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Soccer and the American Dream

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The American Dream is founded upon the ideological belief that ‘you can be anything you want to be, regardless of your current class position.’ This belief is contained within the dominant prevailing notion that the U.S. is a meritocracy where power and success are associated with determination and failure with laziness.

This thesis challenges whether the American Dream is a relevant, attainable and viable concept for higher education students via the avenue of a soccer scholarship. In so doing, the research presented challenges the perceived wisdom of ‘American exceptionalism’ from a critical theoretical perspective.

The research question at the heart of this study is ‘what are the motives of American university students for undertaking a soccer scholarship?’ The adoption of an interpretive paradigm for this study aims to provide an explanation of student decision-making. In the final analysis, this approach reveals what soccer means to the lives of the student-athletes.

The central themes of the study were established via a pilot study and categorised as: family, social class, social mobility and career development.

Questionnaires were completed by 154 students from two separate Division One universities. Twelve students were then purposively sampled and interviewed using a semi-structured format. To supplement these opinions, interviews were then conducted with a selection of coaches and athletic directors at the respective institutions. Analysis of the responses was contextualised using the framework provided by Csikszentmihayli and Schneider’s (2000) ‘Support/Challenge Questionnaire’.

The findings support a common hypothesis that the family is a significant agent in socialising of their children to the cultural values of the American Dream. The findings additionally reveal support for the notion that families are important influences on their child’s sport mobility orientations in the soccer context.

An alternative explanation proposed here is that the transmission process is actually a two-way dialogue in which children socialised their parents and vice versa. The family in this study represent a potentially problematic social process for the inculcation of values related to the maintenance of social life.

The conclusions presented clearly reveal that the majority of students embarking on a soccer scholarship are motivated by the need to firstly finance their higher education and secondly to take part in a sport they have played since childhood. Students were aware of the uncertainty of the marketplace and the limitations of their own technical ability. As such their participation in the scholarship could be considered to be a pragmatic adaptation of a ‘labour of love.’



editors comments

Editor's comments -  [ The above is the abstract from an original PhD thesis; the final publication in the study for the author in pursuit of a doctorate; such works result in the author being awarded a PhD and the title of Dr. by an appropriately accedited University. PhD's are the culmination of a number of years work by the author supervised by two (normally PhD or MPhil qualified) academics and, with the addition of a further appropriately qualified academic (not normally from the same University) as part of a viva-voce examination team. Successful research work at PhD level is designed to add to the body of knowledge in the study area at some level.

A PhD thesis often forms the foundation for journal articles for the author and leads to further enquiry in the form of what is called post-doctoral research. These works are characterised by comprehensive literature reviews, sometimes traditional yet multiple (and often mixed) methods, interesting if not ground breaking discussions and always directional signs toward further research; they provide for undergraduates not only a model for the possibilities for further study but a gift in terms of references in any given subject areas.

To reference an eThesis the convention in the text is the same as a book; author (date), in the reference list there is some debate; theses are more often than not, unpublished works, yet when listed on databases at Universities or elsewhere it could be argued that they are published.

Our best advice is to reference list internet sourced theses as ‘published’…. ie.; Author, (date). Title (emphasised). Place of publication and (university) publisher. Available from: URL reference. See our example reference below. ]


APA reference for this document


Reference :  Lawrence, I. (2009). Soccer and the American Dream. PhD Thesis. Stirling: University of Stirling. Available from


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 August 2012 12:41