A case study of academics and athletics: Players on a two-year college ice hockey team

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Peter Castro


College athletics, Hockey, Academics and athletics, Role engulfment, Student-athletes, Academics, Athletics, Two-year

Subject Categories

Education | Social and Cultural Anthropology


American collegiate athletes often receive conflicting messages regarding the importance of academics and athletics. For most hockey players who attend two-year colleges, their performance, both on the ice and in the classroom, is paramount for their future successes. This case study seeks to understand the parallel systemic environments of academics and athletics, viewing both as domains of cultural symbolism and vehicles for role engulfment that the student athlete must successfully navigate.

Cultural and socializing factors are integrated into ice hockey and education. Participation in "hockey culture" over many years has been significant in shaping players' behavior and outlook on life. The community college hockey team forms a distinct subculture that these social actors experience as a liminal stage, betwixt and between success and failure in academics and athletics.

In-depth interviews were conducted with forty-eight study participants during the 2003-2004 school year and hockey season. In an effort to provide a deeper understanding of the total experience, additional means of data collection were employed, including key informant interviews, a review of student records, field observations, and content analysis of campus and local newspapers.

Success for these particular players is dependent on multiple variables, such as prior academic and athletic experiences, personal maturity, and ambition. The findings of this study reinforce some general themes reported by previous scholars in terms of role engulfment and academic performance. The study also provides new insights into being a student athlete and gives voice to members of a subculture not yet represented in the literature.

The two-year college ultimately became more of a destination than a last resort for the participants in this study, who are talented on the ice but often experience difficulties in the classroom. Since student athletes have unique needs on any given campus, suggestions and recommendations for aiding these students succeed academically are provided for future researchers and college officials.


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