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Positive Correlation Reported Between Retention and RecSports Participation

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has set ambitious retention goals, with hopes of achieving a 92% retention rate by 2022. Faculty are identified as critical players of the retention initiative and are encouraged to utilize First Alert to address concerns early. Faculty and staff are encouraged to refer students experiencing financial difficulty to One Stop for additional resources.

In addition, the Student Success Summit was created. Hosted by Academic Affairs and Student Life, the Student Success Summit works to evaluate services, communication of resources, and case management practices.

Armed with information and goals from the Student Success Summit, Student Life departments are partnering with the Office of Assessment & Strategic Initiatives to measure the success of their programs, resources, and initiatives. RecSports has been working to determine if there is a correlation between participation and retention in the evaluation of its programs and initiatives.

In 2014, the University of Tennessee welcomed a class of 4,702 first-year students, and 84% of those students returned for a second year. A sense of belonging and support on campus are key indicators of retention, and RecSports continues to be an opportunity for students to access facilities to focus on their overall wellness and to get involved on campus.

RecSports reported that 85% of the 2014 freshman cohort participated in at least one RecSports activity during their freshman year. Students from the cohort who returned to school for a second year (retained) participated with RecSports an average of 24 times over the course of their freshman year, while students who were not retained participated an average of 14 times. Additionally, 67% of students who were retained participated more than 5 times (up to 275 times), while 56% of students who were not retained recorded 5 or fewer participations with RecSports during their freshman year (27% of those not retained did not participate at all). The results of a binary logistic regression analysis of the 2014 Freshman Cohort found that participation with RecSports was positively correlated with retention; freshmen students who participate with RecSports are twice as likely to be retained as students who do not participate.

“There are a lot of factors that play into why a student stays or leaves the university. While it’s impossible to control for all variables, it’s nice to see such a positive correlation exists between RecSports participation and retention. It reinforces our motivation for providing a meaningful experience to all students.”

– Sean Basso, associate director of programming, education, and evaluation, RecSports

RecSports has a number of programs including Fitness, Aquatics, Intramurals, Outdoor Recreation, Sport Clubs, and allows for friendly competition, fitness training, and sport to all members of the university community.

Students in the 2014 freshman cohort responded to the question, “How has participating with RecSports improved/enhanced your experience at UT?”, after a full semester into their sophomore year:

“It has helped me understand somebody who was quite different from myself. Also, it’s helped me build more stable friendships.”

“It has given me a place to go when I need to escape from stress from classes. It makes me more involved at the university. It’s my home. :)”

“It is the easiest way for me to release stress. It really has changed my life getting active and lifting.”

“The TREC alone has been the battlegrounds for me to lose 80 pounds and feel better than I ever have before.”

Memberships are included in a student’s tuition and fees. RecSports supports faculty and staff wellness as well and offers memberships at competitive rates. Additional information about memberships can be found on the RecSports website.


Sean Basso,, 865-974-3477
Melissa Brown,, 865-974-1376