Student-athletes like these ECU softball players illustrate how teams build a sense of community through sport. Dr. Stacy Warner in the ECU Department of Kinesiology and Dr. Brennan Berg at Memphis University have received an American Athletic Conference grant to explore some of the best practices for community-building currently happening within the AAC. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


AAC funds research at ECU, other member institutions

June 23, 2017

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

An East Carolina University faculty member will team up with researchers at Memphis and Temple to improve the well-being of student-athletes in the American Athletic Conference.

Dr. Stacy Warner, associate professor of sport studies and sport management in the ECU Department of Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Performance, has received funding for two research projects from the AAC's Research Grant Program. The AAC's Academic Consortium announced the awards this week.

"By virtue of the American Research Grant Program, our conference has a unique opportunity each year to be a national leader in research related to student-athlete well-being," AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said. "This research will support multiple initiatives and affirms our commitment to conducting and advancing scholarly studies in this vital area. The grant program also fosters a sense of partnership among our member institutions."

Research will be conducted beginning in July through August 2018. Participants will be student-athletes from the 12 AAC member institutions, Warner said.

American Athletic Conference

Warner will collaborate with Dr. Brennan Berg at Memphis University on a project titled "Promoting Healthy Community for AAC Student-Athletes."

The $7,000 grant will help Warner advance foundational research on sport and sense of community, she said.

"My previous research has established how community is built within sport, but this grant will allow us to further explore some of the best practices for community-building currently happening within the AAC.

"More importantly, it will provide an avenue for connecting theory to practice," Warner said. "Building and maintaining a sense of community offers numerous social and health benefits."

Her second project will focus on the health of student-athletes after they are no longer eligible to compete. Warner will work with Dr. Michael Sachs and Madeline Barlow at Temple on the $6,000 grant.

"Research indicates that many former student-athletes fail to maintain healthy lifestyles and physical activity levels after they have exhausted their collegiate eligibility," Warner said. "We also know that their identity as an athlete typically remains high throughout their lifespan. However, this does not seem to translate into maintaining healthy physical activity levels."

The study will identify challenges and barriers that former student-athletes face. "Our goal is to provide data on how to help student-athletes manage their transition out of college sport and into a healthier physical active lifestyle," Warner said.

Findings will be presented at the American Research Symposium, which will be hosted by the University of Central Florida next spring.

The American Athletic Conference Academic Consortium was founded in 2016 as a presidential initiative by the league's member institutions to promote academic excellence and to develop opportunities for collaboration and professional development for faculty, administrators and students. The focus of the consortium is the conduct of research regarding student-athlete health and well-being. The consortium aims at fostering partnerships among member institutions and developing initiatives that advance the academic mission of each institution, according to an AAC news release.

"We are excited about the collaborative work the AAC's American Research Grant Program will support," said Stacey Altman, associate professor and chair of the ECU Department of Kinesiology. "The award demonstrates the increasing demand of practitioners for evidence-based strategies for the holistic development of students that participate at a very high level of athletic competition. We are confident Dr. Warner and the research teams will make a meaningful impact with their projects."