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This study examines the academic experience of Division I student athletes through a qualitative approach. The purpose of this study was to reveal personal academic outcomes as a result of academic clustering and being a Division I athlete. Qualitative research means looking at real-life instances as they occur and undisrupted by the researcher. This type of research allows for a deep and open analysis of the situation and is flexible in it’s path through out the process. This method was chosen to get the most information from students, coaches and academic advisors on a dynamic subject. Since each subject has a unique way of expressing their experiences it is important to use an approach that allows for conversation and interpretation. It would be beneficial to conduct interviews with academic advisors and coaches to add expertise to the situation and to fill in areas that students won’t disclose and to get an outside perspective on the athlete’s academic experience. Academic advisors play an important role in the lives of each athlete and it is there job to do what it takes to keep the players eligible for NCAA. It is also crucial for Universities to maintain their athlete’s eligibility and this study is going to uncover the outside forces influencing athletes and how it effects their academic experiences while participating in intercollegiate sports.
The structure of this study will be built through an extensive interview process involving all those who are involved the athlete’s experience and academic success. It will be important to build relationships with subjects to receive the most accurate information and to leave less up for interpretation. This qualitative method will allow athletes, advisors and coaches to explain behaviors and factors that influence personal experiences. The interview process is free flowing and allows for change in direction based on responses of participants. For this study, it was important to pick the right subjects to get the richest responses to benefit the purpose of the research. I chose to focus on The University of Vermont’s men’s basketball team because of their prominent role on campus coupled with the pressure of succeeding in their division and effects of academic clustering.
I chose to look at a group of upper classman Division I basketball players and would have a total of 9 players who were able to participate in the study. Beyond that, I reached out to 8 of their academic advisors for their perspectives on the topic and had a total of 8 advisors participate that were evenly spread through out the juniors and seniors. The UVM men’s basketball team has a total of 6 coaches and 4 were able to participate in the study. This group of athletes range from ages 20 years to 25 years and are all either third of fourth year students at the University. These participants have a variety of backgrounds and they are from all over the United States and a few are from Canada. I chose this Division I team because they have been ranked in the top 50 in nine NCAA statistical categories and are ranked 34 out of the 323 colleges in their division and will also give me a diverse insight on the athlete’s academic experiences. Not only for these reasons but also that I attend the University which makes it easy to conduct multiple follow up interviews with the participants. The following limitations could be that there may be bias because it is my school although I have no personal connections to the men’s basketball team.
Design and Materials
I chose to conduct my research with a qualitative approach with purposeful sampling to get the richest information on the topic. I will be organizing multiple face-to-face interviews with all parties involved allowing me to gain insight on the athletes lives along the way. I will build relationships with the subjects to gain their trust and allow them to disclose their experiences in the most beneficial way. I will be empathetic and be non-judgmental for my subject to feel comfortable and free to express whatever they feel necessary. I do not feel that observations will influence my results but may utilize them if the interviews aren’t sufficient. With that said, the method I will implement is ethnography which can be used to describe the specific cultural characteristics of a sample. This will look at division I athlete culture at the University of Vermont and will reveal the effects of academic clustering on their individual college experiences.
I will use interviews with academic advisors, athletes and coaches along with a brief initial survey to assist with the coding process and allow for grouping subjects. The variables that I want to focus on are demographics, GPA, personal relationships, academic majors, and overall college experiences. The Initial survey, which will be distributed to each athlete, will ask questions regarding age, gender, race, GPA, academic major and other general demographics. The method for the interviews will be semi-structured where each interviewee will have unique transcripts following a basic round of set questions. This will allow the interviews to follow the direction of the interview and allow for flexibility to ask further questions. I will create an interview guide that will be reviewed and approved. The questions will be unique to if the subject is an athlete, academic advisor or coach. Questions for the athlete would include ones about their academic experiences at school, their relationships with coaches, academic advisors and teammates, their personal relationships outside of athletics, and whatever else stems from their individual answers. The questions for their academic advisors will cover topics regarding their measurement of athlete’s academic performance, their opinion on the athletes overall, NCAA academic requirements, broad questions about the men’s basketball team as a whole, and other general questions. The questions for coaches will ask to discuss the player’s performance on the team, analyze the player’s commitment level, if there has been any misconduct with that player, their general opinion on the student and other general questions that stem from there. I will tape-record each interview to give myself the chance to observe their non-verbal cues and to go back and visit the exact transcript later.

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