Under Surveillance: Collegiate Athletics as a Total Institution

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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Scholars have identified similarities between collegiate athletics and total institutions for profit-athletes, but few examined the relationship for athletes participating in other sports. Drawing on qualitative data collected from a sample of NCAA Division I athletes participating in four different sports, this study examined how collegiate athletics might approximate a total institution according to Goffman’s 1961 conceptualization. Consistent with Goffman’s conceptualization, athletes experienced 1) an absence of barriers between their spheres of life, 2) insularity of the athletic community, 3) strict schedules, and 4) institutional objectives used to justify totalitarian practices. These aspects of the institution helped to facilitate pervasive surveillance and extensive institutional power and control, aspects of the institution that athletes of all sports types perceived as stressful. These findings suggest that structural aspects of collegiate athletics may operate as ambient strains that could have consequences for athlete well-being, a possibility that should be explored in future research.

Hatteberg is with the Sociology and Anthropology Department at the College of Charleston, Charleston, SC

Address author correspondence to Sarah J. Hatteberg at hattebergsj@cofc.edu.
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