Examining the Student-Athlete Experience Through the NCAA GOALS and SCORE Studies Download the PDF
Summary of Findings from the 2010 GOALS and SCORE Studies of the Student-Athlete Experience Download the report
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By Gary Brown
SAN ANTONIO − Results from the NCAA’s second edition of a study to gauge student-athletes’ satisfaction with their intercollegiate athletics participation show that coaches have a profound effect on college choice and that − for the most part − student-athletes feel good about the ethical leadership of those mentors.
Recruitment and college choice and ethical leadership issues are two significant additions to the Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Learning of Students in College (GOALS) study, which gathered responses from thousands of current student-athletes across all three divisions about topics ranging from the student-athlete identity construct and reasons influencing college choice to career aspirations and healthy behaviors.
Results of the GOALS study, along with the companion Study of College Outcomes and Recent Experiences (SCORE) for former student-athletes, will be revealed Thursday afternoon at an educational session during the 2011 NCAA Convention.
“These data provide important insight into how current and former student-athletes view the many aspects of their college experience,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “They are extremely valuable to presidents and other leaders as we strive to make that student-athlete experience the best it can possibly be.”
The first GOALS report issued in 2006 spotlighted the balance of time student-athletes devote to their athletics interests and academic pursuits, and focused on the choice of academic areas of study and whether participation in athletics restricted those interests.
Those areas were again part of the 2010 research, but the most recent study adds the coach’s influence as an important factor in the student-athlete’s overall college experience.
The companion SCORE survey maintains findings from the first edition in 2006 showing that about 88 percent of all student-athletes obtain their degree by the age of 30. The report of about 7,000 former student-athletes who entered school in 1996 adds to the body of annual NCAA graduation-rates data showing that most student-athletes (about 79 percent in Division I, 73 percent in Division II and 89 percent in Division III) earn their degrees in a six-year window.
Both the GOALS and SCORE studies are designed to gather details about student-athlete experiences that help the NCAA formulate policies and procedures to enhance their well-being in the future. The two studies overseen by the NCAA Research Committee are the only ones of their kind pertaining specifically to student-athletes.
“When the Research Committee was in the process of designing these studies, it was with the expressed hope of shedding light on the student-athlete experience and better understanding our successes and challenges,” said Kurt Beron, former chair of the Research Committee and current faculty athletics representative at the University of Texas at Dallas. “There is no doubt that these studies have succeeded.”
Beron noted that the original SCORE and GOALS data played a vital role in informing the review of the academic performance of Division I student-athletes in baseball, football and men’s and women’s basketball. “Because of these data, policy changes could be proposed that were tailored to specific needs within each of those sport groups. I anticipate that issues raised with these new data will be addressed in similar ways and with similar success,” he said.
In the 2010 GOALS study, between 40 and 60 percent of the almost 20,000 student-athletes surveyed sport by sport said it was unlikely that they would have chosen the same institution if a different coach had been in place. Men’s and women’s basketball players were most likely to tie their decision to the coach.
Athletics participation was the most-often reported reason for choosing a college (at least 75 percent of the time in all sport cohorts). Academics generally was a close second, followed by the institution’s proximity to home. The sport groups that had the largest disparity of athletics as a choice factor over academics were Division I women’s basketball (86 percent to 58 percent), and baseball in Divisions II and III (84 percent to 49 percent and 76 percent to 62 percent, respectively).
For the most part, student-athletes thought the information they received during the recruiting process was helpful, but many thought coaches were too aggressive about sharing it.
Depending on the sport, between one-fifth and one-third of student-athletes felt that some coaches contacted them too often in the recruiting process. Division I football and women’s basketball student-athletes were most likely to say that they had received too much contact (32 percent and 35 percent, respectively). Highly recruited athletes were also more likely to indicate more contact than they wanted, although no sports group had more than half of their student-athletes indicate excessive recruiting contact.
Most student-athletes (about 70 to 80 percent) felt that their pre-college expectations regarding academics and time demands were generally accurate; however, they reported that their perceptions of the athletics and social experience in college were less accurate. While 60 percent of Division I women’s basketball players reported that their expectations about their athletics experience were accurate, that percentage was the lowest among sport cohorts.
In fact, the GOALS results illustrated a number of concerns in women’s basketball, especially at the Division I level.
For example, Division I women’s basketball student-athletes registered the lowest rate of satisfaction with their college choice (48 percent, compared with 59 percent in football and 62 percent in men’s basketball, among others).
The Division I women’s basketball cohort also agreed at a lower rate about whether their head coach defines success as “not just by winning, but by winning fairly.” Only 39 percent strongly agreed, while 57 percent of football players and 50 percent of men’s basketball players in Division I strongly agreed. The lowest response to that question was from Division II women’s basketball student-athletes (34 percent).
Women’s basketball players also were least likely to strongly agree that they could trust their head coach (39 percent, compared with 56 percent in football and 50 percent in men’s basketball).
“While we observe some differences between women’s basketball and other sports on various elements in these data, it’s important to note that we can’t attribute causality with this information,” Beron said. “Is it the case that women’s basketball coaches are behaving differently than coaches in other sports, or are they being held to higher standards by the student-athletes? These are certainly issues for further study.”
Beth Bass, chief executive officer and president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, noted the WBCA’s recent establishment of an ethics committee after the 2010 Women’s Final Four that focuses primarily on rules compliance within an often young and ambitious coaching constituency, but also on other factors that affect the overall experience for female basketball players in college. The committee is co-chaired by former Texas coach Jody Conradt and current Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer.
“We already have a good start on an aggressive agenda to maintain the quality of a game that has thrived on integrity from its inception,” Bass said. “These new data from the NCAA studies provide a baseline from which to begin our work on some of the intangibles that affect our game.”
According to the GOALS study, student-athletes across sport and division spent similar amounts of time on athletics pursuits in 2010 as in 2006. The exceptions:
Time spent on academics in 2010 was similar to what was reported in 2006, except for an increase in academics time for Division I men’s basketball. No sport group studied showed a decrease in time on academics over the four-year period.
Within several sport groups, the academics-athletics time balance shifted toward athletics, particularly in Division I baseball, Division I FCS football, and Division II men’s and women’s basketball. Division I baseball stood out, with participants in that sport reporting spending more than 10 hours per week more on athletics than academics during the season. Relative to other sports within each division, baseball in Divisions II and III also showed a differential balance favoring athletics.
Across sport and division, it appears that many student-athletes are spending more time in total on the combination of athletics and academics than they did four years ago. Football players in Division I report roughly 80 hours per week during the season on those two, with men’s and women’s basketball at about 77 hours per week.
Not much change was seen in the percentage of student-athletes reporting that they spend as much or more time on athletics during the off-season as in-season. However, across many sports, these percentages are high. For example, about 78 percent of Division I and II baseball players and 70 percent of Division I and II football and men’s basketball players report spending as much or more time during the off-season. These numbers are lower for females and within Division III.
A new question in 2010 asked student-athletes if they were satisfied with the amount of time spent with their coaches. Particularly high numbers of Division I women’s basketball players (34 percent) said they would prefer less time with the coach (vs. 7 percent saying they would like more time with the coach). Thirty percent of Division I football players stated they would like less time with coaches (although about 15 percent said they would prefer more time). Across division, women’s basketball had the highest sport averages saying they would prefer less time with coaches.
As seen in 2006, student-athletes in certain sports expressed a preference to spend less time on athletics. Of note were high percentages (and increases from 2006) in Division I baseball (18 percent), football (22 percent) and women’s basketball (29 percent). Female student-athletes across division, particularly in women’s basketball, expressed that they would prefer less time spent on athletics.
The SCORE survey also asked respondents several questions about the influence of the coach on their academic and athletics experiences. The one item that had the strongest relationship with eventual degree attainment was: “How important was the goal of graduation from an undergraduate college or university for your college coaches?”
Most respondents reported that goal was important to their coaches (69 percent); however, when compared with the importance of graduation for themselves (94 percent) and for their family (91 percent), they believed their coaches placed less importance on it.
Overall, graduates were statistically more likely to report that their graduation was an important goal for their coaches. And, again, when examining separately by gender, ethnicity and sport group, the importance of graduation to the coach remained significant.
Overall, as was seen in the previous version of SCORE, most (more than 80 percent) former student-athletes remain “very satisfied” with their overall collegiate experience.
Graduates were more likely than non-graduates to report greater levels of satisfaction with their overall experience, and with their individual academic, athletics and social experiences. The greatest difference in satisfaction between graduates and non-graduates was in their response to their satisfaction with their academic experiences.
The data in the GOALS and SCORE studies will continue being mined throughout the year and can be broken out to address specific membership concerns. NCAA Managing Director of Research Todd Petr said the two versions of the studies over the past five years provide some of the NCAA’s most valuable and targeted research on the student-athlete experience.
“NCAA presidents committed several years ago to a more data-driven process to inform decisions,” Petr said. “The Association has dozens of academic, graduation-rate, injury-rate, demographic and financial studies at its disposal to target those specific areas, but the GOALS and SCORE initiatives are uniquely student-athlete-centered and provide insights that some of our existing research doesn’t address.
“The Association has found them extremely valuable.”