Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly Bradley


Participation in athletics provides student-athletes with opportunities to further themselves outside of athletics through academic assistance, educational opportunities and experiences, physical wellness, and personal/professional development. One often overlooked portion of this holistic development is spiritual development. As demonstrated in the name student-athlete, it implies a dual identity. Few student-athletes navigate multiple identities and a myriad of additional challenges in their collegiate journey than African American football student-athletes (AAFSAs). Spiritual development is vital for student-athletes; the literature validates that student-athletes growing in their faith may be better equipped to navigate the tension of multiple identity roles and cope with various circumstances.

Sport ministry organizations (SMOs), specifically Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at higher education institutions, exist to support student-athletes in Christian spiritual development, coping, relationship formation, and identity formation. Using Fowler’s and Park’s faith development theories, this research focuses on a sample of Division I Kentucky AAFSAs perceptions of FCA, factors that influence participation, if FCA functions as a coping mechanism, and if FCA participation is indicative of spiritual development. As football remains a staple of higher education, understanding Christian spiritual development could be a useful tool for higher education professionals, athletic programs, and FCA staff to better serve student-athletes.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)