Examining Academic and Athletic Motivation


Academic motivation as a predictor of academic performance for college athletes has been debated in the literature. This study examined the utility of academic and athletic motivation as a key variable in predicting academic performance among 211 college athletes at a Division I institution in the Midwest. After controlling for background characteristics, results revealed that ACT score, ethnicity, and academic motivation were significant in the regression model.

Academic performance of college athletes, particularly those who compete at Division I institutions, continues to receive a great deal of attention in the literature and media. The most recent graduation rate report published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) indicates that athletes reached an all-time high graduation rate……

….of 60%, compared to 58% for the nonathlete population (NCAA, 2002b). Despite the academic support services that are strongly encouraged and available for student athletes, not all groups of athletes are graduating at the national rate. For example, White basketball players graduated at a rate of 53%, but Black basketball players graduated at a rate of 35%. White football players’ graduation rate was 62% and Black football players experienced a 45% graduation rate.

Few studies have explored academic and athletic motivation as noncognitive variables and their usefulness in predicting academic performance for student athletes. In a study on the expressed motivation of Black and White student athletes, Snyder (1996) found that Black student athletes desired to play on the professional level more than White athletes. Farmer (1994) calls this desire “the athletic dream” and defined it as “a multidimensional set of behaviors and fantasies propelled by the desire to pursue superstardom through sport participation” (p. 333). Demands and career aspirations associated with college sports have also been linked to the failure of some athletes to balance academic and athletic tasks (Adler & Adler, 1991; Simons, Van Rheenen, & Covington, 1999).

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