Latino College Student Athletes As Nepantleras: Fostering Academic Success And Athletic Identity At Two Ncaa Division Ii Institutions
Collegiate athletic programs at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Division II institutions in the United States serve a two-fold purpose. They offer aspiring
student athletes access to college and opportunities to play competitive college sports.
Consequently, student athletes at Division II institutions experience personal and
institutional pressures to compete for championships while achieving academic success.
Increasing demands on today’s college student athletes’ athletic participation and
performance has a multitude of consequences that could influence their academic
performance and success in college. Simultaneously, these institutions and athletic
programs are also witnessing another phenomenon – a transformation in their student
population. Latino college student athlete matriculation continues to increase every year,
mirroring their non-student athlete counterparts in higher education. Their increased
enrollment on these college campuses necessitates higher education researchers to better
understand this understudied population. In furthering that endeavor, this inquiry sought
to illuminate an overarching research question: how does a Latino college athlete’s racial
identity influence their academic success and athletic performance?
Guided by Gloria Anzaldúa’s Theory of Borderlands (Borderlands/La Frontera: The
New Mestiza, 2012), this two-part qualitative study invited seven Latino college student
athletes’ to examine their racial-ethnic identity, their academic success, and their athletic
participation in Division II competitive sports. Through 12 semi-structured open-ended
interviews, the researcher examined the intersections between Latino student athletes’
motivation to do well in their respective sport and their motivation to perform well
academically. Among the major findings of this study, participants strongly identified
themselves as Nepantleras – border crossers who possessed an intrinsic ability to
seamlessly cross the world of academics and the world of athletics. Their movement
across these dual world realities, in addition to balancing the expectations of their Latino
familias y culturas, resulted in the participants rejecting the idea of one or the other
(student or athlete) and claiming a singular identity: Soy Estudiante Deportista.
Understanding and engaging with Latino college student athletes’ academic and athletic
experiences at Division II institutions is vital for college faculty, athletic directors,
coaches, student affairs professionals, and institutional administrators invested in their
success. This study offers these institutional agents recommendations to best support their