School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Marsha Coker


persistence, athletics, motivation, medical school, higher education admissions


Educational Leadership


The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to understand the experiences of former college-athletes who persist in medical school. The theories that guided this study were the achievement goal theory by Nicholls and the self-determination theory by Deci and Ryan, as each theory relates to the motivation to succeed in academics, as well as athletic participation. Eleven participants were purposefully selected to address the question: How do former college student-athletes describe their experiences in relation to the attributes and characteristics that allowed them to persist in medical school? The sub-research questions investigated certain experiences that may have helped them persist in medical school, the intersection of athletic motivation and medical school motivation, and their medical school experiences compared to their athletic experiences. This study attempted to provide the genuine voices of former college athletes who have persisted in medical school. Data was collected using document analysis, semi-structured interviews, a reflection essay, and focus groups. Data analysis was conducted in accordance with Moustakas, which included preparing and organizing the data, reducing the data into themes, and representing the data in a written form. Validity and trustworthiness were established by employing member checking, audit trails, and reflexivity. These student-athletes felt the experiences of playing a college sport aided them in their transition and their persistence in medical school. The research participants attributed this to their resiliency, their internal motivation, their ability to adapt, their regimented schedule, and ability to relate their medical school experience to their college athletic experience.