Playing Multiple Positions

Student-Athlete Identity Salience and Conflict


  • Landy Di Lu University of Michigan
  • Kathryn L. Heinze University of Michigan
  • Sara Soderstrom University of Michigan



identity conflict, identity salience, student-athletes, survey methods


Student-athletes enact dual roles, as students and athletes, and hold corresponding identities. The salience of these identities and conflict between them have implications for student-athlete wellness. The purpose of this study was to (a) gain insight into organizational and individual characteristics associated with identity salience, by examining student-athletes across universities; and (b) shed light on situations of identity salience and conflict for student-athletes. We conducted a survey study of student-athletes across 17 universities that captured both quantitative and qualitative data. Our results reveal a relationship between identity salience and individual performance (academic and athletic) and university ranking. Further, we found an interaction between athlete and student identity salience, such that identifying strongly as a student, athlete, both, or neither has implications for conflict. Finally, by unpacking situations of identity salience and conflict, we show similarities and differences across student-athletes’ experiences. This study has implications for universities and athletic departments.




How to Cite

Lu, L. D., Heinze, K. L., & Soderstrom, S. (2018). Playing Multiple Positions: Student-Athlete Identity Salience and Conflict. Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 11(2), 214–241.