Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, "I'm possible". - Audrey Hepburn
A common phrase among our society consists of four words: life is a roller coaster. An idea to consider is what type of roller coaster is life? At times, I feel it’s the spinning tea cup from Disney World, the Dragster from Cedar Point, or a never-ending ride of terror. Depending on where I’m at in life depends on what roller coaster I’m on. If you’ve ever been to Cedar Point, you would have seen the magnificent Millennium Force. The sight of the blue gem is visible from the other side of the water. Granted, in my opinion, it’s not the height that makes it the best roller coaster but the journey.
While on a journey, two years can feel as fast as two minutes when looking in hindsight and yet parts of the process can feel like an eternity. Starting my master’s program, I felt determined. I had an expectation I was going to use this degree to help me become a sport psychologist. I had just been denied the opportunity to pursue my PhD so I felt this degree would be my stepping stone to achieve my goal. I began the program with taking the courses to fulfill my concentration of sport leadership and coaching because I needed to demonstrate I had enough background in kinesiology and the world of sports.
My kinesiology classes were fun, and I loved learning about the different aspects of sports. I gained the perspective of coaches, administrative involvement, and gained confidence in my application of sport knowledge. The more kinesiology courses I took the more I dreaded the remaining portion of my degree. I was so happy with the idea of attaining my goal and proving to my family, my friends, and mainly myself that I was good enough to obtain a PhD; I didn’t realize how I was slightly venturing down the wrong path. Partaking on the ride of a master's degree, I was able to combine my love of athletics with a new passion of academics.
Every roller coaster begins with a line. A winding line. A line that takes you in all sorts of directions, but you keep moving because you trust that you will end up at your destination. The happiness and pride I feel while approaching a giant task was replicated when I participated in Physical Bases of Coaching. My life was surrounded with athletics from six to nineteen years old. After injuries and quitting gymnastics in 2011, I distanced myself from athletics all together because of the sorrow of not being able to participate. The course's topics allowed me to relive my old life and sparked the passion for athletics in my heart. It gave me the needed fuel to continue my pursuit towards a PhD. I began to read more articles to better understand the makeup of athletes. I revamped my knowledge on anatomy and started to connect these basic understandings to answer why specific conditioning and nutrition was beneficial and an important factor to an athlete’s health.
Not only was I shedding light on the makeup of athletes but also taking the perspective of coaching. My class as asked to create conditioning plans that focused on multiple areas of growth. Once we had a grasp of the concepts of coaching, the next project our class was directed to create was a plan for the program you taught or will teach. Creating such an extensive program was intense for me. I’ve never been an assistant or head coach of a program. I struggled but enjoyed the process. I spent countless hours determining the proper sequence of events from off-season, pre-and postseason, and creating a sensible workout plan for the competition period. The formula to keeping gymnast healthy physically and mentally was a tiring equation. Considering my own experiences and the concepts I learned from the course, I created my first coaching proposal.
I began to see why understanding more than the athlete’s point of view will make a successful sport psychologist. A sport psychologist has many roles working with athletes and coaches. The strain coaches face daily to the yearly strain of attempting to reach a high achieving goal such as reaching a state, regional or national championship, can weigh heavily on an individual and begin to affect their wellbeing and the wellbeing of their athletes. Athletes need someone to guide them through any struggle they face within their sport. Gymnast can face many mental blocks during their time as an athlete. Some can be easier than others to overcome but certain mental blocks have been known to cause gymnast to quit all together.
After finalizing this course, I narrowed the idea of my future research project. I knew I wanted to pursue research in determining which area of the brain causes mental blocks in athletes and what techniques can be used to help reverse their inability to perform. I wanted to research if different mental blocks affected different areas of the brain and if there were certain techniques to encompass a group of mental blocks. I felt this was my opportunity to achieve acceptance into the PhD world.
As the winding line comes to an end and the excitement turns to anxiousness, I say a little prayer that this man-made machine of terror doesn’t randomly fall off the track. Participating in the course Writing Assessment & Instruction, caused the amount of prayers to increase exponentially. I love writing, but it seems few believe I have talent in the area. Coworkers, family, and professors have told me my writing skills are subpar and need improvement. I struggle to create assignments or newsletters for work without constant critique. To take full advantage of my master’s program, I decided to take this writing course to help improve my ability to use writing in my everyday life and future professions.
As the train of cars slowly approach the top of the hill, the clicking noise sets doubts in your mind, making you question your decision to ride a roller coaster. The appropriate words cannot describe my frustrations with this class. The six-week accelerated course did not allow us time to breathe in between assignments or give us enough time to meet with the instructor with course issues. I began to question my ability to complete this program with the remaining courses focusing on all academics instead of athletics. I began to reevaluate my schedule to see how I can keep the courses involving education at a minimum. I began to fear the rest of the program.
Though writing is my never-ending nemesis, I appreciate the art it represents as well as its ability to give us a way to communicate. I could see how different genres gave students and teachers of all areas unique ways to teach and to receive knowledge. One of the projects that was required asked to examine how instructors and people of a certain profession write. Our final project was to examine the writing of the profession I was currently teaching or the area I wanted to teach. I chose psychology.
I continued to barely keep it together at the end of the project and the course. However, through the struggles and anger, I could see myself looking at writing in a different way. I began to understand writing isn’t just for a handful of professions or students, but a necessary aspect of life. Explaining the details and reasoning of writing within psychology in this project, I grew in my knowledge of the APA style and was able to create a permanent example of how to construct an effective psychology paper. I plan to use this in future essays/reports as well as for students who need instruction.
After completing this course, I started to seek out writing assistance through friends and coworkers to find better techniques that fit my writing style and continue to sound and look professional. I find myself still researching writing techniques and learning how to incorporate my own voice effectively into my writing. I have. gained the confidence to work with multiple genres and writing methods to best assist future students, I will now be able to adapt to any given assignment or writing expectation. This course gave me the opportunity to learn that when I'm in doubt, reaching out to others for help or excepting excess analysis can result in a beautiful project.
Every roller coaster has that one hill that makes us feel life is ending. The euphoric feeling of facing your fears and realizing you can overcome any adversity is breathtaking. The course Teaching in Postsecondary Education provided me with the reassurance I was not going to fail in this program. Free falling with the overwhelming assignments, readings, and discussion posts, I felt like I was spinning out of control. I was working two jobs and finishing my program.
Due to my sour attitude towards classes encompassing education, I felt the free time I was granted between jobs was not in favor of participating in homework or doing any activity beyond what I was required. The book, Learner-Center Teaching, by Maryellen Weimer changed my outlook on teaching and teachers all together. Weimer had me eagerly reading every page on how to incorporate the method of putting learning first and teaching second. I started to become slightly frustrated with the past professors I’ve encounter and understood why I connected with others. I began to see the ideal traits I wanted to encompass as a professor.
Agreeing with the learner-centered method was not an easy transition to my original perception of teaching. I’m excited to work with the minds of young adults. I initially wanted to help them learn from the knowledge I’ve attained and from my personal experiences in life. I’ve always felt teaching will allow me to have the power to enlighten students on any given topic. These ideals are the opposite of what learner-centered teachers should utilize. Weimer demonstrated that if we give students options of what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, and even input on how to grade assignments, their attention to the material increased. The students she worked with not only thrived in retaining knowledge but strived to participate in class discussions and assignments. I practiced using learner-centered techniques on every assignment in the semester.
After the dreaded first drop, the fear resides and thrill overtakes the experience. The Millennium Force has a second drop but most riders face it with excitement rather than distress. My second drop was not being admitted into a PhD program after everyone knew I was applying. The course Teaching in Postsecondary Education changed my attitude and tone towards working in academics. Rummaging through new professions I could pursue with a degree in psychology and a degree in education, I found a happy draw towards academic advising. I feel I can utilize the learner-centered techniques I now treasure and still be able to assist students in achieving their academic and professional admirations with as little stress as possible.
My passion does not cease at becoming a regular academic advisor but an athletic advisor. Student-athletes face many stressors within their sport and within academics. I view their schedule as a puzzle that can be worked to allow the proper amount of time to accomplish their school work, practice, PT, and even give them down time. The learner-centered method provides me with the tools so I can best assist the athletes in accomplishing their goals outside of their sport. With limited experience in working in higher education and advising, the path will be difficult to embark but for now I can’t see myself doing anything differently.
I’m a firm believer in J. R. R. Tolkien’s quote, “Not all who wander are lost”. Going through this program I was wondering through many different aspects of my current life, my future profession(s), and what realm of the academic world I fit in. Regardless of the butterflies we receive at the beginning of a journey, the doubt we feel approaching change, the scary free falling feeling we get when we don’t know what’s happening around us, or even riding the loops life throws at us, this program has taught me life keeps moving no matter what.