Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Donna M. Talbot

Third Advisor

Dr. Jody Brylinski


The purpose of this study is to explore Athletic Identity (AI) by looking at its essence, and learn about how student-athletes perceive and experience themselves and the world through their athletic experiences; or Student Athlete Worldview (SAWV). A phenomenological study was conducted to investigate and describe the common and emerging themes of SAWV. Initial interviews, journaling, and follow-up interviews were conducted with nine student-athletes competing in NCAA Division I, non-revenue, individual and team sports. Student-athletes offered a revealing picture and identified three aspects of being a student-athlete: intrapersonal, interpersonal and restrictive/sacrificing aspects. These aspects were combined to develop an integrative understanding of the essence of AI, as depicted in the SAWV Model described below.

In the SAWV Model, student-athletes described the fundamental qualities they possess: hard-working, determined, dedicated, having drive, competitive, motivated, as well as having heart, will to improve, and love of sport. They described how those qualities contributed to positive outcomes: better, apart, elite, knowledgeable about self, able to adapt, and responsible. These qualities in turn lead them toward positive experiences of feeling special and unique, and thus confident in themselves. Participants also described how those qualities sometimes created hardships and contributed to negative outcomes: lack of freedom, lack of social life, as well as lack of time, and difficulty balancing academics and athletics; which lead them toward negative experiences of being busy and missing out, and thus tired and separated from others.

The primary contribution of this study is the development of a description of the essence of SAWV, which may allow counselors to be more effective, by: understanding and appreciating all aspects of student-athletes; and incorporating SAWV into understanding their clients. Other contributions also help fill some of the gaps in existing literature and challenge some misconceptions about student-athletes. More specifically results suggest the value of looking at student-athletes holistically, by focusing both on positive and negative impacts of collegiate sport; looking at student-athletes as both students and athletes; and considering offering counseling services as an integral part of the student-athletes' infrastructure. Additional counseling and research implications, as well as limitations are also discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access