Honors Theses

Discovering the Truth Behind Football Culture: Examining the Effects Football has on Collegiate Male Athletes

Paige Fandel, University of South Alabama

Copyright © 2023 Paige Fandel ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


The mental health of athletes has become an increasingly discussed topic and many athletes have voiced the critical need to continue evolving the conversation surrounding mental health. Research has indicated male athletes are stigmatized for seeking mental health assistance, yet, little research exists on this population. In order to fill this gap, this research project sought to qualitatively examine male football players at the collegiate level and their experiences regarding mental health, access to mental health resources, and stigma surrounding having mental health issues as a collegiate athlete. Participants (n=14) were current or former (played within the last three years) collegiate football players who had at least one semester of participation in a collegiate football program. Individual interviews were conducted with each participant, asking them to detail their experiences with their unique football program. A four-person coding team analyzed data to determine emerging themes. Results revealed three higher order themes, each with subsequent subthemes: (1) football culture (subthemes: program structure, physicality of football, and expectations), (2) psychological well-being (subthemes: awareness of mental health issues, lack of resources, and experiencing negative mental health outcomes), and (3) stigma (subthemes: men/masculinity and status of being a student-athlete). Participants stated mental health struggles emerged during their time as a collegiate athlete, oftentimes as a result of intense schedules, and they shared a fear of seeking support due to their status of being an athlete. This study demonstrates that it continues to be a challenge for student-athletes to discuss mental health, and we need to help athletes learn how to use their voices to advocate for help. Future research in this area will aim to implement mental health resources for athletes to ensure better mental health outcomes.