Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Leslee A. Fisher

Committee Members

Leslee A. Fisher, Sandra P. Thomas, Steven N. Waller, Lars Dzikus


The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of spirituality for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) student-athletes who also identified as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Using an existential phenomenological approach (Thomas & Pollio, 2002), nine interviews were conducted with four self-identified female and five self-identified male members of the LDS Church who were current NCAA DI athletes at the time of the study; they participated in four different DI sports (cross-country/track and field, football, soccer, and volleyball) and attended five different DI institutions. Their mean age was 22 years. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and lasted an average of 43 minutes. Thematic analysis (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Sohn, Thomas, Greenberg, & Pollio, 2017) constructed from the nine interviews consisted of four major themes—and subthemes—related to participants’ experiences of spirituality as LDS NCAA DI student-athletes. All themes represent the student-athletes’ embodied LDS NCAA DI identity and included: LDS Identity; Balance Between LDS Identity and Athletic Identity; LDS Identity During Times of Crises; and LDS Identity in Relationships. The most significant aspects of these LDS NCAA DI student-athletes’ lived experiences of spirituality were: (a) the use of LDS embodied spirituality when times get tough, (b) LDS embodied spirituality was greatly influenced by relationships, (c) LDS embodied spirituality was not always enough in terms of support throughout student-athletes’ collegiate careers, (d) a holistic care team could be useful in terms of support for LDS student-athletes’ mental training and mental health, and (e) LDS NCAA DI student-athletes who are also returned missionaries of the LDS Church utilized their 18-month to 2-year mission experience within their collegiate experience as student-athletes. Practical recommendations have also been constructed related to the role that support staff (e.g., sport psychology consultants, LDS bishops/leaders, psychologists, coaches, parents, etc.) can play in helping LDS student-athletes include spiritual elements throughout their collegiate careers.

Keywords: sport psychology, LDS, religion, spirituality

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