Profile of Community College Athletes in Selected Sports

Article excerpt

Nearly 60% of all community colleges field athletic teams with over 72,000 students participating in these sports. That represents approximately 11% of all community college male students (5% of female students). Additionally, community colleges invest nearly $50 million dollars annually in financial aid to student athletes. With such a strong presence on community college campuses, accurate profiles of student athletes and an understanding of how they perceive themselves is crucial. Subsequently, a 22-item survey was developed to profile student athletes in the most common community college sports, and to identify how these student athletes identity themselves and the role of sports in their lives. Through a purposeful distribution of surveys to 15 community colleges in the southern United States, 104 responses were received and used in data analysis.

Introduction

Community colleges play a unique role in American higher education, being particularly noted for their acceptance of diverse, first-generation, and non-traditional students. The result is a system of colleges organized by state to facilitate job training, to re-educate and further and educate, and to foster community development (Cohen &. Brawer, 2003). With such an under-girding philosophy, the emergence of intercollegiate athletics in community colleges has been sporadic and uneven across institutions and states, and little is known about these athletic programs or their student athletes (Castaneda, Katsinas, & Hardy, 2006).

College athletic programs at many four year institutions are a source of pride and often constitute a central place in the mindset of the community. At the community college level, athletic team participation has been argued to be perhaps the most common student activity (Castaneda, 2004). Castaneda, drawing on national data sets, estimated that approximately 11% of all full-time community college male students participated in athletics, and 5% of all full-time female students. She also estimated that nearly 25,000 community college students receive financial aid for participating on athletic teams.

Community colleges have organized intercollegiate athletics into a variety of associations, with the largest being the National Junior College Athletic Association (419 members), which sanctions sport competitions and regulates the offering of financial aid to student athletes. Some sanctioning bodies are regionally exclusive, such as the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges that organizes community college athletics for Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Other bodies, such as the California Commission on Athletics, are state-specific for their two-year colleges.

Community colleges that offer athletic opportunities average seven teams per institution, with a near even distribution for men and women. Athletic teams are, however, more common on rural college campuses by a two-toone margin, with urban community colleges being the least likely to offer athletic opportunities. Further, of the rural community colleges that do offer athletic teams, as much as 22% of the male student body is involved in athletic team competition (Castaneda, Katsinas, & Hardy, 2006).

As little has been reported about community college athletics, it is particularly important to develop a better understanding of who is participating in these activities and how they see themselves in relation to the institution and the importance of their education. The purpose for conducting the current study was to develop a profile of student athletes in the most common community college sports, and to identify how these student athletes identity themselves and the role of sports in their lives.

From the profile, community college administrators, state legislators, trustees, student athletes and their parents can all place the role of sport in the community college in a better context. The result might be more attention to counseling, career planning, academic support, and even the recruitment process for students. …