Exploring the Experiences of Division III Athletes Drinking Alcohol With Their Teams

A Qualitative Study


  • Debra L. Fetherman The University of Scranton
  • Joan Cebrick Grossman The University of Scranton




alcohol use, college athletes, social identity, team dynamics


Self-reported alcohol use is highest among Division III athletes, which represents the largest NCAA Division. Team- or sport-related social processes related to college athletes’ alcohol misuse have primarily been investigated quantitatively among Division I and II athletes. No studies have examined the experiences of the reciprocal relationship between college athletes and their teams concerning alcohol misuse. For these reasons, the purpose of this study was to explore the essential meaning that Division III athletes use to characterize their experiences of drinking alcohol with their teams. Research questions addressed what athletes experienced when drinking with their teams and what influenced or affected these experiences. During interviews with 15 athletes, consisting of male (n = 5) and female (n = 10) athletes from eight intercollegiate sports teams, four themes emerged: acceptance, comradery, safety and protection, and a gateway to college social life. Athletes also described changes in their social identities which led to responsible changes in their alcohol use and associated behaviors. Findings indicated that the malleability of athletes’ social identities can change alcohol behaviors as college athletes navigate social life throughout their college years. Applying knowledge about team interpersonal dynamics and athletes’ individual self-identity development may aid practitioners, athletic administrators, and coaches as they seek to reduce athletes’ alcohol misuse.




How to Cite

Fetherman, D. L., & Grossman, J. C. (2018). Exploring the Experiences of Division III Athletes Drinking Alcohol With Their Teams: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 11(2), 129–148. https://doi.org/10.1123/jis.2017-0044