Being a College Athlete: Pros and Cons

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There are many pros and cons for being a collegiate athlete such as popularity and poor time management. Shelley Armstrong and Jody Oomen-Early (2009), conducted a study contrasting collegiate athletes and nonathletes by creating a survey and also using scales to record data. All collegiate athletes are not positively influenced and it is imperative to show whether there are significant differences in levels of social connectedness, self-esteem, and depression. These three factors have an effect on collegiate athletes’ student success. For instance, athlete status, gender, GPA, weekly exercise, and sleep can be used to predict the different levels of depression. (Armstrong, Oomen-Early, 2009, p 521). It is known that some (if not most) collegiate athletes consume alcohol due to depression, peer pressure, and etc.

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Literature Review

What is student success? Students can be successful in many different ways. For example, academic success, athletic success, school clubs, or all! Moreover, a collegiate athlete’s student success begins with their academic effort and how it is used. A student must maintain a 2.0 or higher in order to be eligible for college athletics. Social connectedness, self-esteem, and depression are only three of the many parts that have an impact on student success. According to Armstrong et al’s journal (2009), collegiate athletes are at high-risk for negative behaviors such as alcohol abuse, academic performance, coping with stressors of injuries, overtraining, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion. These variables can lead to depression and cause athletes to have an intense life. However, although data show college athletes are at high-risk of these conflicts, research is limited on depression. For example, some athletes are protected from depression because of self-esteem and social support, but other collegiate athletes may battle preventing depression due to the lack of these two factors or more. Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to be depressed than inactive individuals. The more active a person is, the chances of depression are further reduced (Armstrong et al., 2009, p. 521). Researchers measured depression by using the CES-D, a 20-item, 4-point Likert scale commonly used to evaluate symptoms of depression.

Furthermore, self-esteem can also be used as a predictor of a collegiate athlete’s success. It is an essential trait to have in life because it is the first step to being successful. All collegiate athletes should believe in their abilities and know their worth not only in academics, but in their sport as well. Self-esteem is arguably related to self-efficacy. According to the Strategies for student success 2nd custom edition book, “self-efficacy is the belief in your ability to successfully complete a task.” Researchers found that most people with a history of success are more likely to set high goals and achieve them (Spieker & Hinsz, 2004). Viewing negative experiences as lessons and keeping positive experiences in mind are great ways to build self-efficacy. A 10-item, 4-point Likert scale was used to evaluate collegiate athletes’ feeling of self-worth (Armstrong et al., 2009, p. 522).

Additionally, social connectedness can be highly substantial to student success and reduce risks of depression. Collegiate athletes are already socially connected because they work together with their teammates to achieve a goal. However, some athletes are easily connected outside of sports. Many individuals around campus may know them because of sports or known by fraternities/sororities. A measure of social connectedness was conducted to compare two other factors (depression and self-esteem). The SCS-R, a 20-item, 6-point Likert scale was used to “measure social connectedness as a psychological sense of belonging” (Armstrong et al., 2009 p. 522).

The primary purpose of the study was to determine the difference between collegiate athletes and nonathletes regarding self-esteem, social connectedness, and depression (Armstrong et al., 2009, p. 521). The survey included 227 participants that were of different genders and race. Of the 227 participants, 45.8% of them were part of a Division I varsity athletics team (Armstrong et al., 2009, p. 522). According to table 1 of Armstrong et al.’s data (2009, p. 522), there was a significant correlation between depression and self-esteem. Self-esteem and depression had an inverse relationship as well as social connectedness and depression. Though social connectedness and depression had the strongest correlation, self-esteem and social support also had a relationship. As levels of self-esteem increases, so did individual’s social connectedness. Along with table 1, table 2 (Armstrong et al. p. 523) shows the different levels of these 3 factors between collegiate athletes and nonathletes. Most collegiate athletes had greater self-esteem, social connectedness, and lower levels of depression. These three variables can be used as correlations specific to student success. According to the results, most collegiate athletes have a lower chance of depression than nonathletes. High levels of depression, low self-esteem, or lack of social connectedness may lead to effect an individual’s success in academics and/or sports.

Alcohol consumption among student athletes can also have a negative impact on their success. Researchers and practitioners have documented the damaging effects of their behavioral health, their sport, and academic performance at an institution (M. Dolores Cimini, Joseph M., Karen Sokolowski, Joyce Dewitt-Parker, Estela Rivero, Lee McElroy, 2015, p. 343).

According to the article by Dolores Cimini et al. (2015 p. 343), “college student-athletes consume more alcohol than their nonathlete counterparts.” This may be because athlete’s stress levels increase when athletic commitment is intense. Some athletes will cope with the pressure of athletics by alcohol consumption which may lead to more bad choices and future injuries. Athletic performance can be altered by missed practices, aggressive playing, or playing while under the influence. A study by Dolores et al., was conducted with 170 National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I student-athletes meeting screening criteria for heavy episodic drinking to reduce alcohol use. A 1-session brief intervention was given to each participant in the study with the goal to eliminate alcohol use or at least reduce it. Surprisingly, with only one session of brief intervention, the results showed significant reductions in alcohol use by the Division I athletes. Although brief interventions may not work on all student-athletes, it does work on some which shows that it is useful to those who decided to participated. Collegiate athletes have easy access to positive and negative decisions that can impact their success just as most individuals.


Ultimately, there are plenty of choices that can affect an athlete’s success if it is not handled properly. Self-esteem, social connectedness, depression, and alcohol consumption are 4 topics that students who participate in athletics need to be mindful of because it can be their greatest achievement or greatest failure. In order to gain a thorough understanding of collegiate athletes’ success, studies that could negatively and positively impact it were the most reliable ways to do so.

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