Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-19-2023


International student-athletes (ISAs) play in almost all NCAA sports at all levels of competition. This factor implies that international student-athletes are now a significant part of the paradigm of college athletics.

Even though an increasingly substantial number of ISAs in international student (ISs) populations in the United States, ISAs would face additional challenges concerning language barriers, cultural differences, adjusting to the new environment, general life on campus, academic settings, and the school's high expectations of them for athletic performance.

Therefore, providing genuine caring and supportive behavior for international student-athletes, ongoing support for social connection to minimize their unique issues, servant leadership style, and utilizing social capital are crucial for the success of ISAs in the United States.

This research study aims to explore and develop an in-depth understanding of the coaches' experiences working with ISAs and their descriptions of how they perceive facilitating supportive environments for ISAs.

A total of twelve collegiate coaches in assistant and head positions who have coaching experience with ISAs for at least three years in various sports were selected for this study. Semi-structured and open-ended Zoom interviews were utilized to gather in-depth information for the prime research questions and encourage participants to express their experiences. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis and thematic data analysis, interview data were analyzed. The study result presents five sections: 1) coaches' general awareness of ISAs' unique challenges: the language barrier, homesickness, cultural differences, financial support, academic, and athletic settings, and legal issues, which are corresponded with ISAs' experiences in the United States empathized above, 2) beneficial outcomes of having ISAs from coaches' perspectives, 3) importance of social capital, 4) Servant leadership for ISAs, 5) Supporting practice for ISAs.

Consequently, through having positive social capital, ISAs can develop their language proficiency which tends to increase the frequency of social gatherings. This practice also helps improve their academic and athletic performance because they can get information on upcoming classes. In addition, using a servant leadership style, a caring and welcoming attitude generates trust, making ISAs feel comfortable and confiding in their stress.


International student, international student-athletes, language barriers, cultural differences, homesickness, academic and athletic settings

Document Type




Degree Name

Physical Education, Sports and Exercise Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Todd Seidler

Second Committee Member

Mary Rice

Third Committee Member

Edward Horne

Fourth Committee Member

Lester Sombito