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Student research day highlights capstone projects for SEP teams

College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences’ Sport and Exercise Psychology 474 Research Methods and Capstone students have established a solid foundation for future graduate studies and professional careers. During their final presentations, the students presented a broad range of projects, covering psychological impacts of injuries, influence of social media, impact of involuntary retirement, eating disorder prevalence in female sports and interventions for athletes during COVID-19.

The groups, under the guidance of Scott Barnicle, SEP program coordinator and teaching assistant professor, completed the spring 2021 semester within the classroom setting. “I’m so proud of our SEP seniors for making it up research mountain this semester. It is always wonderful to see them present their projects. Some are off to graduate school in the fall while others are heading into the working world. It was a terrific spring semester with them all,” Barnicle said.

Five SEP 474 students reflect on their experiences within the research realm, team dynamics and returning to the classroom for face-to-face instruction. Here are their comments:

John Fregonara, Senior, Elkins, W.Va.

At the beginning of the course, I was nervous to start my Capstone since it is such a large part of graduating. However, the way the class is structured and with Professor Barnicle’s help, it made the course more manageable.

This experience taught me how to look at research articles thoroughly. They can be confusing to read, but this course showed me how to break them down so I could obtain the necessary information in each piece.

My Capstone taught me how psychological factors could strongly influence an individual’s return from injury. The psychological factors often go unnoticed in the rehabilitation process, so it was interesting to investigate that aspect of the sport.

This project highlighted the importance of working with a group. Being able to successfully work in groups is critically important. Another aspect that it helped me to improve was public speaking. After presenting three times in the Capstone I became more comfortable with speaking in front of crowds.

After having all the online courses for the fall semester, having the in-person Capstone was refreshing. Being able to speak face-to-face to your professor or classmates is more personable than through a computer screen. The best part of in-person classes is getting out of your house and going to the classroom.

Anthony Grant, Senior, Baltimore, Md.

My capstone experience was smooth and easier than I thought it would be. I had strong partners with the same work ethic as me. We collectively worked smarter and not harder. This made each piece of the process easier for us. The topic we chose was interesting and relatable, so researching was fun.

My research and problem-solving skills expanded due to the constant narrowing of my topic. We started with a broad topic and often had to adjust and adapt to what we wanted to ultimately achieve in our topic proposal. It taught me that there’s always more improvement to be done and that hard work and adaptation are necessary.

The top three things I learned from our research topic was: Athletes endure more psychological struggle than physical struggle during rehab; there are three phases to the rehabilitation process; it’s important for athletes to have a reliable support system.

This project acts as a crossover to future employment because it taught me how to confidently present information that I’ve become an expert on.

Being in-person on campus was a great experience. This SEP 474 class was my only in-person class, so I looked forward to the interaction twice a week. It’s needed when being in front of the computer screen 24/7.

Laura Karlson, Senior, Twinsburg, Ohio

This class came full circle for me with Dr. Barnicle as the professor, as he was also the professor for my very first SEP course my freshman year. It was awesome getting the chance to start and end my SEP courses with a professor who has a passion for guiding his students to success.

Dr. Barnicle helped us learn how to best break down a piece of literature in a way that makes it worth your time and leads you to success. Any experience where you are working with a group allows you to enhance your problem-solving skills. I appreciated the opportunity to collaborate and develop our communication skills.

Our group's work, Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Aesthetic VS Non-Aesthetic Sports, revealed that resources for athletes regarding eating disorders are slim. One of our main research goals is to ensure organizations receive proper funding to help educate athletes, coaches and others on what eating disorders are, how to support athletes experiencing these struggles and how they can eventually be prevented.

I will be attending Miami University in the fall to pursue my master’s degree in Sport Leadership and Management. My research skills will only be improving through grad school, since I already have this strong foundation from what I learned in this course.

I enjoyed that the course was in person and appreciated the chance to interact and collaborate with my peers and Dr. Barnicle face-to-face. I loved getting to learn from my peers too, as all their research topics and presentations were interesting and educational. Dr. Barnicle made the adjustment back into the classroom smooth and provided us with great guidance and support along the way.

Daniel Katella, Senior, Kutztown, Pa.

I was happy that this class gave me the opportunity to have one more in-person course before I graduated.

This course helped me work with other members of my group in a collaborative way.

I learned how to work a in group with my members, how to read a research paper and how to pace myself for writing a research report with deadlines.

I will be going to graduate school and this class certainly will be extremely helpful to feel more knowledgeable and confident with the research I’ll need to do there.

I felt safe going to class once a week and enjoyed seeing classmates in-person.

Alec Taylor, Senior, Rocky Gap, Va.

I would describe my Capstone experience as unexpectedly enjoyable. I made some great friends and developed a resume-building research implementation plan. I cannot speak highly enough of Dr. Barnicle as a person instructor. Dr. Barnicle is the best instructor I have ever had at WVU. I am grateful to have learned under him.

This experience reshaped my view of research. I learned that research doesn’t have to be dry or boring as I previously thought. Given the right topic, research can be enjoyable.

My top three takeaways from the capstone project are: The psychological recovery process following injury is something many people are unaware of; psychological rehabilitation is just as important as physical rehabilitation to the athlete; access to sport psychology professionals could change the lives of millions worldwide.

Although I am not certain of my future regarding employment/career, I know that I can use the organizational skills learned throughout my time in CPASS to be successful in whatever field I choose. My Capstone project taught me how to use information from multiple sources to create a program that could impact the lives of athletes in the future.

Being in person was nothing short of refreshing. Personally, I find myself learning in a more efficient manner in person compared to online learning. I hadn’t accounted for how much I missed developing new interpersonal relationships with my peers. Through this opportunity I was able to regain a sense of normalcy within my college experience.

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