Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Joy T. DeSensi

Committee Members

Leslee A. Fisher, J. Amos Hatch, Cheryl B. Travis


At the present time, a great number of American schools and certainly the majority of American sport teams are not taking on the responsibility of teaching young women and men the value of cooperation, democratic citizenship, and critical thinking. Because of this, critical educators have begun advocating for a movement in the education system called critical pedagogy, in which it has been theorized that schools can become sites for social transformation and emancipation (McLaren, 2003). There is a similar movement in physical education teacher education programs (Fernandez-Balboa, 1997; Cushion, Armour, & Jones, 2003), but no such actions have been taken in the sport arena. As a result of this dearth, this paper puts forth a model of "athletic praxis" which promotes social transformation through sport.

The model for "athletic praxis" is based on the data from an empirical study that was designed to explore the spaces and perceived barriers identified by intercollegiate coaches of women’s teams when it comes to the issue of addressing social difference and justice with their athletes. The data was subsequently infused with a model called cultural studies as praxis (Wright, 2002) that currently exists in the education field. "Athletic praxis" consists of three components: theoretical preparation, service learning for social justice, and structured reflection. It is argued in this dissertation that, by incorporating the components of "athletic praxis" into the sport setting, female athletes could develop a heightened sense of civic responsibility during their collegiate career. In this way, sport has the ability to play a key role in an individual’s education toward democratic citizenship. Integrating these principles into sport could result in large groups of young women who feel a sense of responsibility to their surrounding community and who see themselves as potential agents of social change. As such, the athletic arena could become another means of working toward social justice in our society.

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