Advancing College Athlete Development via Social Support

Brennan K. Berg – University of Memphis
Stacy Warner – East Carolina University


Given the increased attention on college athlete well-being, effective athlete development has emerged as a timely and relevant topic to empirically study. Moving beyond physical and sportspecific advancement, the authors examine how college athletes’ social support is critical to their development. Utilizing the sport development frameworks, specifically the retention stage of elite athlete development, the mechanisms that provided social support were revealed through a two-phased study. Survey data from 776 college athletes (Phase One) were utilized to inform focus groups (n=31; Phase Two). The researchers identified Openness and Honesty, Equal Treatment, Intentional Programming, and Informal Interaction as essential best practices in retaining college athletes. The critical role of organizational planning in lessening stress while improving well-being and athletic advancement is demonstrated with practical examples that can be applied by athletic department administrators. Further, the researchers highlight that the various forms of athlete well-being (e.g., physical, mental, social) are not independent, but interconnected and must be intentionally pursued by stakeholders.

The research reported here was supported by the American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium, through a grant to the Institution(s). The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium.