Date of Award

Spring 6-13-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Anna Frank

Second Advisor

Amira Proweller

Third Advisor

Tanya Prewitt-White


Many sport sociologists argue sports play a significant role in creating culture (Horne & Manzenreiter, 2006; L'Etang, 2006). Yet, even as there has been a gender revolution in U.S. sports, media “coverage today misrepresents both the participation and the interest in women‟s sports across our population at large” (p. 3). A powerful entity, the media misrepresentation of the number of females competing devalues the importance participation plays in the lives of many females. Their status as “jock” causes potential negativity as they navigate college and their roles in society, and their status as “female” carries historical conditions in all realms, including education and athletics. Finally, their combined status as “female-athlete” is underplayed in the media, adding to the marginalization of women, especially those who play sports.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to further understand the essence of passion, specifically the passion females have for sport and how passion develops and is sustained in the patriarchal environment of collegiate athletics. Defined by Vallerand (2008) as “a strong inclination toward a self-defining activity that one likes (or even loves), finds important, and in which one invests time and energy,” (p. 4) understanding passion may help researchers and practitioners better understand the female, college student-athlete experience. In particular, this research, framed by Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2000), and informed by phenomenological and feminist philosophies, focused on how passion has been developed and/or sustained by examining the experiences of ten female, college student-athletes who compete at the Division I level by employing semi-structured interviews, a focus group and observations. As university student-athletes, they participate passionately in environments that have historically limited their opportunities (academia and athletics). Yet, despite such historic limitations, upon listening to their stories, several themes arose that help explain the emergence and persistence of their passion. These include 1) personal connections, 2) rising to challenges, 3) effort intensive, and 4) for the love of the game. This study concluded that relatedness, autonomy, and competence help develop and sustain passion. Likewise, these females are using their bodies as agents to re-define what it means to be an athlete.