Submitted by: Robert Lyons Junior1 PhD*, E Newton Jackson Junior2 PhD*, Aaron Livingston3 PhD*

1* Associate Professor, Port management, Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte North Carolina

2* Professor, Sport management, University of North Florida, Jacksonville Florida

3* Assistant Professor, Sport management, Hampton University, Hampton Virginia


The dearth of literature concerning the advisement of student athletes is very perplexing. The purpose of this article was to describe the function and utility of various advising models while proposing hypothetical advisor student athlete scenarios to explain each model. The authors also proposed practical recommendations for student athlete advisors in an attempt to prepare for effective advisement.

Keywords: advising, student athlete, education, academics


Effective and pragmatic academic advising is vital to the academic success of students (16).  Effective academic advising allows students to understand their curriculum, major and their career options (2). In addition, academic advisors can assist students in navigating their campus and expose the student to valuable campus resources such as tutorial centers and counseling centers. Students who are properly advised have higher rates of retention and persistence. Even though, effective advising plays a role in the academic success of a student, both the advisor and student need a clear understanding of the purpose advising in order to make the advising process meaningful and beneficial. One of the earliest academic advising definitions was proposed by O’Banion (17) which stated that academic advising was to assist a student in choosing a major that will aid in their development. O’Banion’s definition was general in nature and sought to describe the function of academic advising. Anderson (1) stated that “academic advising is a planning process that helps students to approach their education in an organized and meaningful way. Advising brings together all of the major dynamics in a student’s life.”(pp. 1 & 3). To this end, Anderson’s definition implies that advising is systematic and intentional in nature. Other definitions of advising indicate that advising is designed to for the advisor to be a facilitator while the student assumes responsibility for setting and developing their own academic goals. Consequently, effective advising requires both the advisor and student to engage and work together to develop an academic course of action for the student to follow (1, 3, 4, 8,10). An academic course of action is a component of the advising process that details how a student will progress academically. The academic plan allows the student to be strategic and goal-oriented (2). Ultimately, the function of advising is to put the onus on the student so that they may begin to implement their academic course of action and evaluate their academic actions on a continuous basis (2, 18). The purpose of this article is to describe the function and utility of various advising models while proposing hypothetical advisor student athlete scenarios to explain each model. Furthermore, the researchers will propose strategies to address advising student athletes.

Advising Models

There are different academic advising models. The differences lie in the purpose, scope and method of the model (2, 4, 8, 16).  The following advising models will be examined as they relate to advising student athletes; the prescriptive model, the developmental model, the intrusive model and the appreciative model.

Prescriptive model

The prescriptive model of academic advising is authoritarian in nature. Advisors that use

this model are concerned with conveying and interpreting information about rules, requirements, and policies of the University. The advisor that uses the prescriptive method tells the student what class schedule is best, what major is best and is not generally concerned with the student’s academic or career interest (5, 8). The prescriptive model of advising does not allow for the student to participate in developing her academic career plan. Moreover, the prescriptive advising approach places the advisor in total control of the student’s academic career while the student takes a passive role in the process (15).

The following is a hypothetical example of a prescriptive advising session with a student athlete:

Advisor: Hello, how are you?

Athlete: Fine

Advisor: What’s your name and where’re you from?

Athlete: Mark and I’m from Cleveland.

Advisor: Mark it’s nice to meet you. I’m John you’re assigned advisor. Mark, my records show  that you’re a sophomore soccer player. Have you decided upon a major?

Athlete: Yes, I want to major in accounting.

Advisor: Very well, here are classes that you will need to take this semester. Because you are an athlete you don’t have any classes scheduled after 2 pm. You will take four general education classes and the introduction to accounting class this semester. That’s fifteen semester credits. I’ll set up a time for us to meet some time during this semester so that we can review your progress and schedule your classes for next semester.

Athlete: Okay thank you.

Based on this hypothetical example, one can see that the prescriptive advising method renders the student athlete powerless and the advisor is in control. If a student-athlete is subjected to this method of advising on a continuous basis, it lessens the opportunity for the student athlete to take ownership of their academic career. As a result, the student athlete is conditioned to accept any and all information that is given to them and they become academically dependent on their advisor.

Developmental Advising

According to Crookston (8) developmental advising is “counseling or advising that is concerned not only with a specific personal or vocational decision but also with facilitating the student’s rational processes, environmental and interpersonal interactions, behavior awareness, and problem-solving, decision-making, and evaluation skills.” Kramer (13) suggested six steps in advising students from a developmental perspective. In general, the six steps required the  advisor to be knowledgeable of student development theory, focus on student needs, challenge the student to take academic risks, view students as partners in the advising process, challenge students to reflect on what is important to them academically, personally and socially, and lastly, to help the student in goal planning and goal attainment. Frost (9) notes that ‘developmental advising understands advising as a system of shared responsibility in which the primary goal is to help the student take responsibility for his or her decisions and actions’ (p. 234). King (12) simply stated that “developmental academic advising is both a process and an orientation. It reflects the idea of movement and progression. It goes beyond simply giving information or signing a form.”

A hypothetical developmental advising session would be as follows:

Advisor: Hello, Charles how are you?

Student-Athlete: I’m fine.

Advisor: I want us to talk about your academic plans and your current career plans.

Student-Athlete: okay

Advisor: Let’s start by looking at your career plans. What is it that you want to do it terms of a career?

Student-Athlete: Well if sports don’t work out I want to go into accounting.

Advisor: Have you explored the accounting career path?

Student-Athlete: Somewhat, but not really.

Advisor: What is it that you know about accounting?

Student-Athlete: Well I’m good at math and I like the intro to accounting class I’m taking now.

Advisor: Well, that’s good. It’s seems that you like accounting. I think in order to further your understanding of accounting you should schedule a meeting with your accounting professor to learn about careers in accounting.

Student-Athlete: Yes that sounds like a good idea.

Advisor: I would also suggest that you make an appointment with the campus career services staff. They can help you in researching the accounting field as well.

Student-athlete: These ideas sound great, but I need time to do them.

Advisor: I tell you what, you and I can work together to come up with a schedule. That way you can see what times during the day you have available and you can identify times and days that you can meet with professors and the career services staff.

Intrusive model

Intrusive advising is a proactive approach to academic advising (19). It requires the academic advisor to initiate the advising process between the student and the advisor. Furthermore, Upcraft and Kramer (20) stated that “intrusive advising is not “hand-holding” or parenting, but rather active concern for students’ academic preparation; it is a willingness to assist students in exploring services and programs to improve skills and increase academic motivation” (p.11). When the advisor initiates the advising process, it signals to the student that they are valued and someone on campus is concerned about their well-being which may provide the impetus they need to stay in school (21). An example of an intrusive advising session with a student athlete would follow this pattern:

Advisor: Good morning Sheila how are you?

Student Athlete: Fine?

Advisor: I’m glad that you responded to my email message. I was speaking to your coach and she had some concerns about a few of your classes, specifically, the English 131 class and the Math 131 class. I really wanted to meet you and discuss your those classes and help you in any way that I can.

Student Athlete: Yeah, thanks I was wondering who my advisor was and I do have some questions about those classes.

Advisor: Well I’m glad we were able to connect. Let me say that I’ve taken a look at your grades in English and Math. Let me ask you, what are some of the questions that you have about those classes?

Student-Athlete: My English class has us writing a lot of papers and my writing is not that good to be honest with you I don’t like to read that much. In math I’m just lost. I stop going to class last week and I want to drop it.

Advisor: Well, thank you for sharing. Have you sought help from our academic support staff, athletic tutors, or your professors?

Student-Athlete: No

Advisor: Well, I’m going to provide you with the contact information to the academic support department. The academic support center has a writing lab whereby they can assist you with your writing. There is also, a math lab and they have excellent student tutors who can assist you.

Student-Athlete: I think the English tutors can help me, but not sure about the math. I’ve always been bad in math.

Advisor: I am here to assist you. I would like for you to visit the math lab and share with them your concerns. I really believe that they can help.

Student-Athlete: Okay I’ll go see them.

Advisor: Sheila, please know that I’m here for you and I’ll be contacting you on a regular basis to discuss your progress.  I’ll also check your mid-term grades and check in with your coaches to see how you are doing. As a matter of fact, let’s schedule a meeting for next Thursday just to discuss your experiences with the writing lab and math lab staff.

Student-Athlete: Okay, what time?

Intrusive advising is meaningful because it lets the student athlete know that there is always someone that will contact them regarding their academic, athletic and social concerns. Consequently, student athletes who operate under this realization are more motivated to succeed academically (6).  Furthermore, intrusive contact is a very powerful method in that students who consistently interact with a university staff or faculty member are more likely to persist (11).

Appreciative Advising

Appreciative advising is rooted in appreciative inquiry (4). Appreciative inquiry is an organizational change theory that focuses on the strengths of an organization as a catalyst for positive change within an organization (22, 23). The key elements of the theory are based on principles such as positive principle, the anticipatory principle and the principle of simultaneity. Collectively, these principles provide a framework of inquiry for positive change by allowing organizations to create strength-based methods based on careful evaluation and identification of positive organizational components such personnel and or superior products. Consequently, appreciative advising method seeks to develop and affirm student’s skills and uncover student strengths (4). Advising via the appreciative advising method entails a six phase process. Generally, the focus of appreciative advising is to positively reinforce and reaffirm advisees (3). Moreover, an appreciative advisor will focus on advisee strengths that in the end will help them achieve their academic and life goals. The six phases of appreciative advising are the disarm phase whereby advisors build a rapport with the student, the discover phase which allows students to understand their strengths, the dream phase which allows the advisor to determine the students future plans, the design phase which both the advisor and advisee work together and plan ways to achieve the dreams, the deliver phase is where the student actually puts her plan into action and lastly, there is the don’t settle phase where the advisor and advisee set high expectations for themselves (4). A student athlete that comes to be advised by an advisor who practices the appreciative advising method may encounter the following advising scenario:

Advisor: Hi Fred, my name is Will I’m glad that you came to see me.

Student Athlete: Hello.

Advisor: I see you played at High Point High School, I went to Grover.

Student Athlete: Oh yeah, we played against them my senior year. They beat us by two, but I had a great game. They have a real nice facility.

Advisor: Yeah, the facility that I played in when I was there was terrible. We’ve come a long way.

Student Athlete: I need to take 18 credit hours this semester because in the spring, you know, we’ll be in-season.

Advisor: Well, before we discuss classes. I want to get to know you and your interest. What are your strengths and what are your future plans?

Student Athlete: Well, I’m good at meeting people and I like to negotiate. I used to always help my uncle negotiate contracts. He was a party promoter. It was real fun for me and I was good at it. My uncle also paid me. Which was cool too. Based on that, I want to go to law school and become a lawyer.

Advisor: That’s fantastic! You certainly have some great experiences and that can help you tremendously in becoming a lawyer.

Advisor: Have you thought about the type of law that you would like to practice?

Student Athlete: Yeah I was thinking about sport and entertainment law.

Advisor: That’s great! Tell me how do you see yourself in the role of a sport/entertainment attorney. What do you envision yourself doing?

Student Athlete: To be honest I haven’t really thought about it too much detail, but I see myself working with athletes and entertainers to negotiate their contracts and endorsement deals. I see myself talking to GM’s and record company execs.

Advisor: That’s a great vision for yourself. You know you need start thinking about law school. I would be more than happy to help you explore the various law schools and their particular sport law programs.

Student Athlete: Yeah I would like that. Don’t you have to take a test to get into law school?

Advisor: Yes, you have to take the Law School Admission Test or LSAT. This university does offer free LSAT prep courses. That you might want to take advantage of. Normally, these prep courses can cost hundreds of dollars.

Student Athlete: Yeah, that’s cool. I don’t have hundreds of dollars right now.

Advisor: What do you think you can do now to prepare yourself to be a sport and entertainment lawyer?

Student Athlete: Well I can talk to my uncle he knows some lawyers that represent some of his big time DJ friends. I can talk to them to see what they do.

Advisor: Wonderful! You can also ask them if they wouldn’t mind if you shadowed them for a day. Just so you get a feel for their daily routine. You may also want to take some practice LSAT questions online and even enroll in our LSAT prep course once the season is over.

Student Athlete: Yeah, that sounds cool.

Advisor: I’d like for you to meet with me next week. We can schedule your classes now. I want to encourage you to speak to your uncle and to at least take one online LSAT exam just to get a feel for the types of questions they ask.

Student Athlete: Man, this has been great. Thanks a lot. You really helped me.

This appreciative advising exchange highlights one of the purposes of appreciative advising which as Bloom, Hutson and He (4) states is to “optimize advisor interactions with students in both individual and group settings.” (p. 11). This model requires the advisor to probe and ask the student athlete questions that allow them to make connections between their current academic experience and their future career aspirations. What’s more the student athlete becomes an active participant in their academic endeavors and the appreciative advisor is an active facilitator.


Student athletes face a myriad of challenges including travelling, injuries, and managing their time to name a few. One way to assist student athletes in managing challenges is to ensure that student athletes learn how to navigate their college’s environment and utilize their college’s social and academic resources. This is where the advisor plays a vital and pivotal role. Advisors can serve as catalyst for change and facilitators that help student athletes manage and master their environments. As a result, the advisor has to understand the nature and scope of the various needs and pressures that confront student athletes. By understanding the plight of student athletes, advisors can utilize various advising methods to help benefit the student athlete. The following are strategies that student athlete advisors need to consider when preparing to advise and address the diverse needs of student athletes.

When preparing to advise a student, an advisor should take the time to become familiar with the relevant student development theories.  Student development theories that have proven and tested components can be used to develop goals and objectives for the advising model. For example, Chickering’s (7) landmark theory on student development focused on seven aspects or vectors of identity. Some of which were managing emotions, developing mature interpersonal relationships, developing purpose and establishing identity. Chickering’s theory has been tested and utilized by numerous scholars and education professionals over the years, which speaks to its validity, credibility and utility. As a result, using a theory such as Chickering’s would allow the advisor to develop an advising goal such as helping student athletes to develop meaning relationships with peers, student support staff and instructors. Moreover, by studying student development theories the advisor becomes more familiar with the issues that confront students and plausible means to address those issues.


Student athlete advisors should take every effort to review student athlete academic and social assessment data to determine the needs, desires and expectations of student athletes. Assessments such as the College Student Inventory which is designed to identify first year student strengths and weaknesses as well as their receptivity to university intervention services (14) can be a great tool to use in advising student athletes. By having assessment data on individual student athletes, advisors can tailor advising sessions to help the student athlete develop academic and social goals. Moreover, advisors can use assessment data to direct student athletes toward various student support services such as writing labs and counseling centers. Assessment data can also provide advisors with information to spur meaningful and revelatory advising sessions that can help to develop relationships with their student athlete advisee.

Another strategy that student athletes advisor can utilize will be that of identifying best practices. To this end, advisors should review research studies on effective advising practices, discuss best practices with other student athlete advisors and or attend conferences and workshops that focus on advising student athletes. For example, there are best practice models on advising African American student athletes as well as student athletes who are homosexual (14). Student athlete advisors that engage in discovering and implementing realistic advising practices can serve a diverse student athlete population. Student athletes come from various demographic, social and cultural backgrounds which in itself poses challenges for the advisor. However, if the advisor is familiar with a various best practice methods then he can feel comfortable advising student athletes from different social, economic and cultural backgrounds.

Advisors that become well-versed in student development theories, assessment data and best practice methods they become prepared to advise student athletes more effectively and efficiently. This preparation can help the advisor choose the proper advising model for each student athlete. And, thus help student athletes to feel comfortable and confident within their academic and social environments.


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