I recently graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, which allowed me to mesh many disciplines together to form a major that resembled sport psychology. I was able to combine psychology courses with coaching and exercise science courses, which allowed me to pursue my education poles apart from what other colleges and universities offer.
My internship with the Panther varsity baseball team alongside Dr. Rebecca Busanich made me realize that an immense amount of hands on experience was necessary in this particular field. In my senior spring, I decided to pursue an internship idea that Dr. Busanich formulated, which would involve me leaving campus and completing my last PSU hoorah at the ice rink where I have been coaching hockey for a decade.
Because of the flexibility of the interdisciplinary studies program, it didn’t take long to add the internship to my courses. In no time I was preparing to sign on to the U16 Seacoast Spartan hockey team as the new assistant coach and intern sport psychologist. I was also in charge of running one of the biggest tournaments in New Hampshire, the Granite State County Cup, which generates upwards of $50,000. Another incredible aspect of my internship was the ability to work on mental conditioning with many Seacoast Spartans athletes. Between the U16, U18, and U20 junior team, I was given access to many young ice hockey players who wanted to start exercising their minds in a different way regarding sports.
Being assistant coach for the U16 team, with the mindset of helping these young athletes with their mental performance, was exactly what I needed to help me grow in the multidiscipline of sport psychology. I used this analogy a lot with all of my athletes: Would you ever skip “leg day?” Of course not, because the legs are a vital part of our performance. Realize that the mind is something that needs to be trained just as much, if not more than any other aspect of sports training.
I was able to coach behind the bench at a tournament in Lake Placid, where Herb Brooks and his 1980 Olympic hockey team will forever be remembered for their inspiring upset of the Soviet Union. What a view!
I was also able to help each athlete individually when we would go away for a tournament, which gave me first-hand experience on what being a team sport psychologist might be like. I cannot think of a better way to formulate new knowledge and learn about myself in this profession than through the experience of this aspect of my internship. Learning about how young athletes think about their performance, while working with them to develop strategies unique to their style of play, can only be learned through physically doing, not listening.
Managing a tournament may not have been what I was originally aiming to do for an internship, but it turned out to be an amazing experience and probably the most stressful three months of my life. A tournament with 400 young hockey players takes an incredible amount of work, which really taught me the importance of holding myself accountable in any professional setting. Being in charge of one of the largest annual New Hampshire tournaments is a lot of pressure and was an everyday job on top of my role of intern sport psychologist.
I cannot wait to continue this journey into graduate school and I truly believe that this type of experience will give me an edge when I apply. I hope that opportunities like this become more of a natural option that students can pursue when they reach their final year of undergrad!
William Datilio ’18, from North Hampton, New Hampshire, graduated from Plymouth State this spring with an interdisciplinary degree in sport psychology.