Examining the Relationships of Coping Style and Athletic Identity with Adjustment to College among First-Year Division III Collegiate Athletes

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Patrick H. Munley

Second Advisor

Dr. Eric Sauer

Third Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Cook


Adjustment, first-year student-athletes, division III, athletic identity, coping, college athletes


Student-athletes face multiple challenges in their first year of college; understanding what influences a healthy adjustment is critical to aiding their success (Parham, 1993; Turner & Thompson, 2014). First-year student-athletes are presented with the challenge of having to rapidly adjust to a new social and academic environment and having the added challenge of adjusting to a new sport environment. However, little is known about how student-athletes are coping with their first year in college. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between race, gender, coping styles, athletic identity and the college adjustment for first-year student-athletes at Division III institutions.

Participants were 200 first-year Division III athletes. Their ages ranged from 18-21 years old (M = 18.49, SD = .56). Female identified student-athletes represented 42.5% of the sample and 56% were male identified. The sample was 73.5% European/White, 12.5% African American/Black, 5% Hispanic/Latino/a, 5% Biracial or Multiracial, 1% Asian, and .5% other race/ethnicity. Twenty-one team and individual sports were represented including revenue and non-revenue sports. Data were collected in person from three NCAA Division III Midwestern universities from the MIAA conference. The participants were administered a demographic form and three survey instruments: the Coping Strategy Indicator (Amirkhan, 1990) with three subscales measuring problem solving coping, seeking social support coping, and avoidance coping; the Athletic Identity Measurement Scale (Brewer et al., 1993), and the Student Adjustment to College Questionnaire (Baker, McNeil, & Siryk, 1985; Baker & Siryk, 1984). Descriptive statistics and correlations were calculated to initially investigate relationships among the variables. An ANOVA and MANOVA were conducted to examine possible differences in athletic identity and coping styles associated with gender. Findings indicated that there were no significant differences in athletic identity associated with gender. With respect to coping styles, analyses yielded a significant multivariate effect associated with gender and coping styles, with women using more seeking social support strategies than men.

Hierarchical multiple regression analyses were used to investigate the extent to which gender, race, coping styles and athletic identity predicted college adjustment. Regression analyses indicated that athletic identity was not a statistically significant predictor of adjustment to college, above and beyond the variance accounted for by race and gender. In the analyses related to coping styles and college adjustment, results revealed that the avoidant coping style was a statistically significant predictor of adjustment to college, after controlling for race and gender. More avoidant coping was associated with poorer adjustment to college. When all variables were entered into the regression model, gender and avoidant coping were the two significant unique predictors. Findings, implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

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