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CPASS grad strives to boost student-athlete wellbeing

The singular desire to help people achieve their potential has remained the driving career force for Aaron Goodson, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences graduate. Goodson explains that sport and exercise were avenues for him that contributed to his physical, mental and emotional growth and development.

“I realized early on how significant the institution of sport is in our lives. College sports have always been part of my life, but I wondered what happened to those young people once we no longer saw them on television or watched them compete. That curiosity, in combination with my own experience as a former college student-athlete, fuels my passion for the work that I do.”

As the new Assistant Athletic Director of Counseling and Sport Psychology at Mississippi State University (MSU), Goodson ensures that the department provides essential clinical mental health and sport performance psychology services for student-athletes while maintaining a sound administrative structure.

While managing the day-to-day operations of the Department of Counseling and Sport Psychology (CSP) Goodson oversees multiple efforts such as consultation and relevant training to coaches, sports medicine staff and other athletic department staff. Specific student-athlete support includes individual and group counseling sessions, individual and group mental skills training sessions and the implementation of philosophies and policies of counseling and sport psychology service operations.

Goodson, from Fayetteville, N.C., says the department will continue to meet the needs of MSU student-athletes and staff while collaborating with departmental and on-campus partners to ensure access to direct services, resources and programming. “I intend to refine our policies and procedures and work with our colleagues across the Southeastern Conference and NCAA,” he said.

Goodson earned his Ph.D. in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology (August 2018) and master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology (May 2015) from WVU. Additionally, he earned an M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Graduate Certificate in University Teaching from the WVU College of Education and Human Services (December 2017).

Reflecting on his academic career at WVU, Goodson acknowledges retired CPASS professors Drs. Dana Brooks and Edward Etzel for their knowledge, wisdom and positive influence. “In addition to Brooks and Etzel, I learned the foundations of sport and exercise psychology from faculty members Drs. Jack Watson and Sam Zizzi,” he said. “As importantly, I engaged with alumni (some of whom were students when I arrived) who were (and still are) doing impressive work as graduate students, early career professionals, and veterans in the field.”

Additionally, Goodson points out that CPASS was deliberate about providing and requiring opportunities for graduate students to not only learn the content, but also apply the content in real-world scenarios and settings. The CPASS curriculum allowed students to hone their crafts through teaching, research and consulting opportunities.

Goodson says that sport and exercise psychology students planning to work with university level athletics and sports need to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the organization and institution. “Oftentimes we gain education, training and experience to know how to address situations that arise in the workplace,” he said.

“However, simply knowing what to do in every situation will be enough to get you to the door, but it may not get you across the threshold or keep you in the room. Whether you're looking to work with an individual athlete, coach, team or another department, there must be that combination of knowledge of your craft and attunement to the spaces and systems that you're navigating.”

WVU and Morgantown hold a “special place” in Goodson’s heart. “From a personal standpoint, I met some of my closest friends and my future wife while at WVU. From a professional standpoint, I gained experiences and received training and mentorship that helped me grow and develop into the person and professional that I am today,” he said.

Leading up to his current position at MSU, Goodson served as assistant professor at Winston-Salem State University (August 2018 - July 2019) where his research focused on collegiate student-athlete psychosocial development, performance enhancement and mental health. Additionally, his research focused on issues of diversity in sport, exercise and performance psychology – issues he continues to address in his daily efforts.

He joined Mississippi State University as the assistant director of CSP (July 2019 - March 2021) where he worked alongside Dr. Angel Brutus, the inaugural director of the Department of CSP, to provide sport performance enhancement and clinical mental health counseling services to MSU student-athletes. This role included engaging in administrative tasks to ensure the protocols, policies and procedures of the department matched the growth and development of the CSP department and the ever-changing needs of student-athletes and staff.

He moved into the associate director of CSP role (March 2021 - May 2021) that served as a promotion for his work as assistant director in coordinating on boarding and training for the recently developed coordinator position in the Department of CSP. Additionally, the promotion acknowledged the role Goodson held in managing components of the Athletics major site rotation as part of the MSU Student Counseling Services' APA internship program. His formal transition into the assistant athletic director role occurred on May 16, 2021.

Goodson explains the connection between the overall health and wellness of the systems and spaces that student-athletes are navigating. “Despite the potential changes in college sports and the natural stressors for emerging adults, our goal is to meaningfully engage with our student-athletes and staff members in a way that enhances student-athlete mental health, wellbeing and sport performance,” he said.

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