The Laboratory for Sport Psychology and Performance Excellence (LSPPE) is introducing a new Alumni Spotlight series where we will feature interviews with LSPPE alumni, catching up with their post-UWM careers and life.
In this inaugural spotlight we highlight Megan Jones, M.S. Kinesiology Class of ’18. Under the advising of LSPPE faculty Dr. Monna Arvinen-Barrow, Megan conducted a primary research-based capstone titled: “Returning to play after multiple, consecutive, major lower extremity injuries: A retrospective self-narrative approach.”
We asked Dr. Arvinen-Barrow how she would describe Megan. She stated: “Megan is a diligent, thorough, and all-around great student. I cannot believe it has been almost three years since she graduated from UWM. She was a great student to work with, and genuinely fun person to be around. Ever since she started at UWM, it was clear that she had her goals in mind, and that she would work hard to ensure she would reach them. I also really enjoyed working with her on her project – it challenged both of us academically.”
Megan is currently the Women’s Assistant Basketball Coach at Luther College in Decorah, IA. In this role, Megan carries many responsibilities, ranging from basketball-related planning & coaching to travel, recruitment, and fundraising logistics. To catch up with Megan on her post-UWM career and life, we asked her a few questions:
What is your role and responsibilities as an assistant coach at Luther College?
My role and responsibilities include assisting in practice planning, individual skill development, scouting opponents through film breakdown, and developing scouting reports. I serve as head coach for JV games and provide feedback and ideas to the head coach for in-game strategies and decision making. I also assist in the evaluation and recruitment process of prospective student-athletes. I handle all meals when traveling, assist in organization of fundraising and community service work, and manage all social media accounts. Most importantly, my role as the assistant coach includes developing relationships with our players to motivate and lead them on and off the court to be strong, successful women.
Why did you choose the MS Kinesiology program for your graduate study?
I chose the UWM MS Kinesiology program because of its holistic approach to sport and performance psychology. It offered an integrative approach across multiple disciplines that I knew was crucial to my individual growth and understanding of the field. The program also offered both research and experiential learning opportunities that I did not find in many other programs. My primary area of research interest was in psychology of sport injury and return to play, therefore I was also eager for the opportunity to work with Dr. Arvinen-Barrow.
What was your favorite part about your experience in the MS Kinesiology program?
I had a few favorite experiences during my time at UWM. One of them was having the opportunity to attend the AASP Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, and present my research. I really enjoyed the opportunity to listen to so many researchers share their knowledge and even speak with some of the leaders in the area of psychology of injury and return to play. Another of my favorite experiences was having the opportunity to work with individuals to develop psychological skills through supervised mental performance consulting. I was fortunate to work with individuals in a variety of different sports which offered a well-rounded experience, both on my own and in collaboration with Dr. Meyer. This was incredibly beneficial to my growth as a student mental performance consultant.
How have you utilized your education in sport and performance psychology in your role as an assistant coach?
As an assistant coach, I use my education in sport and performance psychology daily. Most importantly, I use it to develop trust, rapport, and relationships with my athletes. Like trust and rapport developed between a mental performance consultant and the client, trust and rapport must also be developed between a coach and athlete to challenge and help athletes reach their potential. My experience in the MS Kinesiology program also taught me how to effectively collaborate and take feedback, which has helped me greatly as an assistant coach. Our coaching staff is able to collaborate, share ideas, and give feedback to one another to develop ideas to put our team in the best position to succeed in the classroom and on the court. My education has also helped in team goal setting and leadership development when working with our leadership council, and has given me the opportunity to guest lecture in the psychology department at Luther College to discuss my experiences in sport psychology. The experience of attending graduate school has also allowed me to mentor many of my athletes as they navigate finding their passions and deciding on next steps following undergraduate education. This is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, just as I had many people mentor and help me decide my path, I enjoy helping my athletes navigate this exciting time in their lives.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected how you do your job?
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected how we do our jobs. We had to work remotely from March 2020 to August 2020 which directly impacted our recruiting. Typically, we are traveling to tournaments throughout the summer to evaluate and identify prospects and we were unable to do this. Instead, we relied on livestream or previous game/practice film. Our institution rearranged our academic calendar to slowly bring students back to campus to control virus spread. Because of this change, course work was much more intense for our student-athletes, leading to greater stress and anxiety. We have been practicing since October 1st and have worked through many changes/cancellations and are set to begin a condensed season in mid-January. The unknown and daily changes to schedules have been extremely difficult for student-athletes, as it has been for most of society. This has changed how we approach practicing and planning. More so than any other year, our role to support our student-athletes overall well-being through their college experience has been crucial.
What advice would you give incoming graduate students that would also like to coach college sports?
The advice I would give is to network! Landing a job in collegiate athletics is often about who you know and the connections you have built. Put yourself out there and gain a variety of experiences to build your network. When building this network, identify individuals who would be willing to serve as a reference for you when you begin to search for a coaching position. References are extremely important to speak to your work ethic and the experiences that would make you an asset to any department or team.