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Passing to play: Examining student-athlete academic motivation

Berry, Elsa B.

Student-athletes at all levels are tasked with managing academic success and athletic performance simultaneously. Many of these students may only achieve passing grades in order to remain eligible to participate in their sport. This is when the idea of “passing to play” comes about (Lapchick, 1989). To gain insight on this, I conducted a survey with Oklahoma high school students who are or were student-athletes, and the professionals who work with these students. Within the survey it asks for demographic information and questions about their academic performance and its relationship to their athletic participation. It also included the opportunity to be interviewed and answer further questions to examine personal motivations and influences on academic performance. This study was conducted and once the data was collected, it was coded for common themes across the participants' answers. Knowing what motivates this population of students can influence teaching practices, administration, and school policies, as well as how teachers, coaches, and other staff members frame academics in relation to these students’ athletic endeavors. By understanding how students are motivated, their experience and success in school can be improved.