For many Canadian students, varsity athletics is an important part of their University experience. Prior to attending University many high level athletes are greatly influenced by their parents and/or extended family, and once at University that role is often replaced by their teammates and peers. Some students are fortunate to find a positive mentor-like figure in a veteran player. However, too often this is not the case, and bad academic habits are developed early before the student-athlete has a chance at academic success.
Transitioning into post-secondary education is challenging enough for students who are not on a varsity team, and student-athletes are expected to balance twice as much responsibility. A university’s reputation is affected if student-athletes are continually forced to withdraw from their studies, providing an even further disadvantage for athlete recruitment. It is the university who is allowing student-athletes to take on additional responsibility to represent the university and even accepting student-athlete who are not as academically prepared. Therefore, it should be the university’s responsibility to provide proper assistance and support, because student-athletes should not be sacrificing their academic experience to play their sport. All students, including student-athletes, should be graduating with the same education and skills.
Anthony Giddens’ Structuration Theory looks at the recursive nature and “duality” of structure (Orlikowski & Yates, 2007). When applying the principles of structuration theory in a grounded theory analysis of five National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) academic mentoring handbooks, it becomes clear that when student-athletes enter university they are entering a completely different social structure and university experience than non-athletes. What becomes clear is that any assistance and support needs to be tailored to student-athletes at that specific institution, and different from non-athletes. Furthermore, implementing an athlete academic peer mentoring program could help to change negative views of academics that have developed in the student-athlete social structure. Considering that Kerr and Miller (2002) found Canadian university student-athlete to be experiencing similar challenges to those in the NCAA, then they should also have provided to them academic assistance specific to their needs.