Date of Award

Spring 5-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen A. Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Pauline Goolkasian, EdD

Third Advisor

Lorraine Kolbusz, EdD

Fourth Advisor

Walter Bernstein, EdD

Abstract

The major topic considered for this qualitative research study was the identification of the factors that encourage women, according to the female athletes themselves, to make the four- season commitment as players on an intercollegiate sports team at the Division III level (D-III). More specifically, this study focused on the reasons that caused female athletes to choose their universities, the factors that positively influenced them to remain members of a team, and the obstacles they overcame while completing four seasons of eligibility. The student-athletes’ perceptions of their athletic ability, their relationships with their team and coach, and the support provided by the university and family also were integrated into the study.

The importance of this topic stemmed from the observed number of women who chose to continue their high school athletic careers at D-III colleges and universities yet did not complete four seasons of collegiate eligibility. Of the 1,223 women listed on the 2008-2009 varsity intercollegiate sports rosters of the eight universities that comprise the Conference, only 162 (13%) of them were seniors (Little East Conference Web Site, n.d.). Despite coaches engaging in countless hours recruiting, practicing, and playing, coupled with the financial commitment of colleges and universities for women’s intercollegiate sports, women at the D-III level do not complete their athletic eligibility. Coaches may not be aware of the specific factors that retain female student-athletes on teams for four seasons because little or no research has been conducted in this area.

The researcher-designed survey, semi-structured interviews, and a focus group were utilized to gather information from senior athletes who had completed four seasons of eligibility in one sport. The information gathered from these data-collection methods was analyzed to determine what factors positively influenced the women to complete four seasons of eligibility, the criteria they used to choose their universities, and how the student-athletes’ perceptions of their athletic experience impacted their decision to play for four seasons. The obstacles that they faced which made it difficult for them to complete four seasons of eligibility also were identified and appropriate support services were determined that encouraged completion of the college athletic career. The intent of this study was to discover the reasons women remain on D-III teams despite encountering obstacles, by surveying, interviewing, and discussing the issue with female athletes from University A and University B who reached this goal, and by conferring with athletic personnel from both universities regarding the plausibility of the theories generated from the study.

The results of the study suggest several factors that positively influenced female student- athletes at the D-III level to persevere and complete four seasons of athletic eligibility. The factors that encouraged the women to complete their college athletic careers included the support of teammates, coaches, and family; the acknowledgement of their athletic ability, the presence of team cohesiveness, and a sense of collective efficacy. Each of the female student-athletes expressed a feeling of passion about the sport that, despite obstacles, drove her to play for four seasons.

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