Coaches’ Perception of Organizational Socialization Process of International Student-Athletes and the Effect of Cultural Distance: An Exploratory Study.
Int J Exerc Sci
Coaches' Perception of Organizational Socialization Process of International Student-Athletes and the Effect of Cultural Distance: An Exploratory Study
EVELYN S. JARA-PAZMINO 0
BOB HEERE 0
TOM H. REGAN 0
CHRISTINE BLAKE 0
RICHARD SOUTHALL 0
0 Department of Sport and Entertainment Management, University of South Carolina , Columbia, SC , USA
International Journal of Exercise Science 10(6): 875-889, 2017. This study focuses on the coaches' perspective of the organizational socialization process of new international studentathletes. After analyzing the information of 10 in-depth interviews with experienced NCAA Division I coaches, this exploratory study aided the researchers to identify socialization tactics being used to successfully integrate international student-athletes entering USA college teams. ISAs come from different cultures, and pending on their home nation culture they might be challenged in their ability to socialize within their new surroundings. Results indicate that the cultural distance between team culture and ISA's culture affects the effectiveness of socialization tactics, and coaches should evaluate and take into account cultural distance before structuring the socialization process for ISAs.
International athletes; USA college athletics; socialization tactics; adjustment to college
In 2016 the USA Today News published the average expenditure of the top 50 National
Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) institutions in 2014-2015 to be $110,716,064.00. In this
era of multi-million dollar paydays, schools switching conferences and the need to fill arenas,
the pressure to win has increased. Kevin Stallings, the basketball coach at Vanderbilt, said,
“The pressure to win is a very real part of the job… At a lot of places, it’s just about winning”
). Coaches and administrators continue to search for competitive advantage (
competition to recruit the top domestic players is high, so coaches have turned to larger
international recruiting arenas with less competition (
). An end result of this competitive
drive is that the International Student-Athlete (ISA) enrollment figures have doubled within
the last decade (
). In the 2012-2013 academic year, the NCAA reported that 8,653 of the
186,640 (4.6%) Division I student-athletes came from outside the United States, and due to
higher tuition fees (ISAs can not qualify for in-state tuition), athletic departments have to
allocate more resources to the ISAs. Therefore, to protect their investment, college athletic
departments and universities should consider devoting resources to the success and retention
International students experience difficulties adjusting to the national culture of their new host
nation as well as adjusting to a new (collegiate) organizational culture (
). They have to adjust
to a new academic system, establish social networks as well as learn a new language and
overcome financial hurdles (
). International students are at greater risks of experiencing
anxiety, stress, and culture shock (
), depressive symptoms (
), social isolation (
15, 19, 24
and homesickness (
). ISAs have to overcome these challenges not only in the classroom, but
also on the field. Many stressors from expectations placed on them due to the increased
competitive nature of collegiate sports, put ISAs at a disadvantage and create an environment
prone to failure (
Comparable to a business general manager in search of the most efficient way to manage
his/her resources and obtain the best outcomes, the coach of a team also searches for the most
efficient way to manage his/her human resources and a way to obtain the best outcome from
his/her athletes. In the same way a new employee has to be socialized into his/her
organization’s culture (norms, values and beliefs), the incoming ISA also has to be socialized
into his/her team’s culture (norms, values and beliefs). Griffeth and Hom (
) found that
member turnover is highest among newcomers to an organization, and in combination with
the escalating cost of training new employees, organizations have a profound interest in
helping their new employees adjust into their new roles and understanding the specific
socialization tactics that best assist in this process.
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore from the coaches’ perspective, the
socialization tactics used during the socialization process of incoming ISAs and explore the
role of the cultural differences between the ISA’s home nation and the United States within
International newcomers and Cultural Distance: Many international newcomers are recruited
for their high level of skills; however, the difficulty in learning the nuances of a new
organizational culture in addition to nuances of a new national culture makes the adjustment
of the international newcomers harder to achieve (
). Andrade (
) addressed the transitional
issues unique to the general international student population during the first year in a U.S.
college or university. Many of the issues encountered by international students overlap with
those of domestic students: adjusting to a new environment, leaving home for the first time,
developing effective study habits, and choosing a major; however, these potential struggles are
compounded for international students by language barriers and cultural differences. Andrade
also argued that specific cultural and linguistic challenges, which affect nearly every facet of
the international student transitional process, are often neglected. International students have
trouble adjusting to their new surroundings, primarily because of culture shock, which stems
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from confusion about the norms of the new culture (
5, 18, 31
). Chapdelaine and Alexitch (
determined that international students experienced more culture shock, or a greater sense of
social difficulty, than did host students. Students who were more fluent in English and had
more social support also experienced less stress. (
). In addition, students who experienced
greater cultural differences had less social interaction with host students, and lower levels of
social interaction with host students intensified culture shock. Finally, homesickness may be
more pronounced depending on the country of origin of the sojourners. Greater differences
between one’s culture and the host culture will result in more homesickness (
). Yeh and Inose
) found that European students that moved to the United States reported less stress from
culture shock than did Asian, African and Latin American students. This fact was attributed to
a smaller cultural distance between European culture and American culture compared to the
other continents. The results of these previous studies informed the difficulties and risk that
ISAs were exposed to when they arrived to a new environment. As stated by Yeh and Inose
), each newcomer had a different level of difficulty while being introduced to the host
There are several authors that have addressed transitional issues faced by student-athletes (14;
22) and specifically Ridinger and Pastore (
). Ridinger and Pastore were among the first to
address the acclimation of ISAs to U.S. higher education and athletics, and noted the absence
of research on ISA adjustment into college. Ridinger and Pastore (
) were the first to create a
model of adjustment for ISA, which included four antecedent factors (personal, interpersonal,
perceptual, and cultural distance), and five types of adjustment (academic, social, athletic,
personal-, emotional, and institutional attachment), resulting in two outcomes (satisfaction and
performance) to define successful adjustment to college. In fact, the greater the cultural
distance between the sojourner's native country and the host nation, the greater the
adjustments international athletes would be expected to make (
Later, Popp et al. (
) explored how the antecedent factors identified by Ridinger and Pastore
connect to the actual lived experiences of international migrant athletes at U.S. universities.
The antecedents presented in the adjustment model by Ridinger and Pastore (
) included the
cultural distance dimension, which refers to the difference between the home culture and the
culture found on the college campus, which can be both a geographical distance and a societal
or cultural gap. Popp et al. (200) as well as Ridinger and Pastore (2s) both studies mentioned
cultural distance as a key variable in the process of adjustment, but they did not define how to
measure it within the field of sports. Authors have studied the adjustment of ISAs to the new
team culture, however there is a lack of studies on the leader’s approach to establishing an
effective socialization process for the new members.
According to Slack (
), “While culture is often presented as a unitary entity, most sport
organizations have a dominant culture and one or more subcultures. These competing cultures
can lead to organizational conflict if they are not managed.” In the case of college athletics, the
head coach of each team is responsible for creating and/or managing the culture at that level
). Additionally, the head coach of the team is the person in charge of structuring the
socialization process for his/her new athletes. The head coach has many resources available to
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help during the adaptation process. Ultimately, the head coach will determine what tactics to
use during the socialization process, yet it is unclear to what extent head coaches understand
the effect of cultural distance on the socialization process of international newcomers.
National Culture as Barrier to Organizational Socialization in sport: Katz (
) looked at the
organizational socialization within the U.S. collegiate sport context and found that entering a
new environment brings forth a number of challenges for any newcomer. Networks are
inherently related to belonging, consequently, network development and network location
should play an important role in how newcomers join communities. At the same time, not all
newcomers require the same socialization experience; a successful newcomer adjustment
process is a matter of fit between individual characteristics and the socialization tactics
employed by the organization. Finding a belonging early in the newcomer experience is
essential to a successful socialization process (
). For that reason, it is very important for
organizational researchers to include the time of the measurements for all the variables, and
include the role of time in socialization (
). The value of providing a form of engagement early
in a newcomer’s transition is hard to overstate. (
). Other factors to take into account, are the
number of members on the team and the nature of the sport (team vs. individual), which
might alter what combinations of tactics are used during the socialization process of a
newcomer. Additionally, the national host culture and the ISAs’ culture are different from one
newcomer to the other; this “cultural distance” affects the effectiveness of the socialization
tactics used with newcomers.
The stability and productivity of any organization depends in large measure upon the way
newcomers come to carry out their tasks. When the transition from generation to generation is
accomplished smoothly with a minimum of disruption, the continuity of the organization’s
mission is maintained and the predictability of the organization’s performance is left intact
). The culture within an organization represents the glue that holds together the various
interlocking parts of an on-going social concern. However, it was found that the greater the
cultural distance between the new environment and the expatriate’s home culture, the greater
those transition difficulties are likely to be (
It was also stated that the content of the work and the importance of interpersonal
communication are greatly impacted by a change in cultural setting, for example, the
adaptation of an engineer versus a human resource manager (
). In the field of sport,
interpersonal communication is needed and highly valued in team sports more than in
individual sports. Vocal leaders such as a point guard in a basketball team, needs an effective
interpersonal communication, which would greatly influence the performance of the team.
In summary, the following research questions guided the present study on sport
organizational socialization at the collegiate athletic Division I level:
RQ1: What tactics do coaches use during the socialization process of ISAs?
RQ2: From the coaches’ perspective what is the effect of ISAs’ cultural distance during the
socialization process of ISAs?
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The target population for this study were NCAA Division I athletic coaches. The researchers
used purposeful sampling using a maximum variation approach to obtain different
perspectives from coaches with experience dealing with ISAs. The responsibilities and
interaction of the coaching staff with ISAs varied from the head-coaches, assistant-coaches,
recruiting-coaches, and strength and conditioning-coaches. The researchers recruited the
coaches to participate in the study through personal connections to the athletic department of
various universities. The inclusion criteria used was coaches from NCAA Division I
institutions, which have had successful programs within the conference and at the national
level, and have had a high frequency of ISAs on their teams. (See Table 1).
One author conducted in-depth interviews with 10 coaches using a semi-structured interview.
Each interview lasted approximately 30-40 minutes.
In this qualitative study the authors strive to obtain information from coaches and their
perception of their own experiences. The authors chose an emergent research design to capture
“rich information cases” as they become available (
). To explore organizational socialization
tactics used with new ISAs coming to US college athletic teams, the authors conducted
indepth interview with coaches of various NCAA Division I teams. The socialization tactics used
with ISAs were identified and categorized. Finally, the desired outcomes were grouped based
on the coaches’ perceptions.
The researchers conducted a content analysis of the current team’s website and media guides
from past years to confirm the presence of ISAs on each team. With this information, we were
able to triangulate findings such as ISAs´ turnover, group recruiting of ISAs from the same
nation, and possible peer-mentorship from older ISAs from the same nation. The researchers
coded the data following the procedures outlined by Patton (
). This preliminary analysis
yielded 73 socialization tactics mentioned by the coaches during the interviews. The emergent
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nature of the exploratory study guided the researchers to account for each tactic with the same
importance regardless of the frequency of use, until saturation was reached. After developing
initial themes, we classified the 73 socialization tactics into five major categories that
summarized a broad area of action for each socialization tactic. The five major areas that
emerged from this analysis were custom coaching, mentorship, team structure, all-inclusive
family and supporting services. Each major area had various tactics, all with the same goal
during the socialization process of new ISAs.
Based on the emergent analysis of the information given by the coaches, we proposed the
following figure that summarizes the exploration of the organizational socialization process of
ISAs from the coaches’ perspective.
The figure includes the five areas that gathered the specific socialization tactics used by
coaches, the effect cultural distance has on the effectiveness of those tactics, and the potential
outcomes due to the effect of ISAs’ cultural distance. The greater the cultural distance is (top of
the graph) the more problems that ISA and the coach have to face and the smaller the cultural
distance is (bottom of the graph) the fewer problems and more positive outcomes the ISA and
coaches obtain. Then, coaches reported that the solution to common problems such as
homesickness and possible miscommunication was to talk directly with the ISA. However, the
outcome of the coach-ISA talk was not always positive.
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It is important to mention that from the ten coaches interviewed only one reported giving a
personality evaluation to his/her athletes before establishing socialization tactics and team
roles. The other nine coaches reported assigning the same socialization tactics to the entire
incoming freshman class regardless of being domestic or international. All the coaches
reported the importance of meeting ISAs in person and getting to know their culture and
personality as well as their emotional, academic and medical needs early in the recruitment
Socialization tactics and cultural distance: In the sections below, we will discuss the
socialization themes gathered after the analysis of the information given by the coaches. In
addition, we will present how cultural distance affected the effectiveness of the socialization
Custom Coaching: First, coaches gain knowledge about general cultural differences of ISAs
based on their country of origin from many years of experience. Custom Coaching refers to the
coaches’ use of previous knowledge about their incoming ISA’s background (individual needs,
personal values, motivation to become an ISA, knowledge of the NCAA rules for each sport),
in order to establish a socialization tactic that will be favorable for the adaptation of the
newcomer. Those tactics have a high level of involvement between the coach and the ISA on
an individual basis and the coach would have to apply custom coaching throughout the ISA’s
For example, if one of the characteristics of a particular ISA’s culture is collectivism, then the
coach might look to recruit more than one athlete from the same culture, looking to make the
adaptation process of those athletes more efficient. One coach stated, “I have had many
Brazilians and I know that in their culture they like to be in groups so we recruit them in groups of 2 or
more. They will adjust better if they are in groups.” [Head Coach Soccer, male]. We partially
confirmed this information with triangulation of information from the websites and media
guides from past years. The roster of the teams showed small groups of ISAs from the same
nationality on the same team.
Custom coaching is also an important tool for detecting problems at an early stage. Coaches
claimed to maintain a constant one-to-one communication that focused on the wellbeing of the
ISAs at various points in time during the adaptation process. “Asking them on a regular basis if
they are OK. We work one-on-one with the athletes, so we get to know them and ask questions related to
class, practice and any other areas.” [Head Coach Tennis, male] This is another example of a custom
coaching socialization tactic where the coach maintains regular meetings/practices with the
ISA in order to gather information about possible difficulties that the ISA might be facing
during the socialization process.
Mentorship: Almost all coaches emphasized the importance of mentorship. They referred to
mentorship as a system to help newcomers (protégés) become acclimated into the team by
pairing them up with more experienced teammates (peer-mentor) or coaching staff (mentor).
The coaches trusted that the peer-mentor relation allowed the newcomers to obtain
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information, have a good example to follow, and provided them with advice. Mentors or
peermentors introduced new ISAs into their new roles.
The goal of the mentorship tactic, peer-to-peer, was to gradually introduce the newcomer into
the team’s culture due to the experience of the senior member, who had extensive knowledge
of the structural and functional characteristics of the team and its surroundings (e.g. city,
university, etc.). The coaches assumed that the older peer is knowledgeable about the norms,
values and beliefs of the team and the environment surrounding them. In addition, the older
player informed the younger player about the team’s traditions and symbols, which might not
be visible to the people outside of the team.
Another style of mentorship is coach-ISA, in which the coach assigned various student-athletes
to each member of the coaching staff (assistant coaches). The responsibilities of the mentors
(assistant coaches) involved, making sure their ISA learned and applied the norms and values
of the team. In addition, the coaches aimed to provide emotional support to the athletes that
needed it at a specific point in time. The coaches stated the use of mentoring tactic
continuously during the academic year. This tactic also served as a reporting tool for potential
issues. The coaches claimed to develop a strong relationship with their protégés and gain their
athletes’ trust by demonstrating genuine interest in the ISAs’ well-being. A head coach
reported that the involvement of the assistant coach as a mentor was important because for
some ISAs the hierarchical figure of the head coach limited an effective mentor-protégé
connection. For some ISAs, it was easier to relate to the assistant coaches as opposed to the
head coach, due to positions of power. Coaches stated that it is important to use of this tactic
for a long period, not just the first phase. Another objective of this tactic is to help the ISAs in
building a social network that would later serve as a support system.
Team Structure: Coaches reported that the socialization tactics used to introduce the team
structure to the newcomers was not different for ISAs and domestic athletes. The coaches used
a formal style to communicate the general team rules and norms, applicable to all members of
the team under the same standards. It is essential to emphasize the difference between the
team’s rules and roles. The rules are the same for every member, and the roles might be
different for each member of the team. It was important for coaches to use the team rules as
unifiers for all its members without distinction of origin, or status within the team. However, it
might be necessary to communicate the rules to the ISAs in a different way. The effect of
cultural distance on this group of tactics caused misunderstandings. In some cultures, the rules
are not strictly enforced, and enforcers routinely make exceptions for individuals. The
following example illustrates how cultural distance affected the team structure tactics.
They (ISAs) miss home, their friend and lifestyle…. The athletes had to be back by certain date in
January, back from Christmas break, and she did not come back that day. She wanted the extra
time with her family. She did not really understand that once we said, “this is the date you have
to be back”, that was the date. She came back two or three days after that, it became a messy
situation. The coach sat her down and talked to her and try to make her understand… you have a
responsibility to this program, so when we tell everybody else to be back we cannot give you extra
privileges because you are international. [Assistant Coach Volleyball, female]
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In this situation, cultural distance affected the effectiveness of team structure tactics. The coach
solved the issue with direct communication, to ensure it would not happen again. At this
stage, the ISA had to accept the rules or go back to her home country. It became apparent from
the interviews that each team structure is different. Depending on the leadership and coaching
style of each head coach, a team has more rules or less rules. One coach reported, “The team has
strict rules and norms that guide the expected behavior of the team members such as a dress code,
punctuality, expected behaviors for class, practices, away games and other situations” [Head Coach
Soccer, men]. In contrast, another coach reported “The team has one basic principle that guides the
behavior of each team member in all situations: represent the university in a first-class manner” [Head
Coach Tennis, women]. In the case of ISAs, the enforcement of the team rules must be the
same but the introduction to the team rules might be different, based on each ISAs cultural
All-inclusive family: Fourth, the all-inclusive family describes the specific way in which the
members of the team experience the team culture. It is dependent upon the members of the
team and their style of human interaction, connectedness and favorability to diversity. The
coaches reported that the team culture is constantly changing and due to the nature of college
sports where an athlete only has four-years of eligibility, the team culture will be adapted
based on the members of the team at a specific point in time. Coaches reported that the tactics
used were collective in context, informal and greater in number especially during the first
stages of newcomer socialization. The validity of the ISAs’ personal characteristics is important
in order to have a better socialization between the ISAs and other members of the team.
The biggest hurdle is the adjustment to a different culture, language, and social structure.
Although, the things that combat that, is that they are in this culture of the team. This team culture is embracing all of them. They are brothers or sisters together and that helps them to overcome homesickness or any other challenge. [Head Coach Soccer, male]
All the coaches mentioned the use of socialization tactics within this area. The interaction of
the members of the team outside of the sport context was qualified as very important based on
the coaches’ experiences. “When they come to the program, they are coming into an all-inclusive
family of people that look out for them in everything” [Head Coach Soccer, male]. The all-inclusive
family group of socialization tactics is one of the biggest advantages of ISAs over international
students. A coach stated that the main goal of this group of tactics was to increase the
connectedness between the members of the team.
Supporting Services: The goal of these services is to facilitate the successful adaptation and
performance of the student-athletes in their athletic and academic responsibilities. Supporting
services include the following areas: study hall, tutors, psychologist, nutritionist, sport trainers
and various introductory meetings among others. Each athletic department offers similar
tactics in a formal socialization of newcomers into the university lifestyle. For example, the
introductory meetings are collective in context, and most times mandatory to all
studentathletes in the athletic department. The introductory meetings inform all newcomers (domestic
and ISA) about various topics such as; alcohol and drug use, nightlife, sexuality, violence, fan
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interaction and eligibility regulations among other topics. The coaches also mentioned
introductory meetings specifically for ISAs, where they received information about
immigration rules and resources for internationals.
I make a point of attending the introductory meeting for internationals every year, where they receive important information about additional regulations the internationals have to be aware. I want to be able to help them remain in good migration standing. [Head Coach Tennis, women]
The coaches reported that the athletic department organizes and manages the supportive
services independently from the head coach of each team. However, the coaches can promote
the use of those services in a more or less frequent way. After analyzing the interviews, the
researchers established that supporting services are essential for the adjustment of domestic
student-athletes and ISAs. “We have our staff that works with them in terms of the strength coach,
the nutritionist, the academic counselors, the psychologist, so we have a lot of services that we can offer
to this guys” [Head Coach Soccer, male].
Even though coaches do not directly control supporting services, they receive continuous
reports and information from these services. Additionally, the coaches encourage both
domestic students and ISAs to take advantage of this support system. ISAs use support
services in an individual context and based on the need of each ISA. After reviewing the
information on the athletic department web site, the researchers confirmed the existence of
supporting services in all the universities associated with the interviewed coaches.
Challenges arising from the effect that cultural distance has on organizational socialization.
Coaches reported that based on ISAs’ cultural distance there were instances where the ISAs
did not have a clear understanding of the rules and roles within the team. In addition to the
introduction of the ISAs to the team culture in a collective context, the coaches reported having
the need to clarify the team culture to the ISA in an individual context as well, until ISAs
clearly understood and adopted the rules and roles within the team.
Coaches reported that a tactic used to solve problems was one-on-one communication. The
objective was to achieve a clear understanding and compliance of the rules, in addition to
presenting possible consequences in the case that the ISA does not adapt to the rules. A
clarification on expected behavior was necessary for ISAs where the cultural distance from the
host-culture was big.
For example, an ISA did not feel comfortable approaching the head coach and letting him
know about her dissatisfaction. The ISA just accepted her situation and tried to cope with her
internal conflicts. The [head coach, tennis, women] stated that the tactic used in this situation is
more reactive than preventive. Using this approach has risks, in this case, the issue existed for
too long and it was too late to fix it. The coaches might not become aware of the existence of an
issue until there are no options to fix it. In this example, the ISAs’ emotional well-being was
too compromised and her return to her country of origin was imminent. One of the [Head
Coach, tennis, women] stated:
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A young player that for two years was on the outward side showing good attitude, working hard, but at
the same time was crying every night in her dorm room because she was homesick and not achieving the
success that everyone had set for her. She did not have the ability as a person to release these problems.
So for two years this was a terrible experience for her. Nobody knew about it. When a third party
brought this to our attention then we had to investigate… it was a terrible situation and by that time we
couldn’t fix anything. She went to her home country to reestablish her self-sense of worth and repair
things with her family. She had to get away from tennis and from school and be back into being a
healthier person in general. [Head Coach Tennis, male]
In this situation, the ISA lacked communication with the coach and failed to be able to inform
him/her about her feelings and concerns. However, the fact that the coach could not anticipate
this situation also indicates that he/she did not have a clear communication with his/her
athletes. In other cases, the coach might be able to prevent problems and negative
consequences by evaluating the cultural distance of the ISA. The coach might be able to
decrease the number of misunderstandings and increase the satisfaction of his/her athletes if
the ISAs’ cultural distance is taken into account during the socialization process.
Expected Outcomes from the coaches’ perspective: The information from the interviews
generated a group of expected outcomes from the coaches’ perspective such as adjustment to
the new environment and the team, high academic and athletic performance, graduation on
time, commitment to the team for the full four years of eligibility, self-satisfaction of the ISAs,
and athletic achievement as a team. The coaches mentioned that one of the most rewarding
outcomes for them was the long-lasting relationship that they created with ISAs. In some
cases, the former ISAs became part of the recruiting network of the coach.
Most of the coaches stated that the outcome with the highest priority was to graduate their
athletes on time. The next expected outcome was to assemble a winning team and obtain
championships. During the interviews, the interviewer asked the coaches to explain if the
expected outcomes from the ISAs were different from the expected outcomes from the
domestic student-athletes. They reported that the expected outcomes for their ISAs were
similar to the expected outcomes for the domestic student-athletes. When attempting to
resolve issues a coach stated that most of the time it is too late to solve the problem. Even
though the coaches did not report having a high rate of ISAs’ turnover, the researchers
triangulated with the information published in the websites and media guides of each team
and it revealed a high fluctuation in the number of ISAs from year to year, which contradicts
the statements of the coaches. One of the coaches reported having trouble with athlete
commitment with the team. Her ISAs were leaving the team before the four years of eligibility.
The most negative would be… I had a player turn pro in the middle of the season, and went back to Europe to play the European Tour. And just this year I lost a recruit to the European Tour as well. [Head Coach Golf, female]
In this situation, the coach was losing players because they decided to become professionals.
Those players failed to identify themselves with the organizational culture of the team and the
team’s short-term and long-term goals. Those ISAs showed a lack of commitment with the
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team by putting their personal interest ahead of the well being of the team. The investment
made on recruiting those athletes did not have the expected return.
In some cases, reacting to the problem with one-on-one communication might fix a situation;
nevertheless, the problem already caused a waste of time and resources. The previous
experience illustrated this situation. In some cases, reacting to the problem might be “too little
and too late”. In regards to the previously mentioned situation, the coach stated, “When I talk to
the athlete about not becoming a professional athlete and staying with the team, the athlete has already
made up their mind about what they want to do” [Head Coach, golf, women].
The head coach of each team is responsible for structuring the socialization process and
determines what tactics to use with the new ISAs and domestic student-athletes. Coaches face
a challenge when trying to find a balance between accommodating ISAs from different
cultures and findings ways to create a homogeneous culture for their team. In their quest for a
homogeneous team culture, coaches often do not differentiate between domestic and
international athletes, as they try to maintain a homogeneous environment for all of their
athletes. The head coach treats everyone in the same way to avoid any preference.
Nevertheless, the findings of this study support socialization research that integrates
organizational tactics and individual proactivity together (
). Each athlete has a different
background and different factors that influence their reality, which might hinder the
effectiveness of a universal treatment. Not all newcomers require the same socialization
experience; a successful newcomer adjustment process is a matter of fit between individual
characteristics and the socialization tactics employed by the organization (
). For this reason,
the researchers propose to evaluate the incoming ISAs and find their cultural distance before
structuring the socialization process. Based on the information obtained whether the cultural
distance is large or small then the head coach can determine what additional socialization
tactics ISAs would need. Popp et al. (
) as well as Ridinger and Pastore (
) both studies
mentioned cultural distance as a key antecedent variable in the process of adjustment, but they
did not define how to measure it within the field of sports. Therefore, the authors suggest
further research should focus on the use of person-environment fit theory, in order to evaluate
the ISA’s cultural distance.
Popp et al. (
) as well as Ridinger and Pastore (
) proposed a model of adjustment of ISAs to
the new team culture, however based on our findings we propose the addition of the
organizational socialization process to the model. The ISA’s antecedents should determine the
use of specific socialization tactics, which in turn will lead to the ISA’s adjustment. Our
findings also fill a gap on the literature on the leader’s approach to establishing an effective
socialization process for the new members.
) stated that internationals often receive less mentoring in the form of social
support and role modeling and more tasks related mentoring. He bases his hypothesis on
mentoring research that finds the mentor-protégé relationship to be based on similar
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demographics. We confirmed this finding, and found that it is more effective to have ISAs
mentored by an international with a similar cultural background whenever possible.. Because
of the shared background, they serve as role models and they are empathetic to the social
support needs (
). The researchers found that mentoring, a tactic used by coaches, supports the
need for a structured socialization process for ISAs. The most cited definition of socialization
describes it as the “process by which an individual acquires the social knowledge and skills
necessary to assume an organizational role” (
). In the same way that a new ISA needs to
acquire the social knowledge and skills to assume a role within his/her team.
Following Katz (
) and our results, we propose that the first few weeks or months are crucial
to the successful adaptation of the ISA. Coaches should set up a system that allows the ISA to
adapt to the new style of life, the food options, transportation, the new academic system, and
ways to access different support services. The early engagement should be used in an
individual context (assigned person-ISA) where one individual introduces the ISA to the new
environment. The following activities would be applicable upon the arrival of the ISA: setting
up a phone plan that will work for his particular needs (international, data availability in
relation to financial resources); setting up bank accounts (international transfers, close to
campus, ATM availability). In addition to, giving ISAs information about the transportation
system; how to get to an accessible grocery store, pharmacy, athletic campus, classes (safe way
to call a taxi, approximate rates, approximate wait time); accessible and healthy
restaurants/cafeterias; and appropriate clothing for the weather, among others. Finding a
belonging early in the newcomer experience is essential to a successful socialization process
). Therefore, the early engagement period, upon arrival of the ISAs, is extremely important
to establish a sustainable and conducive environment for an effective adaptation. After the ISA
has set up his everyday needs, he/she would be ready to go through the general
organizational socialization process.
Due to the increase in collegiate athletics’ investment and the constant pressure to win, there is
a need to increase the effective use of resources in order to obtain positive outcomes. The
present study provides valuable insight into how to improve the ISAs’ socialization process in
order to achieve a better adaptation, self-satisfaction, high levels of athletic and academic
performance, increased commitment with the team and reduce turnover.
The results of this study could inform collegiate athletic recruitment policy in addition to
influencing the socialization process of new ISA and domestic student-athletes as well. There
are both academic and fiscal ramifications attached to the results of this study making it
significant in power and scope. By improving the ISAs’ outcomes of organizational
commitment, role satisfaction, the ISAs be more likely to remain in college during their 4 years
of eligibility, while performing in athletics to the best of their abilities and successfully
obtaining a college degree.
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