Student-Athletes’ Sense of Belonging

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  • Title: Student-Athletes’ Sense of Belonging: Background Characteristics, Student Involvement, and Campus Climate
  • Author(s): Joy Gaston Gayles, Rebecca Crandall, Shauna Morin
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Sport & Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Sport and Society
  • Keywords: Sense of Belonging, Student-Athletes
  • Volume: 9
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2152-7857 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2152-7865 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Gayles, Joy Gaston, Rebecca Crandall, and Shauna Morin. 2018. "Student-Athletes’ Sense of Belonging: Background Characteristics, Student Involvement, and Campus Climate." The International Journal of Sport and Society 9 (1): 23-38. doi:10.18848/2152-7857/CGP/v09i01/23-38.
  • Extent: 16 pages


The purpose of this article was to examine student-athletes’ experiences and perceptions of campus climate in relation to perceived sense of belonging on college campuses. We used data from the NCAA Growth, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Learning Survey (GOALS) to better understand student-athletes’ perceptions. The GOALS survey includes data on student-athletes’ academic, athletic, and social experiences; health and well-being; and time commitments. We employed a hierarchical blocked-regression analysis to determine the extent to which athletic identity, academic and social experiences, and perceptions of campus and team climates predict sense of belonging (after controlling for background characteristics). The major findings from the study indicate a negative relationship between athletic identity and sense of belonging. Further, students of color reported lower sense of belonging than their white counterparts. Of particular importance was the relationship between sense of belonging and institutional and team climates. Having a positive sense of climate on athletic teams positively influenced sense of belonging, particularly for student-athletes of color. This article concludes with implications for policy and practice.