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Walking-On: A Narrative Inquiry of Division II Non-Scholarship Student-Athletes’ Identity Development and Pursuit of Success




Lester, Wilson

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Student-athletes have long been a population of interest to researchers regarding identity development and academic success. More specifically, researchers have looked into the identity foreclosure of student-athletes; its impact on academic success, motivation, and career outlook; and differences of this foreclosure among student-athletes. Most research, however, centers on the experiences of Division I and scholarship student-athletes, leaving an ambiguity to the experiences of Division II and non-scholarship student-athletes. The little research conducted with this group primarily focuses on academic motivation, athletic motivation, and graduation rates. Because of this ambiguity surrounding Division II non-scholarship student-athletes, I conducted a narrative inquiry to explore the experiences of Division II non-scholarship student-athletes to understand their identity development and how they define and pursue success. Utilizing an unstructured, life story interview protocol, I interviewed six former Division II non-scholarship student-athletes three times each for 18 interviews. I engaged in a narrative analysis using the theoretical frameworks of the theory of self-authorship and the theory of motivational action conflicts to identify any overlapping themes across the six participants’ experiences. I then rearranged the themes into a narrative arc that cohesively examines the participants’ experiences. The findings of this study revealed that Division II non-scholarship student-athletes navigate their college experience primarily from the student perspective, attend to professional and other social identities, and define success from an academic and athletic perspective. With these findings, I proposed different implications for practice and future research to continue learning about the experiences of Division II non-scholarship student-athletes.