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Graduate assistant strives to influence sport performance

A passion for rowing has evolved into a lifelong purpose for coaching for a CPASS master’s student. Marija Medelinskaite, from Kaunas, Lithuania, says that making the next move from a student athlete to exploring coaching career options fell into place for her.

Medelinskaite started rowing at the age of 12 in Lithuania and says that she loved the sport from the beginning. She competed at the collegiate level at the University of Central Florida. “After graduation I did not want to separate from it, and I gave coaching a try with Casitas Rowing in Ventura, California. After only a few opportunities, I found it very rewarding and enjoyable,” she said. “That is when I knew I needed to get my master's degree in coaching.”

After one year of coaching experience, she heard about a graduate assistantship opening at WVU Rowing. “Luckily, WVU had the program of study that I had in mind. That is when I knew I was meant to come to WVU,” Medelinskaite, coaching and sport education master’s student with sport science and technology area of emphasis, explained.

Medelinskaite says that she has become familiar with CPASS faculty throughout the past year and a half. “CPASS professors are truly the masters of their subjects and are willing to help or work around students' needs. It is just a matter of communication. I want to acknowledge Drs. Dana Voelker, who I had sport psychology with, and Peter McGahey, faculty member for my coaching internship course. They make my learning experience superlative,” she said.

“In my graduate sport psychology course, students explored the psychological factors that influence sport performance. They engaged in practical mental skills training activities used to address common performance concerns for athletes and coaches,” Voelker, SEP associate professor said. “It is through these experiences that students learn the importance of attending to the psychological aspects of performance as well as strategies that support mental health.”

Medelinskaite serves as a WVU rowing graduate assistant coach. “My main role as a GA is to help in leading the novice program. I focus on campus recruitment, informational meetings, tryouts, teaching the basics of training and rowing and helping new athletes fall in love with the sport,” she explained.

“Sometimes I help organize practice and training sessions. I coach while on land or water. Last year we did not have the novice program, due to covid restrictions, which provided me with the unique opportunity of coaching varsity.”

Medelinskaite’s career goals are focused on making a positive impact on athletes’ lives while helping them to be their best on and off the water, both inside and outside of sport. “I want to help them to achieve their goals and show them how much they are capable of achieving,” she said.

During her time in Morgantown, Medelinskaite has found a connection with Gritstone Climbing and Fitness gym. “I started climbing the year before moving to the area. This gym helped me to improve my climbing ability, find friends and get me out of my comfort zone.”

Medelinskaite, who plans to graduate in May of 2022, suggests that incoming students explore Morgantown and make it feel like home. “The sooner you feel comfortable, the better you will enjoy living here. Embracing the community of Morgantown will help feed the desire to further improve and strive to make things better around you. Get to know the people around you, and do not hesitate to ask for help if needed,” she added.

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