Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Counseling, Rehabilitation and Student Development

First Advisor

Watt, Sherry K

First Committee Member

Birrell, Susan

Second Committee Member

Henfield, Malik

Third Committee Member

Pascarella, Ernest

Fourth Committee Member

Whitt, Elizabeth


The purpose of this study was to gather descriptive data on the experiences of Black female student athletes. A better understanding of the experiences of Black female student athletes as students, as athletes, and as developing young women may help student affairs practitioners better understand their collegiate experience; provide them with information to make decisions about student affairs programs, policies, services, and practices; and offer a subgroup of students who have historically been underrepresented in research an opportunity to share their stories. The study addressed the following research question: What are the college experiences of Black female student athletes during athletic eligibility at a large, predominately White, Division I, Midwestern, public university?

Eight Black female eligible college student athletes were purposefully selected to participate in the qualitative study. Participants' ages ranged from 18-23 years and they self-identified as Black (n=3), Caribbean (n=3), and West Indian (n=2). The women were drawn from two sports: Basketball (n=2) and Track (n=6).

Participants participated in two hour-long interviews. Data were coded and analyzed into categories. A process analysis enabled the key themes from the findings to be identified. Credibility and dependability were accounted through member checks and the use of three outside auditors. Four major themes emerged: Unfulfilled expectations during the college experience as an athlete, student, and developing young person; perceptions of being treated differently from her White female peers; complex relationships that deeply impacted participants' experiences in college both positively and negatively; and positive and negative forms of resistance in which participants' engaged in response to experiences during college.

Themes were analyzed and divided into 13 major findings: Misleading recruitment; negative experiences with coaches; difficult transition from high school to college athletics; negative experiences with White teammates, coaches, and staff; social support among Black female athletes; difficult academic transition from high school to college; stereotyping and discrimination in the classroom; no meaningful relationships with faculty; involvement in co-curricular activities; complex relationships with Black men; complex relationships with White women; experiences with depression; and developing a stronger sense of self. Suggestions for future research and implications for practice are discussed in detail.


African American female, Athlete, Student


viii, 148 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 131-148).


Copyright 2009 Noël Suzanne Harmon