The Need for Sport Social Workers in College Athletics


  • Lawrence W. Judge Ball State University
  • Adam Smith Ball State University
  • Jerry Reynolds Ball State University



athlete experience, administration, college athletes, athlete support, social work, collaboration


College sports place significant pressure on student-athletes and necessitate the recognition and resolution of social, emotional, and environmental needs. To provide comprehensive support, the integration of social work professionals with sport expertise in college athletic departments is proposed. By encompassing mental health support, advocacy, and the resolution of challenges pertaining to well-being and identity, the application of social work principles provides student-athletes a well-rounded college athletic experience. Education and training for sport social workers are highlighted as crucial aspects for effectively navigating the complexities of college athletics. These specialized programs equip social workers with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide effective support to student-athletes. By considering their unique needs within the college context, sport social workers can contribute to the development and success of student-athletes. This article emphasizes the significance of addressing the well-being of student-athletes in college athletics through the integration of sport social work principles. In doing so, a supportive environment can be cultivated, promoting the student-athletes’ overall development and success. A focus on inclusivity and the application of social work principles in youth sports further highlights the broader impact that social work can have in addressing social issues.

Author Biographies

Lawrence W. Judge, Ball State University

Lawrence W. Judge, PhD, is a professor, interim chair of the Department of Social Work, and coordinator of the online master’s in Athletic Coaching Education at Ball State University. He served two terms as national chair of USATF coaching education. His research interests include the use of evidence-based practices in coaches.

Adam Smith, Ball State University

Adam Smith is a graduate student in the School of Kinesiology at Ball State University. His research interests include disability in sport and social inclusion within Special Olympics sports.

Jerry Reynolds, Ball State University

Jerry Reynolds, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at Ball State University. His research focuses on understanding family dynamics and how youth sports participation supports family functioning.



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