Constructing the framework for mentoring African American male student-athletes at predominately white institutions of higher education
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The goal of this study was to develop a detailed understanding of the academic, athletic, and psychosocial needs and issues of African American male student-athletes attending a predominately White public flagship institution of higher education during their transitional first year and determine if, how, and who were meeting these needs. In addition to the well-known lower graduation rates and academic struggles of African American male football players, there are numerous psychosocial and cultural issues and barriers these young men face during their transition such as commitment, discrimination, and isolation (Hyatt, 2003). Mentoring has been used as a tool for developing organizational members in many different contexts and disciplines such as business (Kram, 1985), higher education (Johnson, 2007), and sport management (Jones, Harris, & Miles, 2009). Further, since African American male student-athletes have an array of academic and psychosocial needs, researchers need to look beyond the traditional model of having one primary mentor and explore the potential of a “critical mass” or network of mentors. Twelve first-year African American male student-athletes participated in semi-structured interviews at the conclusion of the first and second semesters of their first year of college. Additional key institutional stakeholders included four upperclassmen African American male student-athletes, three former African American male student-athletes and four faculty and staff members, also participated in interviews with the researcher to add further insights into the first-year experience. Results indicated that African American male student-athletes went through five major transitions: an academic transition, an athletic transition, an athlete status transition, a transition into a less diverse environment, and a transition away from home. Ideal mentors for these individuals were typically African American men who provided role modeling, promoted critical thinking through interactive dialogue, and gave advice on personal and academic issues. Mentoring networks for this population must at least include African American males from the faculty and staff at the university and professionals in the community along with older teammates. Research findings will be of interest to researchers, administrators (academic and athletic), and practitioners who desire to improve the academic, psychosocial, athletic, and overall college experience of African American male student-athletes.