Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Robin Hardin

Committee Members

Sherry Mee Bell, Leslee Fisher, Steven Waller


With the evolvement of the NCAA’s initial and continuing eligibility practices throughout the past two decades, interest in studying the experience of student-athletes has increased (Gayles, 2009). Student-athletes have long been stereotyped as “dumb jocks” (Harrison et al., 2009; Sack & Staurowsky, 1988). Campus groups such as faculty members and students suspect that student-athletes lack intelligence (King & Springwood, 2001; Sailes, 1998), and put forth far less motivation in the classroom than they do on the playing field (Baucom & Lantz, 2001; Burke, 1993; Watt & Moore, 2001).

Student-athletes, especially those with learning disabilities can potentially face harsh scrutiny due to being labeled as not only a student-athlete, but as a person with a learning disability (Clark & Parette, 2002). When an individual is aware of the negative stereotype surrounding his or her social group, depending on the situation that the individual is in, there is a possibility of stereotype threat (Steele & Aronson, 1995). Despite the countless studies that have utilized stereotype threat, studies that use the theory pertaining to student-athletes, as well as literature involving those with learning disabilities are scarce (Aguino, 2011).

Although research has focused on educational experiences in regards to the general student-athlete population, little is known about the experiences of student-athletes with diagnosed learning disabilities and/or ADHD. The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of NCAA Division I FBS football student-athletes who have been diagnosed with a learning disability and/or ADHD. Nine football student-athletes at an NCAA Division-I FBS institution were interviewed. Three major themes appeared throughout the data: the impact of football, learning competence, and stereotypes. The results of this study will allow those working with this particular population of student-athletes to develop a greater understand of their experience, and can ultimately assist in eliminating stereotype threat, which will lead to an increase in the academic performance of student-athletes with learning disabilities and/or ADHD (Cohen, Purdie-Vaughns, & Garcia, 2012; Clark & Parette, 2002).

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