International student-athlete experiences at the NCAA Division I level

Bentzinger, Eric
Major Professor
Barbara L. Licklider
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

This qualitative study focused on the experiences of seven non-native-English-speaking international student-athletes at an NCAA Division I, large, public, research institution. The experiences of the participants detailed their time prior to attending the institution, while enrolled, and plans after graduation. While previous literature on this topic existed, there was a paucity that positioned the international student-athletes, themselves, at the center of the research. Prior literature was largely quantitative. In an effort to avoid cross-institutional analysis and also due to accessibility of participants, all were selected from the same institution. The participants partook in a lengthy interview (at least one hour). The interview was transcribed and coded for themes before the participants reviewed the findings and added clarification. The coaches of four of the participants also took part to help triangulate findings. The data aligned with three central themes: (a) how they learned of the opportunity to participate in NCAA athletics; (b) their experiences at the institution; and (c) how post-graduation plans evolved once attending.

Unlike previous research on this topic, this study uncovered many specific challenges international student-athletes may face when attempting to attend an institution in the United States. This study also revealed specific information relating to how their coaches recruited them and how other athletics department personal participated in the recruitment and eligibility process. Despite the often trying times and difficult adjustment periods, the participants indicated great appreciation for the opportunity they pursued. The participants indicated varying reasons for wanting to attend the institution, experiences at it, and post-graduation plans.

The findings of this study add to the literature on the topic of international student-athletes. The study may potentially impact a number of different constituencies, but it would have a logical line of interest to coaches, athletics department personnel, and potential international student-athletes. This study can also be utilized by anyone working at university because the influx of international student-athletes continues to persist and campus faculty and staff can help these individuals have a positive experience. Recommendations for future study include conducting a cross-institution analysis, investigating revenue-generating sports, or conducting a follow-up of individuals post-graduation.