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Enhancing the performance of competitive athletes

Adam Hansell wants to use sport to promote positive outcomes for athletes around the world. He plans to use his graduate degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology to pursue his passion to make the world a better place.

What program are you enrolled in at WVU?

Sport and Exercise Psychology (PhD)

How did you become interested in this field of study?

I first became interested in this field when I was five years old. My dad worked as the sport psychology consultant for the University of Michigan Women's soccer team. I used to travel with him to the team's practices and games and the players often told me how essential my dad was to their individual and team success.

As I grew older, I began to understand the unique mental challenges that accompany being a competitive athlete which can be so easily overlooked. Although the field of sport psychology is intended to optimize performance, there are an infinite number of factors that can potentially enhance or hinder an athlete's performance. In addition to helping athletes develop strategies to optimize their performance (i.e. relaxation techniques, imagery, self-talk, etc.), it is essential to work with the human-being, as athletes are just as susceptible to the slings and arrows that life entails.

During my sophomore year in college, I was incredibly fortunate to be offered a chance to work as a volunteer for a non-profit organization that worked in a rural community in Ghana. They did not have electricity nor running water. Despite the significant cultural differences and language barrier, I formed a close relationship with members of the community that was firmly rooted through our common love for soccer.

I have since returned to this community on five separate occasions. I was fascinated that the shared passion for sport transcended the more obvious differences between myself and members of the community. Following my experiences in Ghana, I became interested in understanding how we can use sport to promote positive outcomes at an individual, group and community level, both within and between different groups of people around the world.

Please describe what you do in a typical day.

Aside from taking classes, I am currently working 20 hours per week in the WVU Carruth Center to complete my concurrent master's degree in counseling. My GA position is split between my work in the counseling center and MindFit, where I use neurofeedback and cognitive neuromodulation as a primary treatment for ADHD and attentional concerns instead of stimulant medication. Additionally, I work as the primary sport psychology consultant with the WVU Diving team.

For my research, I was involved with an initiative that used soccer to promote leadership development, female empowerment and social change with a sample of participants from Monterrey, Mexico. We are currently in the process of organizing the data we collected.

What is your favorite part of your job? What is the most challenging?

I thoroughly enjoy everything I do, but my favorite part is interacting with different personalities daily. People often focus on what makes us different from one another, such as age, gender, race, job credentials, GPA, etc., rather than what we have in common. It is important to treat every individual with respect, empathy and compassion regardless of who they are or what they do.

The most challenging part of my schedule is changing roles many times per day between being a student, consultant, counselor, teacher and researcher while making time for self-care and spending time with my amazing friends, family, fiancé and dog.

Why did you choose WVU?

I've always known about WVU and felt at home when I visited campus to interview for the program. I am grateful to work with a supportive group of students, faculty members and professionals daily.

How does this degree fit in to your life plans?

I plan to use my graduate degrees to pursue my passion, which is to make the world a better place. My dream job is to work in private practice or at a university as a sport psychology consultant and/or mental health counselor. I would like to continue my work related to sport diplomacy and sport for development on the side.

What have you learned that has made the biggest impact in your work or studies?

I have learned the power of compassion, the importance of support, the gift of gratitude and that the human brain and body are incredibly resilient.

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