Female Cross-Country Athletes’ Subculture Significantly Develops through College

Female Cross-Country Athletes’ Subculture Significantly Develops through College




The paper focuses on the subculture of female cross-country athletes. It highlights the results of an interview conducted with the athletes. The athletes described some of their concerns and they discussed their experiences including their inspiration, motivation, and source of support. The paper uses the socio cultural approach to examine the female athletes concerns as they engage in sports. The information finds out that female athletes may face additional external pressures than other non-athlete students. The desire to conform to societal standards especially affects them as much as it does other students who do not participate in sports. Understanding how the students feel the pressure to conform is important in distinguishing between the challenges they feel and the challenges that non-athlete students experience

Female Cross-Country Athletes’ Subculture Significantly Develops through College


The idea of the Choctaw Trails was conceived in 1975 by Joe Walker, who was a coach at the college at the time. The college has hosted two NCAA Division II National cross-country championships in 1986 and 1988. It has also hosted several NCAA meets and it is host to the largest meets in the South. The Mississippi College Women’s cross-country team has been active since the beginning of the sports in the college in the 1970s. This year, the team was eighth in the NCAA Division II Regional Cross Country Rankings in the South Region. It finished sixth in this year’s Gulf South Conference Championships and fourth in the non-division I Choctaw Open. It is among seven teams from the Gulf South conference who are among the top ten. The team is known as the Lady Choctaws. The Lady Choctaws recently competed in the Choctaw Open. The meet was one of the largest events that the college has ever organized and 170 women competed in the race.

The Problem

Female athletics participating in cross-country have to be dedicated and passionate, as this will help in improving their performance. They have to have a passion for what they do. Many of the athletes participating in cross-country feel that their sport is not as well recognized as other sports. They express their feelings based on the belief that the college does not take as much effort in promoting and advertising cross-country, as it does other sports. The students feel that they are not placed at the same level as other athletes, yet they have to practice just as much. Female athletes participating in cross-country face many challenges and difficulties. The paper presents some of these challenges based on the students perspectives from the interview conducted. In addition, it will use different sources that highlight some of the challenges that college female athletes experience.

My Idea

My idea was to interview the female athletes and learn about their subculture in the hope that I can apply and use some of the things learnt in a different context, specifically among Saudi Arabia female athletes. I recognize the benefit of sports to physical and mental health development. Moreover, engagement in sports at college level is one of the ways of having a balanced life. The results from the interview enable me to compare with the results obtained from female athletes in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, I also intend to determine how the athletes differ from the other college students who do not participate in sports. The results indicate that the students develop in other areas, even as they participate in cross-country. Their commitment and discipline is essential to this development. Moreover, the students engage in relationship building, which they are able to achieve through teamwork.

The Details

I interviewed some of the team members about their history and participation in cross-country. This made me understand their passions and interest and I gained knowledge on their motivation for the sport. The team is dedicated and committed towards its cause. I interviewed nine of the team members. Three of them did not answer most of the questions. From the interview, most of the athletes revealed that they have been running since middle school and a few of them started running when they were in high school. None of the students I interviewed started running the cross country at the college level. All the participants interviewed revealed that they attend the gym once every week. The interview also focused on the source of motivation and inspiration for the students. All the athletes get their motivation to run when they do so in a group. This shows their level of commitment towards the team. Most of the athletes revealed that they depend on a team member as their support network while a few depend on family members. The athletes also engage in other activities because they belong to different clubs at the college.

The interview gave me a chance to learn about some of the challenges and inspirations that the athletes experience. Most of the athletes are about the same height and they are slender. They are physically fit and they are concerned about their nutrition. The students come from different social and economic backgrounds. One of the students interviewed indicated that she likes running because this increases her scholarship money in college. The students highlighted their desire to receive additional support from the college. They noted that the college could do more for them as athletes. Most of them indicated that they would like it if the college gave them nutritious meals, especially when they have early training sessions and after hard runs. They noted that they come early for the weekend training sessions but they do not receive meals from the college. They are also concerned about recognition. Most of them indicated that they felt that the college could do more to raise awareness when they have events. They want better recognition for their efforts. The athletes expressed their concern that the college does not take as much effort to advertise the sports. They expressed their frustrations that other people do not recognize cross-country as a sport in the same way they recognize other sports, yet the athletes train just as hard as the others do.  

Related Work

The concern of the cross-country team on matters concerning nutrition is valid. Research indicates that female cross-country does not just depend on skill and endurance, but it is also concerned with leanness and appearance. Women and male athletes are different physiologically, and this can affect their performance. Moreover, female athletes have to deal with internal demands and external pressures. Some female athletes have become susceptible to disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, and osteoporosis (Zawila et al., 2003). Studies on female athletes reveal their concern about body image, and body weight. There is need to ensure that the college takes the students concern about their nutrition seriously.

The college environment and the subculture of college athletics put on additional pressures that compel the students to adhere to the ideal body image. This contributes highly to body dissatisfaction and it leads to disruptive eating behaviors. People can internalize the sport specific body ideals as they pursue the societal expected thin body frame. This comes at the expense of personal health among college women and female athletes in college. Female athletes in college face the added pressure that the reduction in weight and body fat will lead to better performance (Greene, 2015).

The information concerning body weight and appearance among female college athletes is important because it highlights some of the pressures that the female athletes experience. However, the female cross-country athletes I interviewed do not seem to conform to all the societal pressures. Many of them indicated that it would be important for the college to have a diet plan for the athletes. They were aware of the importance of nutrition to their athletics performance and they expressed their desire for the college to do more for them.

I interviewed the athletes concerning their interest in running by asking their reasons for participating in the sport. They had different reasons for choosing cross-country. One athlete noted that she chose cross-country because she was not good at other sports. However, many of them indicated that their love for running gives them the passion and dedication they need. Participating in cross-country also gives them a chance to think and reflect on life. For one particular athlete, she was glad for the opportunity to run because it gave her the change to reflect on God. This indicates that running can be beneficial for spiritual growth. Many of the athletes appreciated the discipline involved in participating in the sport and the fact that it gave them an opportunity to relieve the stresses they experience. They were also grateful for the fact that running in the cross-country helped them to bond and form close relationships with others.

Both male and female athletes are exposed to traits that are traditionally considered masculine. Such traits include competitiveness, aggressiveness, toughness, power, individualism, and strength. These traits may not always be in line with feminine gender norms, which include sharing, relationship orientation, interdependence, and cooperation. They have to deal with the dilemma of being female while at the same time being expected to conform to the masculine norms. They have to maintain the societal expectation of femininity including being attractive, even as their athleticism requires them to exhibit masculine traits. The idea of maintain the perfect body image as prescribed by the society is especially important. The athletes enjoy having toned bodies, yet they have to ensure that they avoid excessive masculine bodies. The socio cultural model expects female athletes to conform to societal standards of the female body image. However, female college athletes participating in sports do not perceive themselves less feminine compared to those who do not engage in any sports (Steinfeldt et al., 2011).

Conclusion and Further Work

The development theory recognizes that students learn in and out of class and that they are influenced by genetics and social environments. The results from the interview reflected this. Most of the students have developed through their participation in the cross-country. They have become knowledgeable on matters concerning discipline and teamwork. They have also developed socially as well. Many of the students indicated that their get their support and motivation from their team members. Cognitive structural theories are concerned with how students perceive and rationalize their experiences. The students interviewed demonstrated their knowledge concerning some of the things they need to do to improve their performance. They were concerned about nutrition and lack of diet plans. They recognized that that college could do more for them on that end.

The studies highlighted indicated the importance of femininity and gender roles as it concerns female athletes. It highlighted some of the concerns and challenges that the students experience, including body weight and appearance. There is a need to focus on this as it pertains to the college cross-country athletes. Body image perception is a major issue among female college students. There is a need to examine whether it has an effect on how they perform on the field as well.  

Specific Policy Recommendations

The college should listen to the concerns of the female athletes especially on matters concerning nutrition and recognition. There is a need for the college to offer nutritional advice to the students and to make it possible for them to get nutritious meals, when they go for training. This is in line with the research that indicates the importance of nutrition for the female athletes. Having a professional to work with the students will make sure that the students have the right information. This is necessary to dispel the idea that the athletes have to be thin so that they can improve their athletic performance (Zawila et al., 2003). This will also help the college to avoid the negatives associated with female participation in sports such as eating disorder (Zawila et al., 2003; Greene, 2015). Moreover, the college needs to do more to show that it appreciates the students’ efforts. It should place as much effort towards promoting cross-country as it does other events. Sports are important for the college experience and for personal development as well. Individuals who participate in sports realize numerous benefits. The students in the interview expressed the importance of running in helping them clear their mind, relieve stress, and reflect on different issues. Participating in sports will also benefit students who are interested in pursuing careers related to sports after they have cleared college. Sports management and fitness training have become important career paths for many individuals.  


Greene, A. C. (2015). Investigating meaning making: Body image and the college athlete experience. The William and Mary Educational Review, 3(2), 70-84

Steinfeldt, A. J., Carter, H., Zakrajsek, R., & Steinfeldt, C. M. (2011). Conformity to gender norms among female student-athletes: Implications for body  image. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 12(4), 401-416

Zawila, G. L., Steib, M. C., & Hoogenboom, B. (2003). The female collegiate cross-country runner: Nutritional knowledge and attitudes. Journal of Athletic Training, 38(1), 67-74

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