“We are just athletes…What more is there to say?” A phenomenological narrative inquiry into the lives of NCAA D-I female student athletes
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Historically and culturally, sport has been seen as primarily the preserve of men until recently. Currently there is very limited research that has tried to capture the actual real-life experiences of female graduate school athletes on college campuses. As the make-up of athletic departments in Universities continues to change, the way in which athletes are researched also needs to change. What are the lived experiences of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division One (NCAA – DI) female student athletes? Using hermeneutic phenomenology and self-determination theory as the theoretical framework, this narrative inquiry study explored the lived experiences of female student athletes in their own words. Using life story interviews and a focus group, stories were co-constructed with each participant. It takes the reader to the inside world of the female student athletes to offer a vicarious experience of what it is like to be a female student athlete. Through emotional and thought-provoking stories of female student athletes, this study raises questions about the taken-for-granted ideals of female athletes. In so doing, it aims to urge NCAA- DI athletic departments to find ways to better serve each individual female student athlete as a human being addressing their wellbeing and not simply their athletic or academic pursuits.