Examining Athletic Identity and Religious Orientation Between Student-Athletes at Religious and Non-Religious Practicing Institutions

Paul D. Saville – Azusa Pacific University
Jessie N. Stapleton – University of North Florida
Samantha J. Meckes – University of Nevada, Reno
Amanda M. Rymal – California State University, San Bernardino

Previous research has shown strength of religious beliefs to be an important source of identity and well-being in the lives of many student-athletes, yet less is known about the way student-athletes approach their lives in light of their religious beliefs. To better understand the intersection between religion and identity development, the current study examined the relationships among student-athletes’ religious orientation (RO) and athletic identity before comparing them between those competing at religious practicing institutions (RPIs) and nonreligious practicing institutions (NRPIs). Student-athletes at RPIs (n = 218) and NRPIs (n = 153) completed valid measures of athletic identity and RO during their athletic seasons. Results of independent t-tests showed student-athletes at NRPIs reported significantly stronger and more exclusive athletic identities, and significantly lower intrinsic RO, compared to those at RPIs. Post hoc, conditional effects, analyses indicated the relationship between intrinsic RO and athletic identity of student-athletes also differed on the basis of institutional affiliation. Findings shed light on the way student-athletes’ religious beliefs relate to athletic identity and invite researchers to consider how institutional climate could indirectly impact the holistic needs of student-athletes.