Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Sherry K. Watt

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation study was to explore how traditional gender norms influence the daily experiences of female student-athletes. The following research question framed this study: How do collegiate female basketball players experience traditional gender norm expectations in relation to their sport? A combination of sources focused on gender norms and athletics informed this study, including previous research, mass media publications and documentaries, and the researcher's individual experiences with gender norms in organized athletics. To explore the research question, six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (D-I) female basketball players were interviewed to provide phenomenological data focused on their individual experiences with gender norms in college basketball. Semi-structured interviews utilizing a feminist phenomenological qualitative design were completed via Skype™. A phenomenological approach was employed to focus on the meaning of events experienced by people in specific situations. The feminist lens ensured that the study framed gender as a fluid concept consisting of multiple intersections. The six participants in the study represented five different teams from a major NCAA conference. Almost all of the participants in the study attended a different major research university in the Midwest (two participants attended the same institution). Three major themes surfaced from data provided by participants. These themes include: (1) the challenge of meeting traditional gender expectations (2) contrasting gender expectations in athletic and non-athletic settings (3) the changing dynamic of gender perceptions in women's basketball. These themes focus on participants' experience of contrasting gender expectations in different settings. In athletic settings participants described rarely thinking about gender dynamics or expectations. Off the court, however, players described a stronger perception of expectations for how they should look and behave. Players described experiencing regular questions and assumptions about their gender identity (i.e. female, male, trans*) and / or sexual orientation (i.e. bisexual, gay, heterosexual, queer) when wearing loose fitting basketball sweats during the day. While players rarely thought about conforming to a gender identity or role on the court, they did describe frustrations with an imbalance of media coverage between men's and women's athletics. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations for higher education practice include (1) providing training and educational opportunities for student-athletes, coaches, and administrators focused on gender socialization and subsequent perceptions of student-athletes (2) developing mentoring programs pairing new recruits with veteran players to help acclimate new student-athletes to the demands of the NCAA season, and to explore the impact of traditional gender norm expectations on student-athletes and (3) developing mass media or social media campaigns to help encourage positive recruiting practices in women's basketball and to discourage recruiters focusing on the gender identity or sexual orientation of players and coaches on other teams as a means of lowering interest in those programs.

Public Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation study was to explore how traditional gender norms influence the daily experiences of female student-athletes. The following research question framed this study: How do collegiate female basketball players experience traditional gender norm expectations in relation to their sport? A combination of sources focused on gender norms and athletics informed this study, including previous research, mass media publications and documentaries, and the researcher’s individual experiences with gender norms in organized athletics.

To explore the research question, I interviewed six National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (D-I) female basketball players to obtain phenomenological data focused on their individual experiences with gender normative expectations or traditional gender expectations in college basketball. I facilitated semi-structured interviews utilizing a feminist phenomenological qualitative design via Skype. In order to develop an in depth understanding of how participants experience gender norms, I used a phenomenological approach, which focuses on understanding the meaning of events experienced by people in specific situations. The feminist lens ensured that the study frames gender as a fluid concept consisting of multiple intersections of power and privilege. The six participants in the study represented five different teams from a major NCAA conference. Almost all of the participants in the study attended a different major research university in the Midwest (two participants attended the same institution).

Three major themes surfaced from data provided by participants. These themes include: (1) the challenge of meeting traditional gender expectations (2) contrasting gender expectations in athletic and non-athletic settings (3) the evolving dynamic of gender perceptions in women’s basketball. These themes focus on participants’ experience of contrasting gender expectations in different settings. In athletic settings, participants described rarely thinking about gender dynamics or expectations. Off the court, however, players described a stronger perception of expectations for how they should look and behave. The female-identified players described experiencing regular questions and assumptions about their gender identity (i.e. female, male, trans*) and / or sexual orientation (i.e. bisexual, gay, heterosexual, queer) when wearing loose fitting basketball sweats during the day. While players rarely thought about gender on the court, they did describe frustrations with an imbalance of media coverage between men’s and women’s athletics.

Based on the findings of this study, I offer four recommendations for higher education practice. Provide training and educational opportunities for all student-athletes, coaches, and administrators focused on gender socialization and subsequent perceptions of student-athletes. Collaborate with the NCAA to provide educational materials to recruits on how to recognize and report discriminatory and homophobic recruiting practices. Develop mentoring programs pairing new recruits with veteran players to help acclimate new student-athletes to the demands of the NCAA season and explore the impact of traditional gender norm expectations on student-athletes. Develop mass media or social media campaigns to help encourage positive recruiting practices in women’s basketball and to discourage recruiters focusing on the gender identity or sexual orientation of players and coaches on other teams as a means of lowering interest in those programs.

Keywords

publicabstract, Athlete, College, Female, Gender, Homophobia, Student

Pages

xiii, 132 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 121-132).

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Jonathan Merle Sexton

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