March Madness is upon us! The excitement of postseason tournaments invigorates a nation emerging from yet another winter season. Elite teams put their final touches on an envious regular season, while others scrap for a postseason opportunity. The nation eagerly awaits for Cinderellas to dance as giants fall. The purpose of a regular season is unclear, if not fully forgotten. National rankings become irrelevant, and tournament seeds are no guarantee to success. So why did we have to wait for all this excitement? The truth is, March itself didn’t create the madness. It’s a result of a process.
This winter, I was granted an opportunity to be an assistant coach at the varsity level for a local high school team. When coaching summer hockey camps in the past, I had developed a coaching philosophy that has stuck with me over the years. Coming into my first full season as a coach, I knew there was going to be a big learning curve. When coaching summer camps, you’re often only with the athletes for a week; far less than the months of time that you spend with a group of athletes as a high school coach. One thing that has helped me overcome this learning curve is the knowledge and skills that I have gained as a graduate student studying sport and exercise psychology at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Learning about the mental side of sports has already helped to shape my coaching philosophy over the course of the season.
This past week, we had the pleasure to speak with Brian Fell, Activities Director (AD) at Mankato West High School. Brian has served as the AD at Mankato West for the past three years. Prior to his arrival at Mankato West, Brian worked as the AD at multiple schools for a total of 11 years. Mankato West High School has been a big supporter of our work at the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology, and we appreciate Brian, the coaches at Mankato West, and all of the school administrators who played a part in the decision to begin and continue working with the Center over the years.
As the activities director, Brian has a unique perspective on the work that we have done with Mankato West High School. To understand this perspective, we sat down with Brian and asked him several questions about the school’s experience working with the Center.
The questions and responses below are not direct quotations, but rather a summarized version of our conversation with Brian.
Ever since I hung up my track spikes and was officially done with competing in collegiate sport as a runner, I had to learn to navigate (and am still learning) new roles and identities and balance those with trying to continue running for recreation. It was a drastic change for me to focus more on my role as a graduate student and less on competitive running. This led me to think about other situations that might be prevalent in society in regards to runners and having to navigate these same challenges. This got me thinking about a very time consuming, demanding role.. mothers! We’ve all seen mother-runners in some way.. they’re out on the roads with their strollers, bringing their kids along to races or even incorporating them as part of the work out. How do they do it? What allows them to balance their lives and embrace a new identity as a new mother? Is there something that sets these women apart from the ones who stop running or exercising entirely? I dove into the literature and see what I could find. Not surprisingly, most research on runners has been conducted on very few elite mother-runners at the Olympian level. Hmm.. this doesn’t really generalize to all of those recreational moms.. Although the literature was a great starting point, I’m now in the process of conducting a study on mothers who run recreationally to identify characteristics that might describe how they balance multiple roles, how they identify as a mother and a runner, and also their motivation to run and self-efficacy as a runner. If we can find what sets the ones who continue and thrive apart from the ones who struggle (i.e. maybe it’s a healthy life-sport balance or perhaps social support from others), we can know how to support and encourage mothers who wish to continue their running and exercise. I’m hoping that this research can be helpful and inform society about what the challenges may be prevalent for recreational mother-runners, and to reinforce that it is possible to continue to run or exercise given the findings we might see. Stay tuned to see how it all turns out!
I ran the 2015 Mankato Marathon just over two weeks ago, and since crossing the finish line, I’ve encountered a common thread of questions by those curious about my marathon experience, as well as those who were surprised I’m still alive. The following identifies the seven most repeated questions, my responses, and a few additional ponderings: