Life Skills Programming: A Case Study of DI Student-Athletes’ Perceptions and Suggestions

Brooke E. Forester – University of South Alabama
Shelley L. Holden – University of South Alabama
Mitchell Woltring – University of South Alabama
Caitlyn Hauff – University of South Alabama

The purpose of this case study was to better understand student-athletes’ perceptions of life skills programming and to elicit their suggestions for more meaningful programming. “Life skills address whole person issues including psychological, emotional, personal, social, moral, and intellectual development” (Miller & Kerr, 2002, p. 144) and the vast majority of student-athlete academic support services focus on time management, tutoring, and class scheduling (Broughton & Neyer, 2001). Yet, the question remains: what do student-athletes truly need as they begin their athletic and academic collegiate careers? Using qualitative methodology, 23 student-athletes focus group participants described their experiences with a required life skills program at a mid-major university in the southeastern U.S. Analysis of semi-structured interview data yielded the following themes and subthemes: 1) Frustrations with life skills programming (subthemes: convenience, questioning relevance, unsupportive academic staff); and 2) Suggested improvements for life skills programming (subthemes: mentorship from older athletes, classroom topic choice, programming for transitions later in college, obtaining academic credit). Results of the study will be beneficial to university athletic departments nationwide and will enhance both current and future life skills programs. Similar mid-major universities may find the results particularly useful as common challenges are often present across comparable athletic programs.