The academic socialization of intercollegiate athletes: An examination of team subculture influences on academic achievement

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Sociology of|Sociology, Social Structure and Development|Recreation




Intercollegiate athletics at the Division I level have shifted from simple extracurricular activities for students to big business enterprises that bring in millions of dollars to universities throughout the country. The commercialization and intensity of college athletics has led to concerns that athletes are not given adequate opportunity to achieve academically. One of the primary reasons for the poor academic achievement of male athletes is immersion in team subcultures that emphasize athletic as opposed to academic achievement. The purpose of this study was to (1) determine if differences exist between Division I men, Division I women, Division III men and Division III women with regard to the academic value system within their team subcultures, and (2) to identify which factors within team subcultures (influence of coaches and teammates) best predict athletes' level of academic achievement, academic aspirations, faculty involvement, and academic involvement, while controlling for prior academic aptitude.^ Data for this study were collected from a national sample of 1172 men and women basketball players from Division I and Division III universities. Respondents completed (a) a Team Socialization Scale which assesses the attitudes and behaviors that are exhibited by athletes' coaches and teammates, (b) measures of involvement with faculty and involvement with academics, and (c) demographic items which assess such areas as gender, competition level, prior academic achievement and athletic status. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, discriminant analysis, and logistic regression.^ In general results revealed that there are strong differences between the academic cultures of division I men and athletes from the other three subgroups, with Division I men indicating that their coaches and teammates create the least pro-academic cultures within their respective teams. Results further indicated that the influences from coaches and teammates, particularly with regard to such issues as professional athletic career aspirations, involvement with academic support personnel emphasis on the selection of challenging majors, and emphasis on degree completion, are related to athletes' level of faculty and academic involvement. This study concludes with a series of recommendations designed to enhance the academic development of the intercollegiate athlete population. ^