Applying Social Work Values to Practice in Sport

Perspectives of Licensed Social Workers Employed in Collegiate Athletics




Social work values, Social work practice, Social work education, Competence, social work in sport, collegiate athletics


Social workers are beginning to be hired in collegiate athletic departments to meet the holistic needs of student-athletes. The limited research that has examined social work practice in sport has not explicitly explored ways in which social work values manifest in practice. The current study explored how the values of the social work profession are applied when providing mental and behavioral health services in collegiate athletics. Using a qualitative design, nine licensed social workers employed in athletic departments were interviewed. Data were deductively coded using the NASW (2017) Code of Ethics’ six values: service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. Social workers recognized student-athletes as a vulnerable population, worked on social justice issues, placed an emphasis on the diversity of student-athletes, built relationships with both student-athletes and sport staff, and advocated for social work values in athletics. They also called for more opportunities to increase knowledge of social work practice in sport settings. Results support the need for social work programs to prepare students for careers in sport through efforts such as offering elective courses related to social work practice in sport and providing sport-specific practicum opportunities.

Author Biographies

Lauren Beasley, University of Tennessee

Lauren Beasley, LMSW, MS is a docotral candidate in the Sport Management program in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee.

Tarkington J. Newman, University of New Hampshire

Tarkington J. Newman, PhD, MSW, MS is an assistant profession in the Department of Social Work at the Univeristy of New Hampshire 

Robin Hardin, University of Tennessee

Dr. Robin Hardin is a professor in the Sport Management program in the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, & Sport Studies at the University of Tennessee.


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