A game within the game : an ethnographic study of culture and student-athlete recruitment at a Division I university
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The success of a college coach to develop winning teams and a winning culture in any sport largely depends on his/her ability to recruit and strengthen the skill levels of his/her student-athletes. The following ethnography of the Eastern Hawks baseball coaches seeks to describe the culture of this organization during two consecutive seasons including the recruitment of student-athletes and the management of the current players on the roster, and to also detail the coaches’ use of compliance gaining and aspects of communication in their interaction with the recruits and their families. To investigate these issues, an ethnographic study was performed with a Division I baseball team called Eastern University. Numerous individual interviews were conducted with the staff and later transcribed. Team functions, games, and events were also attended for data collection. Results indicate that the organizational culture of Eastern Hawks baseball was initially created through artifacts such as facility improvements, game rituals, and performance requirements. The observed culture is being negatively influenced by espoused values and basic assumptions that run contrary to stated and desired goals. Leader-member relationships were regarded as predominantly low during this study accentuated by unfulfilled expectations of performance. The coaches used various compliance-gaining methods in recruiting student athletes but were most successful when targeting prospects who valued education, had parents who also valued education, and who believed they would fit in with the culture present at Eastern. The coaches implemented strategies that were pro-social and also reduced excessive apprehension. When competing against the professional draft, the staff provided metaphorical statements to prospects and their families that which sought to highlight social identity. Coaches compared the negative effects of turning pro early as opposed to developing personally and athletically at Eastern.
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