Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Henkel, Steve


Interscholastic athletics are purported to provide many benefits for participants. Some studies have shown the benefits of playing sports, but others have cautioned the expense is not worth the investment and not all outcomes of participation are positive. High school athletics are deeply woven into the American educational system, yet limited research has been conducted to capture the voices of student-athletes to identify their perceptions of sport experiences. Learning this information may help various stakeholders improve interscholastic sport experiences. Therefore, the purpose of this existential-phenomenological study was to examine the best and worst sports experiences of interscholastic athletes in team sports. Participants consisted of 16 varsity athletes from public and non-public high schools representing different areas of Minnesota. Athletes were 12th-grade students and 17 or 18 years old. In-depth phenomenological interviews were conducted at each student’s school, averaging about 34 minutes. Results of this study produced 573 meaning units and eight major themes, four explaining best experiences in high school athletics and four describing worst experiences. The four major dimensions of best experiences in high school sports emerging were: I loved my coaches, I loved playing, I loved my teammates, and I loved winning. The four major dimensions of worst experiences in high school sports were: Problems with coaching, Problems with playing, Problems with team, and Problems with losing. Many participant experiences were grounded by the relationships held while participating in sport and the emotions produced through participation.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation