How college athletics can impact a students future
Athletic experience in college can be beneficial for those looking to go into careers such as personal training, physical education and nutrition.
The two most popular majors among student-athletes at Keene State are exercise science and nutrition. Among the current fall athletes, there are three nutrition majors and 15 exercise science majors. For some student-athletes, their sports history helped them choose their major, for others, it was a significant injury or event.
CHOOSING A MAJOR
Senior Ali McLoughlin is an exercise science major as well as a captain on the women’s volleyball team. She described how a major injury to her ACL inspired her to pursue a career in physical therapy. “I’ve been really into exercise and fitness since I was 13. I tore my ACL when I was 13 and I had to go to the gym and rehab and everything like that so I really got into more of a structured strength and conditioning program and I guess it really motivated me to get back onto the volleyball court,” McLoughlin said. “And that’s what sparked me to want to be a physical therapist, is that whole having to go through rehab, I really just fell in love with that whole process and everything so I wanted to bring that somebody else.”
Similar to McLoughlin, sophomore nutrition major Juliana Yialiades had an experience in high school that influenced her choice of major in college.
“I kind of had my own experience with an eating disorder,” Yialiades explained. “I took the nutrition class and I was pretty much apply everything that I was getting from the class but like taking it too literally. I was doing these two sports (soccer and cross country) and everything else in my life was going on. I was, essentially depriving myself from certain foods and stuff.”
Both Yialades and McLoughlin explained that these experiences have influenced them in their majors as well. McLoughlin said that exercise science creates a new awareness of how to keep herself injury-free through strength and conditioning training.
“When I’m in season, I want to make sure I’m staying healthy, injury free, all that stuff so the other side of exercise science, physical training, is important to reduce injury, and so that you’re able to stay healthy,” McLoughlin said. “A lot of people don’t realize how important that aspect of sports is and I think it’s starting to become a new thing where people realize strength and conditioning is really vital before season, during season after season.”
Yialades agreed that nutrition is also important before and after competition. Yialades is a captain on the women’s cross country team. She explained some of the misconceptions about a runner’s diet that she has learned from nutrition classes.
“The biggest things that I always take away from my classes are what we’re putting into our bodies and how what we’re eating can provide us with energy,” Yialades said. “I think my biggest thing is my own eating disorder too. If you can have certain foods, you know nothing should ever be off the table. No matter what other teammates or your coaches are saying, you can have what you want to like, it’s all going to fuel you…”
Professor Lisa Prospert teaches in the public health major and focuses on nutrition. Prospert also explained the roles that coaches and teammates play in an athletes’ body image and nutrition. “…Certain types of athletics put a lot of emphasis on body weight, again some more than others…” Prospect said. “We’re working with students, with kids, from a coaching perspective. Being aware of how those kinds of messages can have negative impacts I think that’s important.”
Students learn tools in these majors that help them draw connections between their athletic and academic careers.
Dr. Fitni Destani teaches in the human performance and movement sciences department. He works mostly with students on the physical education track who want to become teachers. Destani explained how the topics discussed in his classes can lend themselves to player and personal development.
“Those additional professional experiences, including playing a college sport, that they get outside of the classroom are crucial for role modeling, for developing into a more mature individual,” Destani said.
Rachel Spear plays on the women’s soccer team and is also an exercise science major. Spear worked at BodyWorks as well, training clients and perfecting her strength and conditioning knowledge. She explained how this helped her in team workouts with the women’s soccer team.
“Especially during team lifts, we learn a lot about form when it comes to the resistance training so being able to correctly do a lift and helping my teammates out if they’re doing it wrong, so they don’t get injured or I don’t get injured,” Spear said. “And then also learning about, especially in sports nutrition, we learn about what’s good to consume before and after workouts like pre and post. So it all comes together for an athlete.”
Prospert shared a personal story about connections she has been able to draw between the material in her classes and her life. Prospect’s husband is currently training to run the Clarence DeMar Marathon. As someone who is knowledgeable about nutrition and also works with college runners, she gets a lot of questions from him.
“He says to me, ‘Well, you know, I did my 20 mile run and I didn’t feel good. What do I do?” Prospert recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, I’m not a sports nutritionist, but you’re not getting enough carbs.’ So, you know, having a little bit of a science background does a lot… when you start to pull information together for your family, your friends, yourself.”
JUMPING INTO A CAREER
Combining knowledge from classes and professional experience is something that is encouraged in every major. Majors like exercise science, nutrition, physical education and sports management lend themselves to this very nicely. The ability to make these connections and incorporate them into professional life helps students feel more confident going into their careers.
Destani talked about how athletic careers can help students get jobs in physical education and exercise science- related careers postgraduation. “So for PE specific, we actually have portfolios that they do and they have a section in there that’s called professional experiences,” Destani explained. “And those professional experiences like being a student-athlete, being on an athletic team, being a captain, being a leader. Those experiences are going to transfer over to their careers, and [employers] see them as positive activities that you’ve done while you are on campus.”
McLoughlin, Yialades and Spear all talked about wanting to work with athletes in their careers. McLoughlin, who wants to go into the physical therapy field or become a physician’s assistant, expressed that she finds it easier to motivate people when she is able to relate to them. “I think that I’ll be able to relate to a lot of different clients…” McLoughlin said. “Adults, if they’ve been an athlete in the past… I think that’ll help me relate, and also be able to bring out different motivational aspects in people like maybe more of a competitive side. Maybe somebody does better with competition rather than just, ‘Hey let’s go’ so I think being able to bring those will be able to help other people.”
Yialades explained that she is currently most interested in working with a soccer or cross country team in sports nutrition. She explained how her own experiences with sports and nutrition could be of importance to others, especially other student-athletes. “I think just having a background in running in college and having, like the ups and the downs to running and being an athlete as well as a student,” Yialades said. “It’s not perfect all the time and you can’t run perfect all the time, you can’t eat perfect all the time and nothing can ever really go perfect, but just embracing in the challenges that I have, and in the positive outcomes that I do have with running… It will help me bring that into what I’m doing in the future, especially if I’m working with athletes.”
Spear is also hoping to find a career working with athletes, but more on the strength and conditioning side. Similarly to Yialades, Spear agreed that her own experiences will be the most beneficial thing for the people she works with. “I really want to work with athletes, so it’s easier for me because I’ve been in their shoes. I know what they’re going through, especially when it comes to time management and balancing out classes and being on a team in general,” Spear explained. “I’ve been there, I know what it’s like. It’s a very stressful time especially as a freshman or a first year student on the team. So I’ll be able to relate to them more.”
Destani, who has been working in the human performance and movement science department since 2009, has seen many studentathletes go out into the field. He explained how the life-long love of athletics often keeps students involved, whether it be through coaching, personal training or something like physical therapy. “…The focus tends to be some sort of involvement in sport to lead them down the path of wanting to continue, to stay involved in the sport in some way. I talked a lot, in my sports psychology class, about it being a big part of their self identity. And they identify with their sport as being part of who they are and it’s very difficult for them to let go. And so a lot of times that’s why they end up wanting to stick around as a PE teacher coach.”