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Students, Embrace ALL Your Opportunities

Students, Embrace ALL Your Opportunities
Courtesy photo

By Tom Tallach, Ed. D. |

I’d like to offer some advice, at least something to consider, to current and future students in sport education.  Really, this applies to everyone seeking a “higher education” and “upward mobility” in sport-related professions.  Is a traditional “higher education” worth it or even necessary?  That, of course, depends on the specific job requirements, industry standards, and other factors.  My intent here is not to suggest alternative preparatory pathways into sport professions or to make a value proposition on behalf of colleges and universities.  This is for those individuals and families who have chosen to invest their precious time and resources into higher education.  It’s fairly common for me to hear students and parents talk about getting the basics out of the way.  They are referring to the general education requirements, the liberal arts/sciences “core” required of all students at most colleges and universities (typically history, creative arts, life/physical science, social & behavioral science, etc.).  The inference is that they can then focus on that which is, in their minds, important.  While the courses in the academic major certainly are important, to dismiss or discount the value of the other courses is, in my opinion, an opportunity lost.  I’d like to offer a different way of thinking about the required liberal arts/sciences portion of the degree programs.  This way of thinking is rooted in pragmatism and self-centeredness.  It’s about asking “What’s in it for me?”

It can be said that all we as humans really have is time.  Most people’s time can be divided into three major parts, the time we are asleep, the time we are doing that which we “have” to do (vocation), and the time we are doing things that we “want” to do (for simplicity, let’s call this “me time”).  While this perspective certainly applies to vocations as well, let’s focus on the “me time”.  Most of us believe that what gives life meaning is the way we connect with our environment.  If that is the case, then one’s awareness, understanding, and appreciation of these other people and things matters in regards to the meaning in one’s life.  The more we can be aware of, understand, and appreciate our social, natural, and cultural environments, the richer the connections and, hence, the greater the meaning.  I know there is a sense of urgency to get started ‘making a living’ but don’t forget about ‘living your life’.  The opportunity to engage the liberal arts/sciences in a community of teachers and learners, many of whom have very different backgrounds and perspectives, should not be underestimated or de-valued.  It’s an awesome opportunity that provides a return-on-investment in the form of richer and more satisfying “me time” throughout a lifetime.  I’m grateful that I had the opportunity and know that I have benefitted both personally and professionally as a result of the experience. 

Dr. Tom Tallach serves as the head of the Department of Sport Science in the School of Kinesiology at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas.  He is a former college and high school athletics administrator with over three decades of experience in sport-related fields.

A Healthful Holiday

A Healthful Holiday
Courtesy photo

By Dr. Katrina Wahlstrom |

The season of thanks and gift-giving are now upon us. This often means less time to yourself, and more time spent with friends, family, holiday parties and shopping. Although the holiday season is indeed magical, it can also lead to your health progress and goals fa la la la falling to the wayside until the decision is made to reignite the healthy New Year’s Resolution. Instead of waiting to the New Year to refocus on your health, there are several reasons to maintain your physical activity during the holidays. For one, the holidays can be stressful. Mounting expectations surrounding dinner plans, gift lists, and finances can place a considerable amount of stress on individuals and couples. Further, holiday foods and alcohol don’t do any favors for the waistline. There is no panacea for all of your stressors; however, staying active in or outside of the gym is great answer in making stress more manageable.

Symptoms of Stress:

  • Body aches and pains
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive upset

These symptoms are just a few ways in which stress can physically and mentally manifest in the body. Adults and children alike can be affected by stress. The holidays may be difficult for individuals that have lost loved ones and people close to them. Likewise, factors stemming from the external environment such as less sunlight, over-commercialization, or inability to be with friends or family can lessen the joy around this season.

How Staying Active Aids in Reducing Stress

Any form of exercise can aid in reducing stress, physical activity ranging from aerobics to yoga can aid in this feat. Regardless of your current fitness level, a little movement throughout the day can go a long way. So, how exactly does exercise combat stress?

  • Increases your endorphins. Physical activity activates the endorphins that trigger positive feeling, similar to morphine. The feeling is often described as euphoric by acting as analgesics that lessen the perception of pain.
  • Lessens negative effects of stress. Although exercise is a form of stress, this physical form of stress can enable the body to manage general stress levels. It makes the body more resilient. Research indicates that the initial spike of stress that exercise elicits in the body leads to lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine after physical activity.
  • Meditation in motion. While we imagine Buddha meditated in perfect stillness, he was said to have mentioned that everything we do should be in “clear comprehension.” Our thoughts, feelings, and movements can provide insight and awareness. Use your exercise session to train in mindful movement. Allow yourself to focus on your breathing, posture, and the connection between your mind and body.
  • Enhances your mood. Movement of any kind may be beneficial in keeping depression and anxiety at bay. You don’t have to be an avid gym goer, just getting off the couch and moving a little can add up. One hour of low-intensity or 15 minutes of high intensity exercise are ideal and can still improve your mood.

Traveling during the holidays? Choose exercises that you can easily perform without the need for access to a local gym or personal exercise equipment. Old school exercises such as running, walking, jumping jacks, and crunches can be fit into a current fitness routine or one created while you are traveling. Don’t have much space? Try a few lunges, furniture dips, and body weight squats. With a little ingenuity and modifications, you can get in a quick 10 to 15 minute workout. If you find that it just isn’t possible to get in a sweat session due to all of the social commitments, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just as we forgive others, we have to forgive ourselves and start fresh the next day. Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to pursue your dreams, make that magic happen every day with purposeful thoughts and movements.

Dr. Katrina Wahlstrom is the Chair of Exercise Science and acting Director of the Center for Professional Studies and Continuing Education at the United States Sports Academy.

Embrace The Process – Dr. Eric Street’s Dissertation Experience

Embrace The Process – Dr. Eric Street’s Dissertation Experience
Dr. Eric Street, center, with Academy faculty Dr. Fred Cromartie and Dr. Brandon Spradley.

By: Dr. Fred Cromartie and Dr. Brandon Spradley |

The United States Sports Academy continues to strive to meet its mission of making contributions to the field of sport by preparing men and women for the profession of sport. Today, the spotlight shines on Academy alumnus Dr. Eric Street.

Street works as an Adjunct Professor of Sports Management at Midway University (KY) and as a Master Trainer at LA Fitness International. He has previously taught at the University of Kentucky and for the Academy in Dubai. Street is also a soccer coach for Paris High School.

The dissertation is often times the most challenging part of completing a doctoral degree. Street’s dissertation focused on the perception of hooliganism within NAIA collegiate soccer players. Street was interviewed to talk about his experience in the dissertation process and provide helpful advice for doctoral students in the Academy’s program. Here is a synopsis of Street’s advice. You can watch the full interview by clicking on the video below.

What advice would you give doctoral students in selecting a dissertation topic? “The best advice I could give is to select something that you consider very interesting to yourself, that you won’t get bored with.”

What advice would you give doctoral students in selecting their dissertation chair and committee members? “I think to select a chair, you need what I would consider an alpha male or an alpha female. You need a strong personality that can manage things because that person is responsible for the other people on the committee. Dr. Cromartie was awesome for me. I mean he was a perfect fit. I never worried about anything in terms of things getting done. Things were always returned to me in a timely manner. As far as the other members are concerned, I would select someone who is really good at statistical analysis and has research interests that aligns with yours. You want someone who’s kind of in your ballpark in terms of your research.”

What was the most challenging part of the dissertation process and how did you overcome it? “I think the timeline. If I can give one bit of advice to any graduate student seeking a PhD or doctorate, it would be that the slightest delay can cost you nine months. I was working with soccer players. There was no way to collect data if the school was out, so that slight delay was a very big challenge, and I learned my lesson with that.”

What advice would you give doctoral students to help them cross the finish line and complete the dissertation? “There’s no substitute for hard work. I mean, you have to have a goal. You have to have a mindset that you know this degree is going to get me where I want to be, and I know so many people that are ABD. My biggest saying in terms of crossing that finish line is, find your reason why you want to do it, and just persevere. I can come up with any excuse not to write anything. But in that situation, during the dissertation phase, that has to be your number one priority besides family and so forth. It took me two years and nine months, and I worked pretty hard.”

Describe your overall experience and what you learned as a student in the Academy’s doctoral program. “It was a great experience. I couldn’t have imagined a better doctoral experience in terms of the one on one, and the hands on feedback was always spot on. My committee and my committee chair got me through the finish line. I’ve heard some horror stories, but at the Academy, I had no fear of that. I had a successful defense, and overall, it was a great experience for me.”

Moving Through Cancer: Exercise Key for Breast Cancer Survivors

Moving Through Cancer: Exercise Key for Breast Cancer Survivors

By Manuel Munoz II and Robert L. Herron, Ed.D. |

October is National Breast Cancer awareness month, and the evidence is clear, being physical active is important for those at risk of developing, in treatment for, or recovering from breast cancer.

Being physically active is important for individuals to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For many, regular physical activity is paramount to maintain the capacity to perform activities of daily living. According to the World Health Organization , as of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.

Accordingly, the American College of Sports Medicine supports an initiation called Moving Through Cancer. The mission is to assure all people living with and beyond cancer are assessed, advised, referred to, and engaged in appropriate exercise and rehabilitative programming as a standard of care.  

The Moving Through Cancer webpage has several links to resources aimed to assist health care providers, exercise professionals, and patients find information about exercise and cancer. This includes physical activity guidelines for many cancers.

Data show that women with breast cancer who met the minimum physical activity guidelines before diagnosis and at the 2-year follow-up (after treatment) had a 55% reduced chance of their cancer returning and a 68% reduced chance of death from any cause (not just breast cancer) compared with those who did not meet the guidelines at both times.

Heart disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of mortality in women. Current breast cancer treatments can have a negative impact on cardiovascular health [e.g., left ventricular dysfunction, accelerated cardiovascular disease (CVD)], and for women with pre-existing CVD, this might influence cancer treatment decisions by both the patient and the provider.

We wish to encourage everyone be aware of the best practices including being aware of symptoms, working with a healthcare team to get screenings, and find a way to include physical activity and exercise as part of your battle against and through cancer.

Manuel Munoz II is a Junior undergraduate student at the University of Montevallo studying Exercise and Nutrition Science from Samson, AL. Manuel is the current Vice President of the Exercise Science Club at the University of Montevallo and has been recognized for being on the President’s List every year with his time at Montevallo.

Robert L. Herron, Ed.D., NSCA-CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP is an Assistant Professor in the Exercise and Nutrition Science Program at the University of Montevallo. Dr. Herron is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). Dr. Herron is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy and serves as a Non-Resident Faculty Member.

Vonetta Flowers, Everyone Needs a Push

Vonetta Flowers, Everyone Needs a Push

By Anja Kuys, Crystal Williams, and Robert L. Herron, Ed.D. |

Vonetta Flowers recently delivered a powerful message as the featured lecturer for the second Dr. Wilson Fallon Jr. Lecture Series at the University of Montevallo.

Flowers’ message was straightforward, “Everyone Needs a Push.”

Vonetta, a native of Bessemer, Ala., and Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Member, was not always a bobsled athlete; however, injuries during her time competing in track & field eventually led her to the ice. Her success at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics resulted in a gold medal and cemented Vonetta as first Black person (male or female – from any country) to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

But she did not do it alone, she needed a push.

Flowers message connected how positive change is not easy, but people and their support systems help make the impossible, possible. This concept holds true for those who lead and have led the charge for social justice, racial justice, equality, and inclusion.

From the age of nine, Vonetta had dreams of being an Olympian. But the climate in Bessemer never led her to imagine her Olympic sucess would be pushing and riding a sled down the ice. Vonetta was a lifelong track star but finished 13th in the 1996 Olympic trials and 12th in 2000 Olympic Trails in the long jump – leaving her dreams just out of reach. However, at her lowest point, her husband pushed and encouraged her to try bobsledding. After exploring her opportunities and completing a battery of athletic assessments, Vonetta uncovered a new path to the podium.

However, her new path had obstacles as well. Bobsled starts with a push, picks of speed, and is filled with twists and turns before reaching the end. After Vonetta started, she achieved initial success – rising a top-3 world ranking. Unfortunately, her bobsled partner and driver chose to go a different direction prior the 2002 Olympics. In that moment, her dreams crashed again. Vonetta found herself on a plane ride home back to Bessemer leaving her Olympic hopes behind – just short of the finish line.

Once back home, her husband pushed her to keep training and keep chasing those dreams. Serendipitously, another chance was just around the turn. Vonetta received a call by another Olympic-hopeful – a bobsled driver who was looking for a push. The rest, as they say, is history. Vonetta finally had her chance – landing on a bobsled team just 2.5 months prior to the 2002 Winter Olympic games. Eventually, she pushed her teammate – Jill Bakken – and they took home the first ever women’s bobsledding gold medal.

Vonetta’s previous success pushing is still pushing others. The newest generation of bobsled athletes point to Flowers as their inspiration. Meyers Taylor, four-time Olympian who has won medals in bobsled and in the 2022 debut of the monobob, stated, “Vonetta’s the reason I came out to bobsled…. Seeing somebody who looked like me, who came from another sport, transferred into bobsled, and had success is what put the idea in my head that I could figure it out. I definitely wouldn’t be here without her.” Of note, on Team USA’s 2022 Winter Olympics women’s bobsled team, three of the four athletes were Black.

While the message is simple, the need to keep pushing for good requires effort from everyone. Change is not easy, there will be setbacks, and the work might not ever have a true finish line – but if you keep pushing you will continue to make a difference.

The Dr. Wilson Fallin, Jr. Lecture series was established by the University of Montevallo Board of Trustees in 2021 to honor Dr. Fallin’s lifelong efforts in the civil rights movement and social justice. Dr. Fallin is a professor emeritus in history from the University of Montevallo. The lecture series will highlight educational and socio-cultural topics related to African American heritage, social justice and racial justice. The lecture series will feature a nationally renowned expert in these subjects and will engage students on topics and inquiries on societal and educational issues.


Anja Kuys is a Graduate Student studying Exercise Science at the University of Montevallo. Anja is also a Midfielder on the Women’s Lacrosse Team, has led the team in scoring multiple years, was recognized as an All-Conference player and achieved Academic Honor Roll in the Gulf South Conference, and represented her home country of New Zealand in the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship.

Crystal Williams is from Cooper City, FL, and a Graduate Student studying Exercise Science at the University of Montevallo. Crystal is an Honor Roll student-athlete on the Women’s Lacrosse Team recognized for her scholastic achievement by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association.

Robert L. Herron, Ed.D., NSCA-CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP is an Assistant Professor in the Exercise and Nutrition Science Program at the University of Montevallo. Dr. Herron is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). Dr. Herron is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy and serves as a Non-Resident Faculty Member.

Crossing The Finish Line – Dr. Ciara Taylor’s Dissertation Experience

Crossing The Finish Line – Dr. Ciara Taylor’s Dissertation Experience
Dr. Ciara Taylor, center right, with Dr. Brandon Spradley, Dr. Fred Cromartie, and Academy President Dr. TJ Rosandich.

By Dr. Brandon Spradley and Dr. Fred Cromartie |

The United States Sports Academy continues to strive to meet its mission of making contributions to the field of sport by preparing men and women for the profession of sport. Today, the spotlight shines on Academy alumna Dr. Ciara Taylor.

Dr. Taylor works as an athletic trainer for Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, Ala., and serves as the Vice Chairman of the Alabama Board of Athletic Trainers. Dr. Taylor recently earned her Doctor of Education in Sports Management from the Academy.

The dissertation is often the most challenging part of completing a doctoral degree. Dr. Taylor’s dissertation focused on examining the leadership behaviors of ethnically diverse female athletic trainers within the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). In her dissertation, Dr. Taylor mentions that female athletic trainers are the majority in the profession of athletic training; however, ethnically diverse female athletic trainers are significantly underrepresented.

Dr. Taylor was interviewed to talk about her experience in the dissertation process and provide helpful advice for doctoral students in the Academy’s program. Here is a synopsis of Dr. Taylor’s advice. You can watch the full interview below.

What advice would you give doctoral students in selecting a dissertation topic? “My topic came from our research advanced methods class. In the textbook, it said to use existing literature to kind of find the gap. You could also use social concerns, popular issues, personal characteristics, your professors, or other practitioners to kind of brainstorm on a topic. My topic was born out of personal characteristics. I am an ethnically diverse female athletic trainer, and I am a leader within our profession. I hold several positions within the National Athletic Trainers Association. I am also the Vice Chairman of the Alabama Board of Athletic Trainers.”

What advice would you give doctoral students in selecting their dissertation chair and committee members? “Dr. Spradley was my chair. I started taking notes from day one when I got to the Academy, every class, every professor I had. I would jot down notes about our personalities, our interactions, and I think with the chair, the most important thing was timely communication. You want to pick a chair who is not going to take two months to respond to you. You want positive feedback. You want clear and concise feedback.”

What was the most challenging part of the dissertation process and how did you overcome it? “The most challenging part was chapter 4, the stats. I had to hire a statistician to help and mentor me. It was a hard process, but that’s really the only way I got through it. I read in the dissertation manual to hire one, and I did from day one.”

What advice would you give doctoral students to help them cross the finish line and complete the dissertation? “Expect challenges. Expect speed bumps. There’s going to be hurdles. I had to go through IRB twice; I didn’t expect that. You’re going to have unexpected delays, just go into the process knowing that things are not always going to happen when you want them to happen, or when you think they’re going to happen. You have to be patient.”

Describe your overall experience and what you learned as a student in the Academy’s doctoral program. “I had a very positive experience. I didn’t really have much setbacks, and when I did, I was supported. I had my committee and professors, and even the staff at the Academy, who were always available to answer my questions. It was a marathon; it’s not a sprint. It’s not going to be quick, so I just learned to be resilient. I learned that things are going to come up and you just have to adjust. I think the biggest thing I learned from the Academy is to be a critical thinker. I learned how to apply what I was learning in my classes to the clinical setting. I am an athletic trainer at a secondary school, so I love when I can apply that stuff, especially the leadership aspect of it. I learned to refine my research skills. It had been years since I did a research project. I learned to be resilient. You’re going to get knocked down, but get back up.”

Still a Long Road Ahead for Concussion in Sport

Still a Long Road Ahead for Concussion in Sport
Photo: Associated Press

By Anja Kuys, Isabelle Fuell, and Dr. Robert L. Herron |

During Thursday night’s NFL broadcast, viewers held their breath as Tua Tagovailoa – QB for the Miami Dolphins – was carted off the field on stretcher after suffering what many suspect to have been his second concussion of the week.

Four days prior, on Sunday, Tagovailoa was removed from the Dolphins game versus the Buffalo Bills to be evaluated for a concussion. While it has been reported that Tagovailoa passed the league-mandated concussion protocol, it is hard for many viewers to unsee what they saw.

About 100 hours later, the scene Thursday night was much more horrific. Tagovailoa was sacked and his head slung hard to the ground. Immediately, Tua showed classic symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) – his hands and arms frozen in a distorted fencing response. It was hard to watch and much worse to experience. Luckily, Tua was evaluated at a nearby hospital and cleared to return home for continued monitoring.

We wish Tua a quick and full recovery.

It is true that sport-related concussion awareness is having a moment; but we cannot stop now. Brain health is important. The phrase, “it is just a concussion” is flippantly used to dismiss and minimize the realities of traumatic brain injuries. Too many people have suffered and more will continue to suffer if we do not continue to build on this moment.

Sport-related concussions are serious, but rules and protocols aimed at making athletes safer draw the ire from athletes, coaches, parents, and fans alike. We can do better.

There has never been more money and resources directed at assessing and managing concussion, yet the evidence of how much further we need to go was streamed to every screen tuned in last night. We can do better.

Unfortunately, sport comes with inherent injury risk; and we do not wish to use the moment to dismiss all the important progress made in sport safety and sport medicine. However, Tua’s week highlights how much more road is left to travel. We can do better, together.

Please support and advocate for programs work to make sports be as safe as possible.

Anja Kuys is a Graduate Student studying Exercise Science at the University of Montevallo. Anja is also a Midfielder on the Women’s Lacrosse Team, has led the team in scoring multiple years, was recognized as an All-Conference player and achieved Academic Honor Roll in the Gulf South Conference, and represented her home country of New Zealand in the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse World Championship.

Isabelle Fuell is a Senior majoring in Exercise and Nutrition Science from Huntsville, AL. Isabelle is a member of the Women’s Volleyball Team, was named to the Gulf South Conference’s Academic Honor Roll in 2020 and 2021, awarded the University of Montevallo Athletic Department’s inaugural Iron Falcon Award, as a Junior.

Robert L. Herron, Ed.D., NSCA-CSCS*D, ACSM-CEP is an Assistant Professor in the Exercise and Nutrition Science Program at the University of Montevallo. Dr. Herron is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® with distinction from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CSCS*D®) and a Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CEP®). Dr. Herron is a graduate of the United States Sports Academy and serves as a Non-Resident Faculty Member.

Do Female Athletes Choose Different Uniforms than their Male Counterparts?

Do Female Athletes Choose Different Uniforms than their Male Counterparts?
Serena Williams won her first-round match at Roland Garros. Photo: Michel Euler/AP Photo

By Adrienne D. Smith |

The difference between men and women’s uniforms is vastly different in the world of sports. One might wonder in many cases why the female uniform for a sport is designed to show more skin than the male uniform for the same sport. The belief is that performance can be increased with the use of less material as it is not as restrictive and that tightness of the clothing allows the body to move easier. An exception and reverse of the uniform standards can be found in the sport of swim where women wear full coverage suits that can go to the knees while men wear very skimpy speedo briefs at times. Other exceptions can be found in sports that wear the same uniforms like women’s pro football, wrestling, and basketball. The sports use the same muscles and body dynamics, but yet the difference exists in much of the clothing. Uniforms and attire has recently come under hot debate in the professional and personal area of sports with athletes, coaches and the public voicing opinions. While there are some instances that a female athlete chooses to wear the more revealing uniforms for comfort or personal style, the purpose of this article is to show that for many of the athletes it is an outside influence that has decided for them.

Many have theorized, that the difference in the uniforms is a ploy in order to sexualize the female body. It is a known fact that many of sports viewers are male and males tend to be visual in their choices. This fact is known by advertisers in the simplicity of the fact that sex sells so female uniforms are made to show more skin. Members of female sports are supposed to be given a choice in allowable clothing in things like bottoms. However, many team members are pressured into uniformity by other team members or coaches. In many sports it is actually the coach or an athletic association that is deciding on the uniforms for all thus eliminating any perceivable choice that a female athlete may have. The choice of clothing has recently come under fire to show that women athletes actually do not have the final say in their uniforms. A good example of this can be found in the recent fining of $175 dollars per player to the Norwegian Handball team in 2021 for wearing shorts instead of the traditional bikini bottoms to the European Championships. Another example of an athlete not being able to choose their uniform can be found when Serena Williams wore a one piece cat suit during the 2018 French Open for medical reasons to help prevent blood clots after giving birth. Per published guidelines, the outfit was allowable but was met with so much outrage and backlash.

In a November 4, 2021 article published by the National Organization for Women entitled The Policing of Women’s Bodies through Sexist Athletic Uniforms the following statement and quote appeared, “While she technically did not break dress code,” the French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli declared in an interview with Tennis magazine that, “it will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.” This statement implies that in order for a woman to “respect” the game and be allowed on the tennis court, she must appear a certain way, which includes wearing a skirt. This response emphasizes the incessant desire to control how women can and cannot appear, especially since skirts don’t contribute to athletic performance. Historically, sport was founded and governed by Westernized white males.  They made the rules, and these rules on uniforms also have an appearance and effect of discrimination in that they do not allow some countries who have more conservative or religious objections to  participate in the sport.                                                                                        

In many instances modern day media, has helped increase the presence of skimpy outfits that are worn among the athletes. In part this may have started as a way to get a predominately male viewership interested in viewing the sports as viewership and interest has always been lower. Female athletes are not talked about or written about as being high performance athletes. They are not discussed in sport’s columns or in casual conversations like their male counterparts. In an online article, entitled “The Naked Truth” published as part of a creation of Elmira College women’s studies under the instruction of Diane Maluso, the following was stated, “The media primarily critiques female athletes in terms of body type and looks, instead of their performance as an athlete.” This idea leads to the notion that female athleticism does not matter, and that the female athlete exists just for one to look at and admire. This is a dangerous notion as it places all female athletes into a stereotypical mold of being the same body type. We live in an age that we are trying to teach the value of self-esteem, body image, and self-worth to the next generation. Many younger athletes and youth have looked up and often times idolized many athletes and what are they seeing, but also realizing that a mold has been created that they may not fit into.  We have used the female athlete in a form of sexploitation that can and will have lasting implications for years to come.  

“Research tells us girls start to drop out of sport at an alarming rate when they are in the 12 to 14 year age group. It shows also that the main reason for young girls abandoning sporting activities is to do with their poor self-image at a delicate stage of their transition into adulthood. Restrictive clothing such as short revealing skirts or heavy, unwieldy school uniforms have been cited as reasons for girls’ unwillingness to take to the sports fields in lunch breaks.” (Australian Sports Commission). This can lead to self-esteem issues among younger athletes.  Young girls with developing bodies during puberty may see that if they cannot look the way the media has portrayed them to be in uniforms, that they do not have a future in their chosen sports. It can possibly lead to the development of eating disorders. This implication of sexualizing female athletes for their appearance rather than their athleticism can and will have lasting implications for the future of the female sports.

Added to the complexity of the media biases towards the eye appeal of female athletes is the number of athletes who have felt that in order to have name recognition that they must also pose in pictures with even less clothing. Part of this comes from the idea that sports represent strength and independence which are not seen as particularly feminine. In the opinion of this author, this notion of athleticism is why the female athlete gives into the existing attitudes of sexism and possible exploitation. They simply want their name to be recognized and to gain endorsements. Female athletes appear on covers of magazine in provocative poses and not in shots of them in action. Some well-known examples of athletes that have posed and became more known for sex appeal than their ability to be an active athlete known for performance include: Anna Kournikova a Russian tennis player; Chi Cheng a Taiwanese track and field Olympian; American swimmers Jenny Thompson and Ashley Tappin; and Danica Patrick an American Nascar driver. This is just a few of the athletes among numerous others that have done the same thing. Emily Liang writes in The Media’s Sexualization of Female Athletes: A Bad call for the Modern Game, “As long as the media continues to sexualize female athletes, women in general will remain in a less powerful role, and feminist ideals of gender equality cannot be fully realized. Even outside of sports, women are frequently marginalized and objectified, as society tends to undermine their accomplishments in favor of their beauty and sex appeal.” She further writes, “If most, ideally all, female athletes refuse to follow the media’s sexualization, they can fulfill Modernist feminist ideals without compromising material benefits. Eventually, their actions would encourage the media to emphasize their athletic performances, garnering themselves positive publicity and empowerment.” 

In recent years, the media has focused on a lot on sexual misconduct on the part of officials and coaches. United States Governing Bodies for sports programs have had to institute SAFE Sports certifications in order to circumvent this. In the sport of gymnastics for example, one can find the biggest sexual abuse scandal that has ever existed in female sports. This was the case of Larry Nassar who molested over 256 female in athletes in several countries, and was ultimately sentenced to 176 years in prison. During the sentencing of Nassar, several victims described the culture of gymnastics as one that allowed for abuse and objection of female athletes. It is also important to note that this author is not saying that uniforms caused the abuse, but rather agreeing that athletes should have a choice in what they feel comfortable in based on personal convictions. Germany made a stand in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that were held in 2021 due to the Corona virus pandemic. The team decided to compete in unitards or full body suits instead of the traditional leotard that exposed their legs. In gymnastics am athlete can have points deducted for making adjustments to uniforms so if a leotard slips and reveals then the athlete has either be exposed or take the point deduction. Unitards or cat suits do not slip and reveal intimate areas. This move was made in order to protest the sexualization of gymnastics, and to set a higher standard that would be seen on an international platform. However, they did not debut the unitards at the Olympic Games, but during the European Championships that were held in April. During the European Championship, German team member Elisabeth Seitz was quoted to say the, “choice set an example to all gymnasts who may feel uncomfortable or even sexualized in normal suits.  Every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable.” History shows that unitards while allowed in the sport were typically only worn for religious reasons by some countries and not for choice, so the step by the Germans on an international stage was huge in that it allowed the choice of clothing in what the athlete was comfortable in. The Germans gained acceptance for their decision from many other athletes including American Simone Biles who has stated that she prefers leotards only because they elongated the leg. However, she stated, “I stand with their decision to wear whatever they please and whatever makes them feel comfortable, so if anyone out there wants to wear a unitard or leotard, it’s totally up to you.” Perhaps the most powerful statement about the choice was made by German Gymnast, Sarah Voss, who stated that she wants to be a “role model for young gymnasts who don’t feel very safe in every situation. To do splits and jumps, sometimes the leotards are not covering everything, sometimes they slip and that’s why we invented a new form of leotard so that everyone feels safe around competitions and training.” She does on further to state, “Every time you don’t feel safe it’s distracting you from what you want to perform. I think that feeling safe and not thinking about what other people can or cannot see is quite relieving when you can compete like that… Some girls quit this beautiful sport [because of having to wear leotards] so that is why this is a great option for everyone to stay in the sport they love and don’t think about anything else about their body — just about their performance.” This may the first instance recently when female athletes took a stand and made a choice for themselves that was not met with opposition or fines. 

In conclusion, it seems that choice is not necessarily the dominating factor in female athletic uniforms. It appears that persuasion, peer pressure, and outdated guidelines are making the decision. Female athletes should be allowed to choose what type of uniform fits them best if athletic performance is not compromised. A fair playing field should be offered for all athletes regardless of sex. Comfort and performance should be the deciding factors. It is time that female athletes are put in positions that their voices can be heard. A new generation of female athletes is coming to know the love of sports, and it is time that they have role models that represent them all.  Inclusivity will grow the sports more. It is time to not punish the choice of the athlete, but to celebrate the uniqueness of each athlete that wears a uniform.  If an athlete wants to wear less than that should be their choice, but if they want a more modest dress to not feel sexualized then that choice should also be respected. 

Adrienne Smith is an author of leisure blogs and editorials about modern day world issues. She resides in Daphne, Ala., with her husband and is also the mother of two young adult daughters and one teenaged daughter. Adrienne is not only a mother, but is a female sports mother whose children were involved in softball, cheer, basketball, track and competitive swim. She has served as a volunteer coach in cheer and a timer in swim. She currently writes for hobby and relaxation.

Preparing Students to Become Student-Athletes

Preparing Students to Become Student-Athletes
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By Dr. Cliff McCain |

As a high school coach, athletic director or administrator, helping students prepare for life after graduation is part of the profession. But helping student-athletes who will go on to play on the collegiate level is a more complex goal.  With the changes occurring almost daily for collegiate athletics, that process has become increasingly more difficult. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to phantom some of the items that an 18 year freshman are faced with as they roll onto campus.

While there is no way to hand a high school coach a complete manual to help their players, I have provided a list of topics you should at least help them be familiar with.

1, Initial Eligibility – What do they need to become eligible?

2. Continuing Eligibility – How many hours do they need each year and what is the Minimum G.P.A.?

3. Navigating Learning Management Systems – Blackboard/Canvas/D2L etc. – Find out what the chosen school uses and help them prepare.

4.Disability Services/Testing – What accommodations do they have now? What is offered at their chosen school and what is the process?

5. Class Attendance – What is the policy at the new school/conference?

6. Title IX – Understand the meaning and what services does their new school offer?

7. Community Engagement/ Community Service – Will your new team have a program? Are there requirements with your major?

8. Time Management– Let them know what their days will be like. Help them with strategies for handling it.

Below is an example of what a normal football player’s schedule could look like in a Power 5 school.

                6:00 – Weights/Run

                8:00 – Class

                9:00 –Study Hall

                10:00 – Class

                11:00 – Tutor

                12:00 – Lunch/Free

                1:00 – Class

                2:00 – Position Meetings

                2:45 – Team Meeting

                3:30 – Practice

                6:30 – Eat/Study/Homework/Free time/Rest (unless you have a tutor at night!)

9. NCAA Rules – Help them know some basic NCAA rules concerning benefits etc. They will be educated, but make sure they do not cross a line before the school has a chance to cover it.

10. Academic Support Programs– What are the services offered at their new school ? How do you get a tutor?

11. Social Media – Talk to them about the dangers of social media  as a college athlete

13. Housing – Are they required to live on campus?  Apartments?

14. Cost of Attendance Checks/Alston Checks – Many schools have these type funds available.  Find out what money they make available and what it can be used for.

15. Academic Integrity – Plagiarism and other offenses can derail their career before it starts. Make sure they know some basic of what is acceptable.

16. Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) – This has changed the way  students look at college sports.  Help them understand what is available.

17. Mental Health Services – College is stressful. Find out if there is someone available through their school or athletic department

18. Drug Testing – What are the rules of your team or conference?

19.. Transfer Rules – We see it every week. But help them find out the rules.  Where can your transfer?  How does it impact their academics?  

Also, two tips I would have that can help some of these problems include:

*Get them a mentor – Find them someone to talk to before they get to college. A mentor who was a student athlete  can tell them how it actually is in college.

* Make sure everyone that deals with the student is informed – parents, guidance counselor, admin- Have a meeting.  Get a plan. Make sure they get things done and know what is expected.

Again, this is no complete list. There is no way to know everything a student-athlete will face. But these are items I have seen over the last decade. Students who at least have been informed of these issues have a better chance of navigating those waters. After that, they can concentrate on excelling in the classroom and their chosen sport.

Cliff McCain works as Assistant Director of Academic Enrichment in the athletic department at the University of Mississippi. He spent two decades working as a coach and administrator at the secondary education level. McCain holds a doctor of education degree in higher education and master’s degrees in history and educational administration

Mental Toughness

Mental Toughness
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By Dr. Tomi Wahlstrom |

Mental toughness is considered a desirable personality trait that tends to significantly determine how well athletes perform when exposed to stressors, pressures, and challenges, irrespective of prevailing circumstances. It is an important trait especially in today’s high-pressure environment where athletes must worry about much more than what happens during their athletic performance. Top athletes must face pressures of publicity and celebrity. They are required to attend news conferences and maintain their image and brand. In addition, sport is more competitive than ever. Loss is hard to accept and requires mental toughness. In some sports, athlete’s performance depends on equipment quality and other outside factors. For example, in motorsports a driver needs not only great driving skills but also a great car. It is stressful to cope with factors that are not under the athlete’s individual control. Doing so requires mental toughness.

Mental toughness is said to influence approximately 25% of individual’s performance. It helps athletes to work harder and to achieve more. This is a very significant margin of improvement. Mental toughness promotes positive behavior. It creates better engagement and more “can do” attitude. Athletes with mental toughness are also more likely to accept personal responsibility. In addition, mental toughness promotes wellbeing. Mentally tough individuals tend to experience more contentment and manage stress better. They are also less prone to bullying. Mentally tough people have higher aspirations, and they are more ambitious. They tend to have higher standards and are generally more confident and prepared to manage more risks.

To become more resilient, or mentally tough, an athlete needs a blend of control, commitment, challenge, and confidence. Control is defined as the feeling of one’s ability to manage whatever is happening within or around oneself. Commitment is the desire to keep on despite difficulties. Challenge involves understanding that stress is a normal part of life and an opportunity to learn and grow. Confidence means the belief that one can successfully do things. All of these four qualities are needed to possess mental toughness and they must be developed trough one’s life in a conscious manner. There are techniques that can be utilized to develop better mental toughness. Performance thinking, for example, includes the development of the proper mindset and internal locus of control. Anxiety management techniques, on the other hand, consist of the development of specific strategies to manage anxiety and stress. Additionally, attentional control and mindfulness meditation can be used to calm and focus the mind better. Goal setting and coaching can help to articulate and align values as well as identify and use one’s strengths. For some people, visualization and imagery can also be helpful tools. For those who have access to it, biofeedback can assist in monitoring the development of these skills. These are just a few tools that can used to acquire more mental toughness. For true searchers, reading Stoic philosophy can add an extra flavor.

Mental toughness is mostly a mindset. The lack of it does not mean mental weakness. Low mental toughness equates to mental sensitivity, not mental weakness. It is also possible for people with high mental toughness to cause problems and to be perceived as harsh and insensitive. Therefore, it is important for individuals to maintain the right level of mental toughness for each situation. It takes time to develop and master it, and to get the balance right.

Dr. Tomi Wahlstrom is the Provost at the United States Sports Academy.