Exploring student experiences of faith development through intercollegiate athletic participation

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University of Alabama Libraries

Scholars have devoted considerable attention to the issues of spirituality and higher education in recent decades. Three primary areas of literature in this research included faith development, faith and college students, and faith and athletics. This topic fills a gap in the research literature as faith development in Christian college athletics is an under-researched topic. However, the spiritual growth of students has been shown to facilitate numerous benefits for both the individual and the institution. The literature in this field suggests that practitioners should consider employing theories of faith and spiritual development in their work. This study used Fowler’s faith development theory as a framework for implementing the Student-Athlete Christian Faith Interview Guide (SACFIG). The SACFIG contextualized students’ responses regarding their experiences as student athletes at a private, faith based NCAA Division III institution in Georgia. As such, this study was designed to explore the experience of faith development through athletic participation among 20 student athletes. This study utilized a qualitative approach. Twenty-five respondents were recruited and participated in semi-structured interviews, followed by five focus groups. The data collected throughout the interviews were analyzed and coded to develop a thematic structure of the findings. Four themes emerged from this study including individual relationships that student athletes have developed which deeply influence their own faith, specific individual experiences that led to the deepening of faith, the identity formation process for student athletes that led to faith development, and the institutional prioritization and integration of faith on campus which positively impacted the faith development of student athletes.

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Higher education administration, Sports management, Religious education