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Launching Pad

NCAA grants have helped fund the work of 50 burgeoning sports researchers

and Jen Smith

The need for new research is endless in the ever-spinning world of college sports. But there is no shortage of bright minds intent on exploring the questions facing NCAA schools, administrators and student-athletes. The NCAA Graduate Student Research Grant program has helped fund the innovative work of 50 researchers since 2006. The program continues this fall with the 11th round of research presentations at the NCAA national office. Here is a look at some of the researchers whose work was funded by that program, and where their work has led them.

Marie Stroman

Marie Stroman

Now: Associate executive director of the Middle Atlantic Conferences.

Then: 2013 research grant recipient.

Graduate school: Washington.

Research topic: The student-athlete recruitment experience in Division III, specifically in men’s lacrosse.

The catalyst: Stroman’s ties to Division III run deep: She played volleyball as a student-athlete at Macalester and has worked at a Division III conference office since 2011. At the time her study was conducted, Division III members were exploring changes to their recruiting model, so Stroman decided to research how such changes could impact student-athletes through the lens of one sport her conference sponsored.

Key takeaway: Coaches and administrators may think they understand student-athletes, but their viewpoints and needs evolve constantly. Student-athletes are often eager to share their experiences to help inform decisions. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask.

Her words: “It was important that I do something that was meaningful to me, but also to the membership of the conference and to Division III, because my heart and soul is in Division III — as a student-athlete and now as an administrator.”

Sheriece Sadberry

Sheriece Sadberry

Now: Licensed counseling and sport psychologist.

Then: 2009 research grant recipient.

Graduate school: Missouri.

Research topic: The college adjustment of African-American student-athletes at predominately white institutions and historically black colleges and universities.

The catalyst: Sadberry was inspired by her experience as an undergraduate at Nebraska. Noticing a lack of research on the adjustment process of African-American student-
athletes, she looked to fill a void that could help these students be successful.

Key takeaway: Looking at African-American student-athletes’ perceived social support, perceived campus racial climate, team cohesion and life events, three profile groups emerged that administrators, coaches and others could use to predict college adjustment concerns.

Her words: “In my work, I try to be as proactive and try to encourage my colleagues to be as proactive as they can. Be culturally competent and do things to make these student-athletes feel welcome and supported and valued.”

Willis Jones

Willis Jones

Now: Assistant professor of higher education at Kentucky.

Then: 2010 research grant recipient.

Graduate school: Vanderbilt.

Research topic: The relationship between athletics expenditures and team on-field success.

The catalyst: In the years leading up to his project, Jones became intrigued by the rising costs of intercollegiate athletics. He wanted to know, did investing more money in sport programs actually lead to more wins?

Key takeaway: A correlation does exist between on-field success and spending in areas such as coaches’ salaries, recruiting and facilities — but it’s not as strong as you might think. Jones’ findings are a reminder that, when it comes to athletics expenditures, spending more doesn’t always pay off.

Up next: Jones continues to examine financial issues in college athletics. His latest project is exploring the relationship between athletics subsidies and higher education costs. 

Mariya Yukhymenko

Mariya Yukhymenko

Now: Assistant professor of research and statistics at Fresno State.

Then: 2011 research grant recipient.

Graduate school: UConn.

Research topic: The relationship among student-athlete ethical conduct, motivation and satisfaction on the field and in the classroom.

The catalyst: The study combined Yukhymenko’s athletic past — she spent 11 years as a rhythmic gymnast in the Ukraine — and her academic focus on educational psychology.

Key takeaway: Among other findings, her research indicates that student-athletes do not engage in academic misconduct (plagiarism, cheating on homework and tests, etc.) any more frequently than their peers in club sports.

Up next: Yukhymenko has conducted a follow-up study to investigate whether student-athlete identity and passion for sports are associated with their academic and athletic intrinsic motivation. She will present her findings this spring at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting.

Chan Woong Park

Chan Woong Park

Now: Assistant professor of kinesiology and public health education at North Dakota.

Then: 2014 research grant recipient.

Graduate school: Alabama.

Research topic: The lives of student-athletes with physical disabilities who are attending a major university.

The catalyst: Park’s father is an adapted physical education professor in South Korea, and Park found that he, too, had a passion for that area of study.

Key takeaway: His study indicates that student-athletes with physical disabilities are marginalized on campus, receiving fewer resources and less support than other student-athletes. He also found that watching a game of wheelchair basketball could make college students’ perceptions toward student-athletes with disabilities more positive.

Up next: Park is working with a team to develop an instrument to measure perceptions toward, and knowledge of, adapted athletics. Additionally, they hope to create a curriculum that incorporates adapted sports for the elementary, secondary and college levels.

Lori Hendricks

Lori Hendricks

NOW: Director of athletics at Mount Holyoke.

THEN: 2007 research grant recipient.


RESEARCH TOPIC: The perceptions of stakeholder salience and dimensions of influence for campus student-athlete advisory committees in the governance of intercollegiate athletics.

THE CATALYST: The study drew from Hendricks’ experience working with student-athlete advisory committees at the campus, conference and national levels and her interest in ensuring that the student-athlete voice is heard in the governance process.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Student-athletes are not always aware of when they need to provide input or how important the timing of feedback is to the governance process. Because of this, Hendricks continues to work with the Mount Holyoke Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to be sure that feedback is given in the appropriate timeframe.

HER WORDS: “We need to always first think that the student-athletes need to be in this conversation.”

Win (Gi-Yong) Koo

Win (Gi-Yong) Koo

NOW: Associate professor/sport management Ph.D. coordinator at Troy.

THEN: 2011 research grant recipient.


RESEARCH TOPIC: Crowding-out effects of athletics giving on academic giving at NCAA institutions.

THE CATALYST: Koo, with a sport management background, was interested in the connection between athletics and academic giving and whether academic giving decreased with an increase in athletics giving.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Published in an article in the Journal of Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics in 2014, the results from Koo’s research showed that while there are connections between athletics and academic giving, athletics giving did not diminish academic giving.

UP NEXT: Koo is the coordinator of the Troy online sport management Ph.D. program. He is looking forward to the development of a blended Ph.D. program that will offer both online and in-person instruction.

Moe Machida-Kosuga

Moe Machida-Kosuga

NOW: Assistant professor of sport psychology at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences in Japan.

THEN: 2010 research grant recipient.

GRADUATE SCHOOL: Michigan State.

RESEARCH TOPIC: The career development of women leaders in athletics administration, with confidence in one’s leadership abilities as a focal variable.

UP NEXT: Machida-Kosuga continues to study the career development of women leaders in athletics in Japan and the United States. She finds the broader issue of women leaders relevant in her current interaction with students at Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences, where her goal is to develop them into better leaders in sport, health-related fields and beyond.

HER ADVICE: In grad school, Machida-Kosuga was often challenged by advisors with a question, “So what?” Everyone has interesting topics, but how does this topic help the current situation? Machida-Kosuga would challenge those applying for the grant to ask themselves the same questions.

Jill McCartney

Jill McCartney

NOW: Director of athletics at Doane University.

THEN: 2006 research grant recipient.

GRADUATE SCHOOL: Capella University.

RESEARCH TOPIC: What women coaches and athletics leaders identify as contributing factors to the under-representation of women in their fields, and suggestions for improving the numbers of women in athletics leadership positions.

THE CATALYST: With increases in the number of women participating in athletics and the growth of women’s college sports teams, it would seem that women in athletics coaching and leadership positions also would increase; however, this was not the case.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The study concluded that collegiate athletics continues to be a male-dominated industry with barriers for women that include stereotypes and prejudices. 

UP NEXT: McCartney is excited about the opportunity she has as the director of athletics to recruit and hire great women to coach at Doane. She is committed to hiring good female leaders to serve as mentors for female student-athletes.

Michelle Voss

Michelle Voss

NOW: Assistant professor in psychology at Iowa.

THEN: 2006 research grant recipient.


RESEARCH TOPIC: The nature and extent of the relationship between sport expertise and perceptual and cognitive skills.

UP NEXT: Voss continues to research the interaction between the mind and body. At Iowa, she is researching the effect physical activity has on the ability to learn new concepts and skills as people grow older. 

HER ADVICE: When applying for the NCAA Graduate Student Research Grant, students should not be afraid to be first. She advises them to think about what others are not thinking and to make bold predictions.

Christine Baugh

Christine Baugh

NOW: Doctoral candidate at Harvard.

THEN: 2014 grant recipient.


RESEARCH TOPIC: The physical health, mental health and quality of life in student-athletes during the competition season as evaluated using a smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment app.

UP NEXT: A former rowing student-athlete, Baugh continues to focus on student-athlete health and wellness with research on factors that influence health care delivery in collegiate sports medicine, the association between student-athlete risk perception and injury reporting, and a multilevel modeling approach to understand injury risk in student-athletes. She was named to Forbes’ 2016 list of 30 Under 30 in Sports for her research.

HER WORDS: “Spending time to formulate your research question, refine your methods, seek guidance from your mentors and work through your budget is an important and useful exercise whether or not you are awarded the grant.”

Emily Kroshus

Emily Kroshus

NOW: Assistant professor in the pediatrics department at the University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

THEN: 2012 grant recipient.


RESEARCH TOPIC: How the NCAA concussion education mandate was being implemented in a cohort of six Division I men’s ice hockey teams.

KEY TAKEAWAY: The study found there was a lot of variability in the concussion education that teams were receiving, and the mandate had a small impact on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to concussion reporting. 

UP NEXT: A former Division I distance runner who is no longer competing athletically, Kroshus now gets a competitive rush from working hard on her research projects and breaking new ground in how we think about health and safety in sport and the role of sports in healthy development.

HER WORDS: “Go for it! Research doesn’t feel like ‘work’ when you’re trying to answer a question that you think matters and where you’re genuinely curious about the result.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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