Amateurism as a Narrative of Control

An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Lived Experiences of College Athlete


  • Tracie Canada Duke University
  • Kaitlin Pericak North Carolina Wesleyan College
  • Miray D. Seward Search Institute



qualitative research, amateurism, habitus, total institution, collaboration


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) uses amateurism as a narrative to control college athletes, which affects how scholars conduct research with these athletes. This article speaks to issues that arise among qualitative researchers at different institutions when universities control access to athletes under the guise of the ‘amateurism’ narrative. Drawing on Bourdieu, we provide insight into the habitus of athletics departments through vignettes from each of the authors to highlight issues of access to the collegiate athlete population. We simultaneously speak against amateurism as a controlling narrative and argue that there is a need for more immersive research among college athletes to better understand athlete lived experiences within these institutions. From our different disciplinary perspectives, we offer three solutions to this issue that involve the integration of qualitative researchers and practitioners to inform programming that directly impacts the athletes on college campuses across the country. 

Author Biographies

Tracie Canada, Duke University

Tracie Canada, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. Her ethnographic research uses sport to theorize race, kinship, care, and the performing body.

Kaitlin Pericak, North Carolina Wesleyan College

Kaitlin Pericak, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology at North Carolina Wesleyan University. Her research uses the case of sport to examine health and illness, the body (i.e., embodiment, regulation, surveillance, and objectification), and organizations.

Miray D. Seward, Search Institute

Miray D. Seward, PhD, is a research scientist at Search Institute. Her research focuses on the identity development, socialization, and schooling experiences of Black women and girls.


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