Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Coaches' Perspectives on Their Roles in Facilitating the Personal Development of Student-Athletes

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Coaches' Perspectives on Their Roles in Facilitating the Personal Development of Student-Athletes

Article excerpt

Introduction

University is a time to self-discover, to further one's education, and to participate in different experiences that contribute to one's educational and personal journeys. The educational mission of universities and colleges often focuses on knowledge dissemination, professional training, research expansion, and the holistic development of self (Mohanan, 2005). A common belief about university education is that the learning takes place within the classroom; however, enrolment in today's higher education institutions provides students not only with a classroom education, but also out-of-classroom experiences that contribute to their growth (Aries, McCarthy, Salovey, & Banaji, 2004; Howard-Hamilton & Sina, 2001; Kuh, 1993, 1995; Mixon & Treviño, 2005; Potuto & O'Hanlon, 2007). Significant experiences for learning and development outside the classroom include living in campus residence, having conversations with faculty and peers, working on or off campus, participating in institutional governance, being involved in clubs and organizations, and volunteering (Kuh, 1993, 1995). Another important out-of-classroom experience, and the topic of interest for this study, is interuniversity sport. It should be noted that in Canada, the term "interuniversity sport" is used to refer to varsity sport competition, while in the United States, the more common term is "intercollegiate sport."

In a national survey of Canadian universities, the key objectives of interuniversity sport were the physical, psychological, and emotional growth of student-athletes and the transmission of Canadian culture (Chelladurai & Danylchuk, 1984). The mission statement of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the organization with oversight of interuniversity sport, is "to enrich the educational experience of the athlete through a national sport program that fosters excellence" (CIS, 2009, p. x-i). Interuniversity sport is viewed as being consistent with the educational mission of the university because it presents students with personal and social challenges, encourages them to develop more complex views on personal, academic, and cultural matters, and provides them with opportunities for synthesizing and integrating materials presented in the formal academic program (e.g., classes, laboratories) (Kuh, 1995). Miller (2000) claimed that interuniversity sport serves as "a complement to formal classroom learning" (p. 1) and a vehicle by which student-athletes navigate important developmental tasks, including personal competence.

The role of interuniversity sport within higher education, however, is highly contested (Danish, Fazio, Nellen, & Owens, 2002; Gould & Carson, 2008; Hartmann & Kwauk, 2011; Jones & Lavallee, 2009; Petitpas, Cornelius, Van Raalte, & Jones, 2005). On the one hand, interuniversity sport is viewed as a positive contributor to students' holistic development and learning. Researchers report that interuniversity sport increases opportunities for student-athletes to engage in the community (Mixon & Treviño, 2005), increases retention and graduation rates (Mixon & Treviño, 2005), and enables them to serve as role models for society in such areas as leadership, work ethic, teamwork, and time management (Pine, 2010). Interuniversity sport, at its best, is seen to "promote learning, personal development, and the manifestation of desirable character traits. Athletics provide for an educational experience outside of the classroom and for the physical and emotional development of participants" (Pine, 2010, p. 479).

On the other hand, research, stemming primarily from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), reveals that student-athletes can also experience negative developmental and educational experiences through interuniversity sport participation. Noteworthy drawbacks of interuniversity sport include: hyper-commercialism and unscrupulous practices (Earl, 2004; Trani, 1995), movement away from amateurism, commercial interests and unethical behaviours (Trani, 1995), unjustified financial investments in athletic programs (Pine, 2010), and exploitation of athletes (Pierce, 2010). …

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