Student-Athletes Face a Tough Task: ‘Role Strain’

While most of what transpires in college athletics is positive, there is a growing sense among academic leaders, the news media, and the public that our society glorifies athletic accomplishment far more than academic achievement. The increasingly commercialized nature of major sports at the highest competitive levels, and a widening gulf between the athletic and academic cultures at some institutions, threaten to negatively affect the reputation and public standing of athletes as a whole. This is also creating ‘role strain’ for many athletes.


Over the course of their collegiate experience, many student-athletes tend to immerse themselves almost entirely in their athletic role (role engulfment) while simultaneously detaching themselves from their academic commitments (role abandonment).


When individuals are expected to fill multiple roles, they can experience role strain, in which commitment to one role detracts from the commitment to another. Student-athletes sometime experience role strain because of the competing time and energy demands of the athletic, social, and academic roles. But athletic, social, and academic roles need not be in conflict, as activities can be expanded or contracted depending upon the degree of commitment to a given role. Individuals can therefore make time and energy for multiple roles if they are committed to each of them.



About the Author

Russ Hafferkamp is the Founder and CEO of the Athlete Success Network and Managing Director and Co-Founder of Career Athletes, LLC ( Russ is recognized as a leader and coach in the career development of collegiate and elite athletes and is the author of “CareerBall: The Sport Athletes Play When They’re Through Playing Sports” and "CareerBall: The Athlete Career Guide and Handbook".

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