The African American college football player : a holistic exploration of identity, challenges and environment



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College football is big business, earning slightly more than $1 billion in profit in the last few years. As a result of its popularity, fans of the game devour massive amounts of information about college teams and their players. Less known are the non-academic challenges college football players face, in addition to the typical concerns shared with their non-athletic peers. Along with academic and cognitive challenges, the ability to effectively navigate non-academic areas - such as personal, social and cultural - is critical to the development and holistic growth of today’s college football players. These factors can affect a student's ability to thrive or persist toward graduation. In this report, I explore the specific challenges of African American college football players at predominantly White institutions. Within this scope, I will examine the growth of college football in addition to the reach and impact it has on African American families. Within these communities, research shows a pervasive focus on playing professional football. Some players believe that college football is a mere stepping stone on the road to a professional career. The reality is that very few college football players are chosen to play professionally – actually less than .2%. This report explores some of the psychosocial issues that can impact the on and off the field success of African American college football players at predominantly White institutions The goal of this work is to lay a foundation and make an argument for counseling and therapeutic support targeted to, but not exclusively for African American college football players. As systems that seek to understand growth and change for optimum mental and physical well-being, the field of counseling and sports psychology present intervention models that can be useful for today’s African American college football players.