning a fixed amount to athletic scholarships, there are additional ways the NCAA continues to preserve the “amateur” label in collegiate sports. Although the NCAA and the schools reserve the right to use a player’s images and names for commercial purposes, no athlete may be endorsed by or receive any payment from businesses or corporations (Suggs, 2009; Murphy & Pace, 1994). Student-athletes also may not receive financial assistant in addition to their grant-in-aids or be paid for any work with private sports camps related to their sport (Byers, 1997).

##### Exploitation Defined

The biggest issue in the subject of paying college athletes is the idea the NCAA and its member institutions are exploiting student-athletes. Throughout the years, exploitation has been defined countless ways by individuals discussing various topics such as economic, politics, and sports (Wertheimer, 2008). For the discussion involving college athletics, exploitation should be defined as an individual gaining something by taking an unfair advantage of another individual (Wertheimer, 2007).

There are generally two arguments used to demonstrate the exploitation of student-athletes. The first is student-athletes, many of whom are making large amounts of money for their schools, often are not receiving any kind of legitimate, quality education. The second is compensation student-athletes receive in the form of athletic scholarships is not comparable to the marginal revenue products they individually generate for colleges (Wertheimer, 2007; Brown & Jewell, 2004).

Before examining further these two claims, some distinctions must be made. Wertheimer (2008) maintains there are several specific types of exploitation that apply to this discussion. The first, called mutually advantageous exploitation, refers to a situation where both parties, both the one doing the exploiting and the one being exploited, gain from the agreement. The second is referred to as consensual exploitation and involves an instance where individuals who are exploited have given voluntarily consent to the situation prior to the transaction. In situations involving these types of exploitation, it can be argued nothing morally wrong has occurred.

In most circumstances involving exploitation, the issue is not whether exploited individuals are making any gains but rather they are not receiving what they ought to receive. In other words, those being exploited are not getting what is considered fair (Wertheimer, 2008). In the example of the exploitation of student-athletes, the specific issue is “they do not receive an appropriate return on the financial surplus” they create for their universities (Wertheimer, 2007, p. 366).

#### The Evolution of Intercollegiate Sports and the Student-Athlete

The face of intercollegiate athletics has changed drastically in the last two centuries. What started as nothing more than student-organized competitions has turned into what has been described as a “sports entertainment enterprise” (Flowers, 2009; Meggyesy, 2000, p. 25). Students who once went to school only for an education and participated in these kinds of competitions in their free time now often attend these same universities solely for the purpose of participating in sports. In most situations, they end up devoting hundreds of hours to sports-related activities and end up becoming athletes first and students second. The end result is a system that uses students to generate millions of dollars for both the NCAA and its universities.

##### The Origins of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Student-Athlete

Modern intercollegiate athletics have their foundations in intra-collegiate competitions. Sports were largely an unknown on most college campuses until the early 1800s when college students began organizing their own class (e.g. freshman, sophomore, etc.) teams to compete against other classes. The popularity of these different competitions grew over the next 50 years to the point that by the 1850s, universities were forming their own intercollegiate teams. At first, school authorities frowned upon these seemingly frivolous and sometimes violent competitions. But by the late 19th century, American colleges recognized the prestige that came from winning intercollegiate contests and the visibility sports teams provided for the school were too valuable to ignore. As the popularity of intercollegiate sports grew, schools realized they could manufacture additional income by charging spectators admission to events. Prestige, visibility, and money – intercollegiate athletics would now be a permanent fixture on college campuses (Flowers, 2009).

The next conclusion drawn by colleges was obvious, and it shaped intercollegiate athletics into what they are today. How can a school garner more prestige, visibility, and money? Win more games. How can a team win more games? Get the best players. So in an effort to field the best teams, schools began accepting students who never would have been admitted previously to these institutions. In order to lure athletes, colleges started in the 1870s to offer both graduates and undergraduates financial assistance in the form of room and board, jobs, and even small cash considerations in exchange for their athletic services (Flowers, 2009). In response to the “dangerous and exploitive athletics practices of the time,” college authorities joined together in 1906 to form the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, which would later change its name to the NCAA (“History,” 2010, para. 1). In actuality, this new organization was intended to officially legitimize athletics in higher education and control athlete admission to and distribution amongst colleges (thus hopefully eliminating some of the questionable practices of several schools) (Flowers, 2009; Kahn, 2007).

With sports’ popularity growing and athletic revenues increasing, by the 1940s several schools were unashamedly paying their athletes (Kahn, 2007). Realizing amateur intercollegiate athletics were turning into professional athletics, the NCAA modified its constitution in 1956 to allow schools to offer grant-in-aid to any undergraduate athlete. In addition, the NCAA coined the term “student-athlete” (instead of “employee”) to describe those receiving athletic scholarships (Byers, 1997). The amateur code was officially established, and the student-athlete was born.

##### Modern Intercollegiate Sports and Student-Athletes

The current NCAA Division I intercollegiate sports program has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry where many of the schools’ annual revenues reach above $260 million (Meggyesy, 2000). In addition to fielding teams in the money-making sports of men’s basketball, football, and ice hockey, schools also run programs for sports such as baseball, lacrosse, softball, soccer, swimming, volleyball, and wrestling (Kahn, 2007). Because these programs are not self-supported, they rely on revenues from the men’s basketball and football programs and often some additional state funding (Suggs, 2009). It is not uncommon for the coaches of Division I teams to earn several hundred thousand to several million dollars every year (Wieberg, 2011).

Researchers and economists who have studied intercollegiate athletics have described today’s NCAA as a cartel (Deschriver & Stotlar, 1996; Zimbalist, 2001). A cartel is defined as a joint group of members who create policies in order to promote the mutual interests of the members (Kahn, 2007). Koch (1983) argued the NCAA’s cartel behavior is manifested when it regulates the means of acquiring athletes, puts a fixed value on the amount given to student-athletes, controls the rights to televising athletic events, periodically distributes its profits to members, and enforces policy on its members. According to the NCAA, all of this is done in an effort to create equal opportunity for monetary profit, athlete distribution, and athletic success (Kahn, 2007; Koch, 1983).

The NCAA itself, a non-profit educational organization with 270 employees, has an annual budget of $32 million (Meggyesy, 2000). Each year, it distributes over $500 million to its member schools (Suggs, 2009). Nearly all of the money is collected from revenue generated by men’s basketball and football, specifically the television rights to men’s college basketball’s March Madness and football’s Bowl Championship Series. Just this past year, the NCAA signed a 14-year, $10.8 billion contract with CBS and Turner Sports to have the exclusive rights to show the men’s college basketball tournament (Wieberg, 2011).

History has demonstrated today’s universities recruit student-athletes for the purpose of helping sports teams achieve success on the playing field and thereby increase the school’s prestige and overall revenue. Using financial records from NCAA Division I-A universities as well as NFL and NBA draft data from 1995-1998, Brown and Jewell (2004) estimated a draft-quality college football player earns $406,000 in revenue annually for his school, while a college basketball player earns $1.194 million. Schools today treat student-athletes as more than just typical students (Suggs, 2009). They are given academic assistance, game tickets, clothing and equipment, medical treatment, weight and conditioning training, and money towards room, board, and tuition. A recent analysis by USA TODAY determined the average NCAA Division I men’s basketball player receives at least $120,000 in goods and services each year (Weiner & Berkowitz, 2011). But while these athletes are not living in poverty, the question still remains. Are student-athletes being exploited?

#### Are Today’s Student-Athletes Truly Exploited?

The 2011-2012 NCAA Manual states the mission of the NCAA is to protect student-athletes “from exploitation by professionalism and commercial enterprises” (2011, p. 4). Many would contend the NCAA itself is responsible for exploiting student-athletes. Their proof would hinge on the two previously mentioned arguments that many of these students are receiving neither a legitimate education nor fair compensation for their athletic services (Wertheimer, 2007). In addition to considering Wertheimer’s two arguments, the terms mutually advantageous exploitation and consensual exploitation also factor into this discussion.

##### Wertheimer’s First Argument

Universities’ educational practices are quickly called into question when college players make comments similar to the one made by University of Connecticut men’s basketball’s Kemba Walker. While being questioned this past March about his schooling, the junior basketball star said, “[Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete] is the first book I’ve ever read” (Layden, 2011, para. 26). Often, there are times when athletes are put into either easier courses or courses whose professors are known to like student-athletes so athletes are able to achieve and receive higher grades (Zimbalist, 2001). In these situations, the argument is student-athletes (B) are being exploited by schools (A) because A is profiting thousands, sometimes millions, from B’s efforts while B is receiving nothing of lasting significance (i.e. a quality education) (Wertheimer, 2007).

In response to this argument, the question is whether student-athletes are forced into these positions. It should be determined if student-athletes are required to attend educational institutions with weak or questionable academics. The best schools are not available to everyone. Some athletes are only recruited by schools with poor academic records. Although players are not forced to attend one of those schools, some are financially unable to attend college without the help of an athletic scholarship. A student-athlete under such circumstances would be considered a victim of exploitation. As for an athlete who has his choice of the best schools and still selects a poor academic institution, it has been argued that although he was not coerced into attending a particular school, a teenager should not be expected to choose a school based on whether or not that school will provide him with quality educational opportunities. In this situation, a case for exploitation could also be made (Wertheimer, 2007).

It also must be determined if student-athletes are forced into classes or majors which result in them not receiving a quality education. Of course there are always the “low-ability” level students who struggle academically and really have little chance of ever receiving a college education (Wertheimer, 2007, p.369). However, there are situations where some students do not achieve academic success or graduate simply because they fail to give enough effort in their academics. In these specific examples, an argument for the exploitation of the low-ability student-athletes could be made, but it would be harder for this same argument to apply to student-athletes who do not make an effort academically.

##### Wertheimer’s Second Argument

The second exploitation argument is universities (A) are exploiting student-athletes (B) due to the fact B is not receiving fair compensation in relation to B’s generated surplus. This argument is harder to make because of the difficulty in determining the surpluses of NCAA Division I schools. According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, only 14 out of over 1,150 schools finished the 2009-2010 school year with a financial surplus (Garcia, 2010). But any surplus generated by colleges’ football and basketball programs are used to pay for coaching salaries, academic counselor salaries, and athletic facility renovations. In most circumstances, a portion of the money subsidizes schools’ other intercollegiate sports programs (Wertheimer, 2007; Suggs, 2009). Subsequently, very few schools show a surplus in the end.

In addition to the difficulty in determining universities’ financial surpluses, it is equally difficult determining nonfinancial surpluses. Dating back to the beginnings of intercollegiate athletics, the primary purpose for having these types of sports programs was the prestige and visibility they provided for colleges. Today’s winning sports teams are given hundreds of hours of media attention and television coverage. It is impossible to put a monetary value on the advertisement which each intercollegiate team or each student-athlete is creating for colleges (Wertheimer, 2007).

The answer to this question lies in determining what fair compensation is. At first glance, a $10-40,000 a year education in return for generating $400,000-$1.2 million seems anything but fair (Zimbalist, 2001; Brown & Jewell, 2004). But a teenager with no prior professional experience who receives the equivalent of $120,000 a year is uncommon in other professions. When asked about fair compensation for college athletes, Butler University men’s basketball player Matt Howard replied, “Forty thousand dollars-plus a year to play, that’s a pretty good salary for an 18-year-old who has no college education” (Weiner & Berkowitz, 2011, para. 6).

Determining what is fair becomes even more difficult when considering other situations. First, if athletes are exploited only when they do not receive fair compensation for the surplus they themselves create, then this means only a portion of a school’s student-athletes (in most cases, only football and basketball players) are being exploited and should receive compensation. Is it fair for the volleyball, baseball, and soccer players not to be paid while their fellow schoolmates, the male football and basketball players, are paid? After all, athletes in nonsurplus sports put in the same amount of time and effort into competing for their schools as do athletes in surplus sports. It is no fault of the athletes whose programs are not as popular in American culture as other programs (Wertheimer, 2007). Murphy and Pace (1994) replied to this particular argument with an example from the professional world. In business, do all members of a company’s team receive the same compensation? Is a secretary who works the same number of hours and works just as hard as the boss paid a similar wage? Of course, the answer is no.

Second, if colleges were to pay athletes, any surplus created by those programs would be used to compensate the athletes. Consequentially, many of the non-revenue generating programs would not have adequate funding to continue. Is it fair to those athletes to deprive them of an opportunity to compete collegiately and, for those who would be unable to financially afford school, an opportunity for a college education? On the other hand, requiring universities to use revenues to pay athletes may force schools to cut down some of the exorbitant salaries paid to some Division I coaches and other athletic department employees.

##### A Case for Mutually Advantageous and Consensual Exploitation

In this discussion concerning the exploitation of student-athletes, a case can be made for both mutually advantageous exploitation and consensual exploitation. Mutually advantageous exploitation occurs when A gains from B and B gains from A, leaving both parties in a better position than before the transaction (Wertheimer, 2008). Take, for example, a star high school basketball player from a low-income family who is recruited and signed by a renowned academic institution. He competes four years for that school. Along the way, he helps his team win over 100 games, reach 2 Final Fours, and win a national championship. After 4 years of education (worth a total of approximately $160,000) and instruction from one of the best coaches in the nation, he graduates with a college degree, is named as a NCAA All-American, and one month later is selected in the NBA Draft. Over the next 7 years, the former student-athlete signs 3 NBA contracts worth over $28 million, thanks in large part to the coaching he received while in college. In this example, both parties made gains which left them better off. It could be argued, therefore, no wrongful exploitation took place.

In other examples, athletes have been known to become student-athletes for the sole purpose of receiving expert instruction, media exposure, and training. As a result of those benefits, their future earning power increased (Kahn, 2007). Many of these elite athletes stay in college for only the required amount of time and then leave to become professionals. Again in such situations, both the athletes and the schools have entered into agreements which benefit both groups. Nothing morally wrong has occurred.

When an individual volunteers or gives informed consent to a transaction, it is referred to as consensual exploitation (Wertheimer, 2008). Prior to the start of a student-athlete’s collegiate career, the individual must agree to sign several eligibility forms. One of those forms is the NCAA Student-Athlete Form 10-3a (2010) that reads, “You affirm that you meet the NCAA regulations for student-athletes regarding eligibility, recruitment, financial aid, amateur status and involvement in gambling activities” (p. 2). A separate read and sign section of the same document states:

> You authorize the NCAA [or a third party acting on behalf of the NCAA (e.g., host institution, conference, local organizing committee)] to use your name or picture in accordance with Bylaw 12.5 including to promote NCAA championships or other NCAA events, activities or programs. (p. 4)

The NCAA is not attempting to deceive individuals by having student-athletes sign confusing forms so then the schools can make money off the athletes. Instead, they are presenting a clear, understandable agreement that essentially says, “In order to participate in intercollegiate athletics, you must abide by these terms.” Players must sign the agreement to become student-athletes, but no athlete is forced to sign the NCAA Student-Athlete Form.

There is a common perception athletes are required to attend college in order to become eligible for the professional ranks. This is not the case. The current NBA Draft eligibility rules state a player must be 19 years of age, and 1 year must have elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school (“Article X,” 2009). In the NFL, a player must be out of school for three years before he is eligible for the draft (“NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement,” 2006). In baseball, Major League Baseball teams can draft any player who has graduated from high school, while anyone in hockey who is 19 or older is eligible for the NHL Draft (“First-year Player,” n.d.; “Hockey Operations,” n.d.). Neither athletes of surplus sports nor those participating in nonsurplus sports are required to attend college in order to be drafted into professional sports. In most circumstances, the visibility which comes from playing for prominent sports programs causes most athletes to choose to attend college.

### Conclusions

Even after knowing all the facts, the questions related to paying college athletes and the exploitation of student-athletes are difficult to answer. However, there is no doubt the current model for compensating college athletes is ethically questionable at best. If this were not the case, then President Emmert would not continue to make statements suggesting the necessity of exploring ways to increase the financial assistance given to student-athletes (Wieberg, 2011). Just last week, several NCAA conference commissioners began discussing ways to compensate their athletes above athletic scholarships. Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said, “Unless the student-athletes in the revenue-producing sports get more of the pie, the model will eventually break down… [I]t is only a matter of time” (Schad, 2011, para. 3). When the current model does break down, the NCAA’s members will be forced to consider the topic of student-athletes’ exploitation prior to establishing a new model.
Going forward, the NCAA and its member institutions must address several ethical situations in order to avoid the continued exploitation of student-athletes. The first step is re-defining amateurism in college athletics. Currently, intercollegiate sports are amateur in name only (a practice continued today by colleges in an effort to avoid providing workers’ compensation and to continue eligibility for tax exemption status) (Haden, 2001; Murphy & Pace, 1994). The second step is deciding whom to pay. If it is determined only scholarship athletes in revenue-producing programs (i.e. basketball, football, and ice hockey) should be compensated, then the NCAA will have to be prepared to justify excluding some athletes, including the non-scholarship basketball, football, and hockey players (Murphy & Pace, 1994). Due to Title IX, which mandates equitable opportunities and benefits for women competitors, there is a possibility schools would be required eventually to extend remuneration to other student-athletes (Francis, 1993). The third step is determining what fair compensation is for student-athletes, a difficult task based on the information mentioned previously. The final step is choosing where to get the money to pay athletes.
Deciding where to get additional money opens the door to a vast array of ethical questions. Should the money made by men’s basketball and football be used to fund other athletic programs? Instead, should the money be used to pay the basketball and football players only? Will Title IX allow for only a portion of a school’s athletes to be paid? Are college coaches overpaid, or are their large paychecks justified by the prestige, visibility, and money they are helping to generate for their schools? If smaller schools are lacking the funds required to pay student-athletes, is it fair to raise regular students’ tuition prices to help cover costs (Schneider, 2001)? These are just a few of the questions which will have to be addressed.
Determining which student-athletes are being exploited is a difficult task. What is clear is both the NCAA’s current amateur rules and the questionable educational practices of some schools make it more likely for students-athletes to be exploited (Murphy & Pace, 1994). Deciding how to compensate student-athletes more fairly could potentially result in completely restructuring intercollegiate athletics. If the NCAA and its member schools truly desires to protect their student-athletes “from exploitation by professional and commercial enterprises,” then they will be forced to reexamine their own practices (2010-2011 NCAA Manual, 2010, p. 4).

### Applications In Sport

The topic of paying college athletes is one of, if not the most debated issues in collegiate athletics. Understanding the terms of amateurism and exploitation, a history of intercollegiate athletics, and how student-athletes are possibly being exploited may assist in helping to decide if NCAA student-athletes should be compensated above athletic scholarships.

### References

1. 2011-2012 NCAA Manual. (2011). Retrieved from <http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/D112.pdf>
2. Article X: Player eligibility and NBA Draft. (2009). Retrieved from <http://www.nbpa.org/sites/default/files/ARTICLE%20X.pdf>
3. Brown, R. W., & Jewell, T. (2004). Measuring marginal revenue product in college athletics: Updated estimates. In J. Fizel & R. Fort (Eds.), Economics of college sports (pp. 153-162). Westport, CT: Praeger.
4. Byers, W. (1997). Unsportsmanlike conduct: Exploiting college athletes. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
5. Deschriver, T. D., & Stotlar, D. K. (1996). An economic analysis of cartel behavior within the NCAA. Journal of Sport Management, 10(4), 388-400.
6. First-year player draft rules. (n.d.). Retrieved from <http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/draftday/rules.jsp>
7. Flowers, R. D. (2009). Institutionalized hypocrisy: The myth of intercollegiate athletics. American Educational History Journal, 36(2), 343-360.
8. Francis, L. P. (1993). Title IX: Equality for women’s sports?. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 20/21(1), 32-47.
9. Garcia, M. (2010, December 15). NCAA president: We can never get to place where athletes are paid. USA Today. Retrieved from <http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2010-12-15-mark-emmert-ncaa-pay_N.htm?csp=ip>
10. Haden, C. W. (2001). Foul! The exploitation of the student-athlete: Student-athletes deserve compensation for their play in the college athletic arena. Journal of Law and Education, 30(4), 673-681.
11. History. (2010). Retrieved from <http://www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/About+the+NCAA/Who+We+Are/About+the+NCAA+history>
12. Hockey operations guidelines. (n.d.) Retrieved from <http://www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=26377>
13. Kahn, L. (2007). Markets: Cartel behavior and amateurism in college sports. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(1), 209-226. doi:10.1257/jep.21.1.209
14. Koch, J. V. (1983). Intercollegiate athletics: An economic explanation. Social Science Quarterly (University of Texas Press), 64(2), 360-374.
15. Layden, T. (2011, April 11). UConn’s drive to survive. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from <http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1184204/index.htm>
16. Meggyesy, D. (2000). Athletes in big-time college sport. Society, 37(3), 24-28.
17. Murphy, S., & Pace, J. (1994). A plan for compensating student-athletes. Brigham Young University Education & Law Journal, (1), 167-186.
18. NCAA president: Pay-for-play won’t happen under his watch. (2011). USA Today. Retrieved from <http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/2011-02-13-ncaa-emmert_N.htm>
19. NCAA Student-Athlete Form 10-3a. (2010). Retrieved from <http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/AMA/compliance_forms/DI/DI%20Form%20XX-3a.pdf>
20. NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement 2006. (2006). Retrieved from <http://images.nflplayers.com/mediaResources/files/PDFs/General/NFL%20COLLECTIVE%20BARGAINING%20AGREEMENT%202006%20-%202012.pdf>
21. Schad, J. (2011, May 19). Power brokers discuss paying NCAA athletes. ESPN. Retrieved from <http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/news/story?id=6566975>
22. Schneider, R. G. (2001). College students’ perceptions on the payment of intercollegiate student-athletes. College Student Journal, 35(2), 232-241.
23. Suggs, W. (2009). Old challenges and new opportunities for studying the financial aspects of intercollegiate athletics. New Directions for Higher Education, (148), 11-22. doi:10.1002/he.364
24. Wieberg, S. (2011, March 30). NCAA president: Time to discuss players getting sliver of revenue pie. USA Today. Retrieved from <http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2011-03-29-ncaa-pay-for-play-final-four_N.htm?sms_ss=gmail&at_xt=4d93d876081f62dd,0%22#>
25. Wertheimer, A. (2007). The exploitation of student athletes. In W. J. Morgan (Ed.), Ethics in sport (pp. 365-377). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
26. Wertheimer, A. (2008). Exploitation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/exploitation/>
27. Weiner, J., & Berkowitz, S. (2011, March 30). USA Today analysis finds $120k value in men’s basketball scholarship. USA Today. Retrieved from <http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2011-03-29-scholarship-worth-final-four_N.htm>
28. Zimbalist, A. S. (2001). Unpaid professionals: Commercialism and conflict in big-time college sports. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

### Corresponding Author

Anthony W. Miller, MEd
4 Amity Lane
Greenville, SC 29609

Anthony W. Miller is a doctoral candidate at the United States Sports Academy. He is also a faculty member of Bob Jones University.

2016-04-01T09:31:59-05:00January 3rd, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Facilities, Sports Management|Comments Off on NCAA Division I Athletics: Amateurism and Exploitation

Black Women “DO” Workout!

### Abstract

Many studies cite that women of African descent have lower physical activity levels and/or are more sedentary, than White counterparts. The lack of exercise among Black women results in them experiencing compromised life quality and reduced life expectancy. To combat the striking rates of cardiovascular-related diseases and to increase habitual exercise, health promotion interventions have been initiated designed for Black populations. Female participants in Project Joy, a church-based cardiovascular education programme, reported weight loss and lower blood pressure. This paper reviews a similar initiative; Black Women “DO” Workout! (BWDW), which makes innovative use of social media to encourage physical activity (PA) among Black women.

**Key Words:** women of African descent; exercise; social media

### Introduction

Numerous studies indicate that women of African descent have lower physical activity levels, and/or are more sedentary, than their White counterparts. A 2006 national health survey on physical activity levels in Canada found that when compared to Caucasian Canadian females, both African Canadian and South Asian Canadian women less moderately active (Bryan, Tremblay, Pérez, Ardern & Katzmarzyk, 2004). In a similar American study looking at Black, White, Hispanic and Asian women, the data revealed that only 8.4% of African American women completed the recommended level of regular physical activity (Eyler, Matson-Koffman, Young, Wilcox, Wilbur, Thompson, Sanderson & Evenson, 2003). Unfortunately, this lack of exercise participation among Black women contributes to a significantly increased health risk of cardiovascular-related complications such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes and obesity (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden & Curtin, 2010). A lack of active activities also results in Black women experiencing compromised life quality and reduced life expectancy.

In an effort to combat these striking rates of cardiovascular-related diseases and complications among women of African descent, and to increase their habitual exercise involvement, a number of health promotion interventions have been initiated across North America. These include offerings of free exercise sessions especially designed for Black populations. Evaluative studies of these types of exercise programmes suggest they produce appreciably positive outcomes. The female participants in Project Joy, for instance, an African American church-based cardiovascular education programme, reported weight loss and improvement in blood pressure after participating in the included exercise sessions (Jakicic, Lang & Wing, 2010). This paper reviews a similar programme, Black Women “DO” Workout! (BWDW), which makes innovative use of social media to encourage exercise among women of African descent.

The BWDW initiative was created and founded by Crystal Adell, a fitness enthusiast and personal trainer. Adell uses Facebook as a tool to encourage regular exercise participation among African American women. She describes BWDW as a grassroots movement for championing weight loss and healthy living, a crusade she says is much needed to address the sobering statistics that show 49% of African American women are obese, while approximately 66% are overweight (US Dept of Health and Human Services 2000). Adell notes that using Facebook, which allows her to facilitate communication between Black women, is her “personal attempt to work with a collective who are more than willing to share their fitness goals, services and lifestyle changes towards healthier living”(personal communication, 2010). Information included on the site covers topics from exercising, body image, healthy eating habits and eating disorders to the importance of fitness and nutrition during pregnancy. Adell suggests that the success of BWDW is based on “information sharing and by showing praise, encouragement, inspiration and support in the way of sisterhood and by championing individuals for their fitness goals, which ultimately keep others motivated in to want to do the same”(C. Adell, personal communication, 2010).

There is little doubt that BWDW is a success. Thus far the site boasts more than 85,000 members, mainly women of African descent, many of whom regularly visit and post to the site. While African American women make up the largest block of BWDW users, the site also attracts international members from Canada, England, African and the Caribbean. Launching an online social media page as a means to promote exercise adherence and encourage healthy lifestyles among Black women is clearly a new, unique and successful approach. In addition to being innovative, the strategy is also in accordance with the American Healthy People 2010 mandate to (1) increase quality and years of healthy life and (2) eliminate health disparities that are associated with race, ethnicity and social economic status (US Dept of Health and Human Services 2000). One of Healthy 2010 physical activity and fitness objectives is to increase physical activity levels among Africa Americans as disparities in exercise and/or physical activity levels continue to exist with this group and other populations including Hispanics, the elders and people with disabilities (US Dept of Health and Human Services 2000). Indeed, the Black Women “Do” Workout social media campaign offers the opportunity for women of African descent to make regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle a part of their daily routine.

The BWDW web page is attractive, functional, and perhaps most importantly, interactive. Members are encouraged to participate through such means as submitting healthy recipes to the ‘Chef de Cuisine’ e-cookbook and posting images to the photo album which showcases before and after pictures. There are also announcements about the monthly BWDW ‘meet-ups’ held in locations across the United States for women who want to connect in person, as well as a service that informs members about personal trainers available in their area of the country. And the site has become a space of promotion for several members who now compete in fitness and body building competitions after experiencing significant body transformations via exercise and through healthy eating. In addition, a range of BWDW merchandise are available for sale on the site.

Health policy makers and promoters across North America have acknowledged the need for a better understanding of Black women’s exercise behaviour as a basis for improving their traditionally low physical activity rates. The BWDW programme offers an opportunity for those in the health field to learn from, and about, Black women and provides a potential avenue for the dissemination of health information. Adell herself notes these opportunities, commenting that she would like to see collaboration between BWDW and “organisations like the American Heart Association, Go Red For Women, the African American churches and corporate organisations” (C. Adell, personal communication, 2010). She believes these kinds of partnerships “will allow for an enhancement of services to local African American areas and communities that statistically have a high demand for wellness, health and fitness related support” (C. Adell, personal communication, 2010).

The BWDW programme presents a best practises model for building supportive and effective health networks within communities of African descent. The site has proven to be a powerful tool for increasing exercise rates and thus helping to address the troubling prevalence of cardiovascular-related and other diseases that continue to plague women of African descent. It is hoped the BWDW programme will inspire ongoing dialogue about finding other effective means of supporting Black women to become active, whether via other social media software, or in more traditional in-person venues.

### References

1. Adell, C. (November 2010). Telephone interview with author.
2. Bryan, S.N., Tremblay, M.S., Pérez ,C.E,, Ardern, C.I., Katzmarzyk, P.T. (2006, Jul/Aug). Physical Activity and Ethnicity: Evidence from the Canadian Community Health Survey. Can J Public Health. 2006 Jul-Aug; 97(4):271-6.
3. Eyler, A.A., Matson-Koffman, D., Young, D.R., Wilcox, S., Wilbur, J., Thompson, J.L., Sanderson, B., Evenson, K.R. Quantitative study of correlates of physical activity in women from diverse racial/ethnic groups: The Women’s Cardiovascular Health Network Project–summary and conclusions Am J Prev Med. 2003 Oct;25(3 Suppl 1):93-103.
4. Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M.D., Ogden, C.L., Curtin, L.R. Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999–2008. JAMA. 2010 Jan 20; 303(3):235-41.
5. Jakicic, J.M., Lang, W., Wing, R.R. Do African-American and Caucasian overweight women differ in oxygen consumption during fixed periods of exercise? Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Jul; 25(7):949-53.
6. US Dept of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health. 2000 Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

### Corresponding Author

Sherldine Tomlinson, MSc.
2-440 Silverstone Drive,
Toronto, Ontario,
M9V 3K8,
416 749-7723

2013-11-22T22:58:08-06:00January 3rd, 2012|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Exercise Science, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology, Women and Sports|Comments Off on Black Women “DO” Workout!
Go to Top