Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea L. Beach

Second Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan Haworth Hoeppner


Athletic trainer, female, women, high rank


The profession of athletic training has opened its doors to women, who now slightly outnumber men in the profession (Shingles, 2001; WATC, 1997, 2005). Unfortunately, this representation does not carry over into positions of high rank. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the lived experiences of female head athletic trainers in NCAA Division I (IA football) institutions to focus on the issues of barriers to advancement and their ability to overcome them.

Using Hakim’s “preference theory” as a lens, this interpretive qualitative investigation utilized semi-structured, open-ended interviews to learn how participants advanced in the field of athletic training to the position of head athletic trainer. The study identified family division of labor and the discrimination from the “old boy’s club” found in other studies. However, it also showed low aspiration as equally strong a barrier to advancement and demonstrated how low aspiration then affects the intentionality of one’s career path. The participants identified three reasons for their low aspiration: First, an aversion to working in football, a traditional role for many head athletic trainers; second, an overall dislike of the duties of head athletic trainer; and, third, a stated reluctance to be in a leadership position.

Unique to this study was the identification of personal attributes which balanced the barriers and aided the women in the advancement. All expressed a strong work ethic; they received and internalized encouragement from others; and, finally, they saw a challenge and an opportunity for personal and professional growth in the head athletic trainer position. In most cases, they began to see the position as something other than traditional, and one they could change and improve. This re-visioning of the position played an integral part in their willingness to advance. Missing from the support these athletic training leaders identified was active professional mentoring. They did not benefit from formal or informal career advancement advice from supervisors or peers.

With low aspirations, low intentionality, and no career mentoring, these female head athletic trainers highlight the strong need for active preparation for advancement in the profession for both men and women.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access