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April 2007

Release Date: April 18, 2007

Kinesiology: It’s Not Just for Coaches Anymore

Contrary to popular belief, collegiate physical education is not the exclusive haven of students planning future careers in coaching.

In fact, efforts to portray their varied curriculum over the last two decades have influenced many physical education departments to change their titles to things like kinesiology, sports science, exercise science and even human performance, said Dr. Doyle Carter, a 1981 graduate of Angelo State University and first-year head of ASU’s Kinesiology Department.

Carter, who served as a teacher and coach in Eden and Sonora before becoming a professor and administrator at Howard Payne and Lubbock Christian prior to returning to ASU, and many like him have helped transform what was a fairly narrow field to one that is much broader in scope.

ASU’s Kinesiology Department switched from the Physical Education Department in the late 1980’s, said Carter. In addition to a master of science degree in kinesiology, the department currently offers bachelor’s degree plans with options for exercise science, athletic training and all-level teacher certification in physical education.

“Kinesiology is the study of human movement and all our degree options include courses in the scientific foundations of human movement,” Carter said. “We’ve always been in the ‘people business,’ but as a field of study and as a career option, kinesiology is moving toward a stronger association with allied health fields like physical therapy and nursing.”

“As a profession, we’re about understanding and promoting physical activity in all its forms and all its purposes, from the joy that comes from playing tag and the beauty of a well-executed screen and roll, to the prevention of arteriosclerosis and the rehabilitation of a torn ACL.”

Nationwide, the diversity of kinesiology and its related career options continues to expand and ASU’s enrollment figures are catching up with that trend. Of the 651 current kinesiology majors at ASU, 480 are on track for degrees in basic kinesiology or the physical education option, with about 230 planning careers as coaches or PE teachers. The other recently initiated options, however, are gaining ground. The exercise science program, which is only five years old, currently boasts an all-time high of 100 students.

“Exercise deals with any kind of physical activity where you’re going to raise the heart rate, burn calories and those kinds of things,” Carter said. “Exercise science is the study of or the scientific basis of exercise and what happens to the body as the result of that exercise. It’s about understanding our body’s physiological response to exercise.”

Many of his department’s exercise science majors plan to go on and earn master’s degrees in occupational or physical therapy, or gain admission to a physician’s assistant or other medical program.

“It’s a good bachelor’s degree to prepare you for those types of allied health professional schools,” Carter said. “A significant proportion of our exercise science graduates will walk right down the hall and apply for ASU’s physical therapy program.”

Ryan Morris, a senior from Midland, has already been accepted to ASU’s graduate physical therapy program. He praised the Kinesiology Department for preparing him to pursue a higher degree.

“We have wonderful facilities,” Morris said. “We have an extremely good faculty, great class sizes, a very reasonable cost and many other opportunities and resources in regards to the university in general. The instructors take an interest in the students as individuals, show you all the options you have, and are more than willing to be of help.”

Senior Stephanie Manuel of Lamesa also plans to enroll in ASU’s physical therapy program and she dismissed the misconception by some that kinesiology is an easy degree plan.

“It is a tough field and if you aren't going to work hard, you won't succeed,” Manuel said. “I came here set on what I wanted to do and I have worked extra hard to get the job done. I wouldn't want someone coming in and thinking it is something they don't have to work for.”

Carter was also quick to add that a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology/exercise science has other uses than just a stepping stone to graduate school.

“With a bachelor’s degree there are jobs out there in commercial settings like Gold’s Gym or worksite wellness facilities where graduates can work as an exercise specialist, personal trainer, etc.,” Carter said. “Research continues to confirm the relationship between exercise and wellness. Since more and more of our jobs are sedentary, individuals and even employers are investing heavily in exercise programs. This equates to more jobs for kinesiology graduates, in many cases with well-established, nationally known companies.”

“There are also certifications that can be earned through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and other organizations that are becoming an entry level credential along with a bachelor’s degree,” he added. “We try to prepare our exercise science students for those entry level tests.”

ACSM credentials can also lead to careers in cardiac rehab facilities, corporate fitness and wellness facilities, and municipal or community health programs like the YMCA and parks and recreation departments.

ASU’s other expanding kinesiology option is athletic training, with 71 students currently enrolled. The ASU program was accredited in 2004 and graduates are eligible to take both state licensure and national certification exams. ASU graduates in this field have gone on to become trainers for the San Angelo Colts baseball team, the San Angelo Stampede Express arena football team, San Angelo and other professional hockey teams, and at local and statewide schools, hospitals and sports medicine facilities.

“We live in a sports-minded culture and sport is big business,” Carter said. “Athletic training, that is the prevention and rehabilitation of sports injuries, is just one of the many sport-related career options that have blossomed in the last 25 years.”

Scott Itz, a junior from Fredericksburg, plans to use his degree to become a licensed trainer at a high school or physical therapy clinic.

“Kinesiology allows me to learn about the human body and how it works, moves, reacts, functions, etc.,” Itz said. “I really enjoy sports and wanted to look at the more medical side of sports. The kinesiology professors are very knowledgeable and take their work very seriously, and I respect that.”

However, the department’s growing diversity does not detract from the options available for those wanting to be coaches.

“This is still the place for students to come who want to be coaches,” Carter said. “It always has been and probably always will be. We are very proud of that and of the many outstanding ASU alumni in the coaching profession.”

With that in mind, Carter and his staff continue to expand coaching options as well. The department plans to offer a minor in coaching education this fall for those who want to coach, but are interested in teaching a subject other than physical education. Also this fall, the department will add a course to prepare students for certification by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. That certification could open doors to jobs in fitness and wellness facilities and with all levels of sports teams.

In short, while the department continues to attract budding coaches in large numbers, its curriculum is certainly not just for coaches anymore.

"I've known people here that want to move on to personal training, work site health promotion employment, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise specialist, doctors and nursing as well as coaching,” Morris said. “There certainly is a large amount of diversity as far as goals for the students in the Kinesiology Department here at ASU.”

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