Kinesiology, the study of human movement, is usually associated with physical therapy or sports training. But if you’ve ever considered a career as an account executive for a WNBA team, a rehabilitation services technician at a major hospital or an athletic director of an elementary or high school, then a Kinesiology degree from St. Edward’s University could be the start of your career path. Each of these dreams has been realized by one of St. Edward’s kinesiology alumnus.
“There are so many different aspects of the field that you get a great foundation,” says Associate Professor of Kinesiology Kristy Ballard. “You can be a teacher, an athletic trainer, a personal trainer or a physical therapist, or you could go into sports management, just to name a few.” Ballard has made it her life’s goal to help students find their own right direction.
Kinesiology Students Gain Confidence and Career Focus
Studying the scientific basis for human movement at St. Edward’s University involves exploring physiological, mechanical, and psychological principles and theories that relate to fitness and the human body. “Lots of disciplines feed into and feed off of kinesiology, like biomechanics and exercise physiology,” Ballard says. “If somebody starts off with pre–physical therapy and then discovers they don’t enjoy the more intense chemistry and physics classes, they can change focus without having to start over from scratch. There’s bound to be a different focus that is better suited for them.”
New students in the Kinesiology major should expect to take classes that have several activities designed to help them understand and articulate why they are choosing their intended path. “In Introduction to Kinesiology and Sport Sciences and Coaching Theory and Practice you will learn how to articulate your philosophy on life and your chosen career field,” Ballard explains. “The intent is to get you prepared to answer those challenging interview questions for graduate programs or your first dream job.”
Ballard’s teaching philosophy permeates throughout the program and students are encouraged to reimagine their goals. “I’m really focused on reflection and introspection,” she says. “Because there are many different directions you can take a kinesiology degree, it’s important for students to figure out what’s right for them.”
In Ballard’s introductory class, she has students write their own personal philosophy and talk about their chosen career field. Many students say they want to help people, but she asks them, “why are you pursuing this particular avenue?” Ballard is also an academic advisor, so, for many students, she gets to follow their entire career and watch them change from unsure freshmen to seniors who know what their next step is going to be.
St. Edward’s also offers several activities that help students practice theory in real life settings. “In Physical Activity, Recreation & Sports For Special Populations students will work hands-on in a variety of settings teaching physical activity to individuals with special needs,” Ballard says. “In Prevention and Treatment of Athletic Injuries students will learn how to analyze injuries and provide first aid.”
Preparing for a Career Beyond St. Edward’s
Ballard says that as soon as students step into the Kinesiology program they are immediately creating professional networks. “After graduation they will be able to call on each other,” she says. “I still use my own classmates as a resource.”
Another key to success is learning how to reach out to people you don’t know, according to Ballard. “I break my freshman classes into groups and tell each group to bring a guest speaker in a specific work area in the health and fitness field — teaching, coaching, physical therapy and sport management,” she says. “That becomes another layer of their network because people who are willing to take time to come to our class are often willing to be a resource later on. Some of my students have gone on to get jobs and paid internships because of these connections.”
St. Edward’s also has a student-led organization, the Physical Therapy Organization, that helps students earn volunteer and observation hours, provides multiple service opportunities, and allows chances for students to meet with individuals in several kinesiology-focused professions. This organization is open to all kinesiology students, not just those who plan to pursue physical therapy. Many kinesiology students also participate in Recreation and Wellness programs, like club sports and fitness programming.
Additionally, each student will have at least one kinesiology-based internship as their culminating experience and is encouraged to complete several “mini-internships,” so they obtain experience in different settings. St. Edward’s students have recently interned at the YMCA, the Round Rock Express Minor League baseball team and with Texas Physical Therapy Associates.
What Moves You?
Joining the faculty at St. Edward’s University was an easy decision for Ballard, and she hopes students will feel the same coming into the Department of Kinesiology. “I love teaching,” she says. “I like watching students get that really big ‘aha!’ moment — not necessarily the moment they understand a concept in class but instead when they realize, ‘This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’”
Out of the Classroom, Into the Garden
Though she teaches Kinesiology, Associate Professor Kristy Ballard has bad knees and can’t be as active as she’d like to. “My big physical activity is gardening,” she says. “It’s been a slow process, but now the entire north side of my house is a garden. It’s a mixture of fruits and vegetables and flowers. I’ve even got a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree. It's a way to escape from the real world for a little while, and I guess you could say I like to see how I can help things grow (with some help from God).”