November 2018

The Five I’s of Athletic Identity: Initial

The first perspective of the athlete’s worldview is termed the Initial Perspective. At this point, the athlete has usually played club sports, youth sports, Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sports while in high school, and has entered their first year of college. These athletes believe they have a very good chance of competing in professional or Olympic sports once they complete college. The entitlement contributors reinforce this belief as discussed in the previous chapter.

 

The mentality of these athletes relates to the sports they play. This mentality began in elementary school, and in many cases continued on into college. Once in college, these athletes see school as a way of fine-tuning their athletic skills to enable them to play professionally. As far as the athlete is concerned, attending college is only a means to an end. Academics and any non-sport related activities are of no real interest to athletes in this stage, primarily because the main reason they are attending college is based on their athletic ability. The elements that make up the athlete’s mindset in the Initial Perspective are outlined in the figure below. In this perspective, athletes possess a serious thought process focusing on athletic development, a feeling of personal freedom related to being away from home for the first time, and a cautious approach towards academic and professional development.

Although their academic pursuits assisted these athletes in gaining entry to college, athletics was the number one reason they were recruited. More importantly, athletics is ultimately the reason they will continue to persist on campus. Lack of academic or athletic performance could result in the loss of a scholarship, unless the student is attending college on an academic scholarship. Therefore, the number one priority for college student athletes is maintaining a mental focus on their sport.

The student athlete attending college on an academic scholarship also has a state of mind connected to the Initial Perspective. According to Athena Liao, a former student athlete at Yale University in swimming from 2009-2013:

All of the Yale athletes are smart and work hard in the classroom, [and] although they don’t give athletic scholarships, people still complain about being so busy in sport. But at the end of the day, we are really students first, and that’s a big difference between scholarship athletes and non-scholarship athletes. Another difference is how the scholarship athlete is tied to the university through sport. If I wanted to quit the team and just continue to go to school, I could have at any time and my decision would not have affected my status at the institution. This is something that happens with non-scholarship athletes all the time. I guess the pressure is less to perform in some cases, because you know your sports participation is something you can walk away from at any time. People come and go all the time. If someone decided to leave, there’s really nothing the coach can do, and you can continue to attend school.

The Initial Perspective of the student athlete is compounded by the desire to please the coach or coaches. These student athletes will virtually do anything the coach asks because in their mind the coach or coaching staff is their ticket to the next level. Attending extra film sessions, shooting extra shots, running extra sprints, etc., are all done with one goal in mind: to play as much as possible. In certain situations, athletes will agree to redshirt or not play their first year of college just to stay in good standing with coaches. They will ignore the fact that coaches will still recruit athletes for the following year. This places the redshirt athlete in a position to battle for a starting spot or playing time, reinforcing the fact that nothing is guaranteed.

The Initial Perspective of the athlete’s worldview can be deemed as genuine and normal for student athletes, particularly competing in signature sports such as football and basketball. Athletes who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to compete in these environments worked hard to get there. Through hard work, they deserve the scholarships offered based on their athletic ability. Student athletes in the Initial Perspective are still naive to the realities of sport.

 

 

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