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My 4-year transformation through college: a journey through new beginnings (pilot)

I recently have just graduated from the University of Tampa with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Human Performance, concentration in Exercise Physiology, as well as a minor in Psychology. This significant time point in my life has brought about an immense amount emotions and thoughts as I get ready to develop myself as a professional in the field of exercise science. Looking back at my college career, I can confidently tell you all that I have developed every single year to make myself a professional. There are many people who will tell you that if you don’t see any changes in your behavior or the way you do things, you aren’t growing as a professional, and you will be left behind.

One of the many things I love doing is taking knowledge from another area of academia and applying it to my current knowledge in exercise science. For example, I once took a class in evolutionary psychology to fulfill my psychology minor requirement. The biggest takeaway from this class (if you have never taken it yourself) is that our environment is forever changing, and we must be able to adapt to move on. These adaptations may be behavioral, physical, or psychological, but the fact of the matter is that we need to be aware of our surroundings and can change the way we do things if we don’t want to get left behind in our environment.

Within my first few weeks at the University of Tampa, I was trying to acclimate and adapt to this new environment that I was throwing myself into. During this time, I found the Human Performance Lab on campus and decided to check it out. My freshman persona was simply just a college-aged male who liked to workout and stuff, and had literally no idea about anything about the body. Nothing. Saying that now just absolutely blows my mind. However, as the semesters went by, I slowly moved my way up in the ranks and became a research assistant. This slow process was not simple by any means. The amount of studies that I had to throw myself into as a subject just to be able to spend time in the lab is more than I can count on both of my hands. Once this long, hard battle was fought, and I had this title of “research assistant” next to my name and in my email, I knew that it was time to get down and dirty.

During my last semester at the University of Tampa, I was putting in a stupid number of hours in the Human Performance Lab. I was also taking 17 credits and was working a part-time job around 15 hours a week. The number of things that I learned just in that one semester, more than just textbook knowledge, I am forever grateful for. I could have easily complained about getting up at 5 o’clock every morning and not being able to go to sleep at midnight some nights, but all the guys in the Human Performance Lab pushed each other to their own limits. One very, very simple idea that will always stick with me, and will be my philosophy, is that “if you don’t love it, don’t do it”. It’s that simple. You can complain all you want and feel sorry for yourself when all you want to do is go to sleep and just say “I’ll just finish this tomorrow”, or you can say to yourself “somebody has to do it”. Adopting this idea has made me into an even bigger workhorse than I was previously.

For my senior seminar class, our final assignment was to watch “The Last Lecture” by Professor Pausch and answer a certain number of prompts. There are two of these prompts that I want to share with hopes that you can take something away from this article:

What lessons can your life teach someone else? What have you done or experienced that could benefit others?

“When I found the Human Performance Lab, I was in awe. There was so much information in front of my face, I had no idea where to even start, or how to assimilate into this new culture. Three things that I learned from stepping foot inside of that room include never giving up, understanding that sacrifices need to be made, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help.

There were many times when I was told that I was wrong and ignorant, mostly pertaining to playing college baseball. Because of my undersized stature, people thought I was crazy for trying out to play baseball for the prestigious University of Baseball. Although I knew I had the ability, I knew that I needed to work on getting stronger in the weight room to see even more results on the field. I proved many people wrong when I posted a picture of my name on the roster list just days after the tryouts took place. However, I knew that I was not done. I devoted countless hours in the gym to increase my muscle mass and overall strength.

In the Human Performance Lab, I was viewed as an intern who was only good for scooping protein into zip-loc bags for countless hours just because I didn’t have any knowledge in the field of Human Performance. I had to get up at 6am two days a week before my 8 o’clock class to train a kid on the hockey team, and this was a huge experience for me since I had zero experience in training someone. I had to learn on the fly. I had to be a subject in a countless amount of research studies because it was “for science”; when, in reality, it was only so people could get their names on a piece of paper. The amount of sacrifices I made are insurmountable. However, they absolutely got me to where I am today.

As I climbed my way up the social ladder in the lab, I became a driving force in research. I learned a ton of information that I never would have gotten out of a textbook. Once I gained a shit ton of knowledge (pardon my French, I think it fits well here), I remembered something in the back of my head that my grandfather taught me: question everything. Just because somebody tells you something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right or that it is true. Since I had the brain power to be able to refute in a discussion, I had the confidence to ask a “stupid question” that was actually a valid question to ask. Just become something seems so simple, there has to be a method to the madness.”

In this same class, our main objective was to pick a research topic for the entire semester and give multiple presentations on it. My biggest passion in life is the game of baseball. I have been researching about various aspects of performance for a while, and I appreciate the game now more than ever. Being able to present on something that I love, and something that I have a lot of knowledge in, made it second nature.

What elements from this talk can you apply to speaking about research or delivering an education talk to a group? Be specific and provide examples. 

“I love using the funnel method when giving a research talk to anybody simply for organizational purposes. However, I recently adopted the “what it would be nice for you to know, what you should know, and what you need to know” model. For example, I recently gave a presentation on weighted baseball training and how it can enhance throwing velocity in the baseball population. It was nice for me to give some sort of background information on the topic, and how I am currently attached to this topic. Then I furthered my discussion into what the audience should know about the current research, and why they need to know this. This methodology seems to work smoothly when giving a research presentation.

Professor Pausch said something towards the end of his talk that resonated with me, and it makes a lot of sense. He said, “be good at something…it makes you valuable”. Something I’ve learned about research is that yes, it is important to have a broad wealth of knowledge, but learning how to specialize into one topic that will separate you from everyone else is the ultimate goal in research. Luckily, I’ve developed the baseball niche ever since I could remember, and being able to do research within this niche is a dream come true, and it makes the work seem absolutely effortless.

It is also important to understand that research is not for everybody. Researchers need to find a passion, and having a burning desire to have a question answered. Again, question everything. Although, you could be spending 12 hour days inside of the lab trying to design a study or develop a rationale when giving a proposal for a new study, it’s important to realize that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. To end this discussion, I want to touch on something that Professor Pausch said with such the perfect tone and verbal pause: “Don’t complain, just work harder”. Simply, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it. You should find it within yourself to see if you have what it takes to be successful, and defining your own definition of success. Never give up, understand that sacrifices need to be made, and question everything.”

At this point in time, I hope you all have a general understanding as to who I am as a professional, and develop a sense of trust in me so you’re able to believe in the content that will be coming in the future. There is still so much that we do not know and are starting to slowly figure out. Being a part of this process is absolutely humbling and rewarding, and I am very excited to see what the future holds for human performance. Stay tuned for more!

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