Career Entry and Experiences of Female Graduate Assistants in Collegiate Athletics

Allison B. Smith – Virginia Commonwealth University
Elizabeth A. Taylor – Temple University
Robin Hardin – University of Tennessee


Graduate assistants (GAs) provide support in a variety of capacities in NCAA Division I athletic departments from coaching and athletic training to academic advising and the general operation of the department. These positions are vital in athletic departments for women as they provide an entry point into the profession of collegiate athletics. Women face many challenges as they pursue careers in collegiate athletics due to the accepted male leadership and decision-making in sport. This research utilizes interviews to investigate the experiences of female GAs working in collegiate athletics. The findings show the graduate assistantships were beneficial to career entry, but the value of the experience in regards to duties and responsibilities was mixed. Specifically, assistantship responsibilities were at times more administrative than professional development, and there appeared to be the funneling of women into the “soft” areas of sport by either self-selection or gender normalcy. Furthermore, maintaining work/life balance was a difficult undertaking that resulted in role conflict as participants were forced to attend to their work responsibilities while devoting limited time to their academic responsibilities and personal obligations.