Megan Granquist shares view on pure sport

Megan Granquist earned a bachelor’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University, a master’s from University of Oregon and a doctorate from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Granquist, a Seattle native, has been an assistant professor of movement and sports science at La Verne for three years and teaches a few sports psychology classes at ULV. / photo by Warren Bessant
Megan Granquist earned a bachelor’s degree from Pacific Lutheran University, a master’s from University of Oregon and a doctorate from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Granquist, a Seattle native, has been an assistant professor of movement and sports science at La Verne for three years and teaches a few sports psychology classes at ULV. / photo by Warren Bessant

Kristen Campbell
Editor in Chief

Megan Granquist, assistant professor of movement and sports science, has always been in love with the pureness of athletics and sport.

Here she took the time to talk about her hectic cross-country education, her obsession with sports psychology and how she enjoys to play sports, but is not very good at them.

Tell me about your academic history and how it led you to working at the University of La Verne.

I did my undergraduate work at Pacific Lutheran University up in Tacoma, Washington and I majored in athletics and sports science with an emphasis in athletic training. At that time I wanted to be an athletic trainer, like sports medicine, for my full-time career. As an undergrad, I was an athletic training student and I went through the student program.

Then after graduation I went to the University of Oregon in Eugene and majored in exercise and movement science with an emphasis in sports medicine and biomechanics, still thinking that I would practice athletic training.

At that time I was doing athletic training as part of my graduate assistantship, but I was also teaching. I love athletic training, but as seen in sports, they work in all types of weather and the hours are terrible and random. I was not totally sure it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life but the hours weren’t necessarily what I had hoped. For some people that works very well but I was also teaching. There are many teachers in my family and I wasn’t sure if that’s what I wanted to do either. I fell in love with teaching so I had to find a common medium. My fiancée at the time was also a teacher so I knew a lot about teaching.

After Oregon, I applied for a few different jobs both in athletic training at a university and a teaching job at a high school. At that point I had to choose between the two. I ended up taking the teaching position and it required me to teach sports medicine and anatomy and medical terminology and health careers. It was about five different classes, which I just did not know would be so much work. If you can imagine teaching five different classes, it is crazy.

I loved teaching, especially sports medicine. I was also doing athletic training also through a physical therapy clinic and also at the high school I was at. I taught at Puyallup High School in Puyallup, Washington for three years.

I loved it but in my undergrad I remembered taking a sports psychology class. It talked about relaxation and imagery and focused mostly on performance enhancement for sports. In that class we had to do a project where we took a sports psychology skill and applied it to what we would like to do in our career. I applied it to ACL rehabilitation. I really remember we had to have references throughout the project and I had difficulty finding peer reviewed references for that. There wasn’t much in sports psychology or injury either. I remember in athletic training I was comfortable in the testing part. I could pull on certain limbs and know which ligament was torn and things like that. But I didn’t know that there was a mind component to that. You know when somebody’s injured; of course it affects their entire body and not just the injured area.

I still was interested in sports psychology and how it related to injury so I decided to stop teaching and apply for doctoral programs. I knew I still wanted to teach at the university. I thought I would go back to the University of Oregon for my Ph.D. but the program had changed. So I decided if I was going to give up a full-time job to go back to school I wanted to go to the best school I could.

I applied to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro because the professors were doing research in the psychology of sport injury. I learned a very important lesson in searching for graduate schools. I remember talking to my undergraduate professor and asking how to pick them out. She said to look at the faculty in the program to see what kind of research they’re doing. It reflects on what kind of education you would end up getting.

I was living in Seattle at the time of applying so it was essentially 3,000 miles away, which was scary. I was also married at the time, well I am still married. It wasn’t just a decision for me. It was a decision for my husband and myself. I applied to UNCG thinking I wouldn’t even get in because it is a very prestigious school and in my master’s degree I did not do a thesis. Instead I did the comprehensive exam. I thought surely they would never accept me. Lo and behold they did, but I was not ready to move at that time, so I deferred for a year and then in 2005 started at UNCG.

There I focused on a degree in exercise and sports science with an emphasis in sports psychology. Pretty much all of my work there was combining the psychological aspects with injury. I also am working towards my sports psychology certification so I have worked with athletes, both in the community and at the college. I focused mostly on consulting with injured athletes. If they had an injury, most people are afraid to return to participation because they do not want it to happen again or it replays in their mind. I did a lot of consulting as a part of my doctoral work.

So I was almost done with my Ph.D. and I thought surely I would stay in Greensboro for another year because I had another job lined up teaching adjunct at a university. I started looking at jobs early to see which jobs turned over often to pick out which ones may not be the best suited for me. But this job at ULV showed up and I wanted to come back to the west coast. It was much more convenient to try to get back to Seattle if we ever wanted to.

I had never heard of the University of La Verne and I started searching through the website. I saw they had an athletic training program and I didn’t want to teach necessarily in an ATEP program but I wanted to be at a school that had one, because that’s where my degrees are in. I think it’s important for students to get a wholesome picture of the athletic training.

I had looked at the faculty here and saw Paul Alvarez’s and Marilyn Oliver’s names. I talked to some of my colleagues at UNCG and they had heard of them. So I came to find out little University of La Verne has a really good nationally known athletic training program. So I thought it was a really great place and I looked at the mission and I saw it had parts talking about peace and sustainability. I really liked that and it was unique to a university.

So long story short, I applied and I got the job and I moved out here with my husband. I started here in fall 2008.

With doctorate work you never really know how your dissertation will go or the final defense of your dissertation will go. I had planned on finishing the summer of 2008 and I didn’t finish. During my first semester here I was required to fly back to North Carolina to defend my dissertation, which was pretty crazy. Then I graduated in December 2008 with my doctorate degree. It’s been a whirlwind but good. I mean I love it here and I am super happy that things worked out for me to be here.

Do you offer any sports psychology classes at ULV?

With sports psychology we are really interested with human behavior. I just teach the elective sports psychology classes. But if we are concerned with peoples’ behavior, it is really exciting. We are looking at performance. Music performs and everything performs so it does not just focus on sports. We are trying to get people to do the correct behaviors.

The sports psychology skills we talk about are relaxation and imagery and positive self-talk. I teach Applied Sports Psychology in the spring semester. In the fall I teach MSS 350, which is an elective credit called History and Systems of Sport and Exercise Psychology. It is really focused on the theory behind sport and exercise psychology. We focus on theory of motivation and theory of behavior change. And then in January I teach MSS 351 and that is Psychology of Sport Injury and Rehabilitation. It is exactly my area of expertise. It makes me very excited to teach these things.

You have obviously always wanted to be in athletics.

Yes and I miss athletic training too. It is fun to be on the sidelines and I miss evaluating injuries and helping athletes heal from a physical perspective. But I feel here I am still involved in sports medicine but I sort of complement the full thing instead of only injuries.

Did you play sports throughout your life?

Yes, but not very well. I played softball and soccer, both in high school. In college, because of lack of skill and talent and due to my time with athletic training, I didn’t play. As our athletic training students could tell you, it takes a lot of time. To be able to balance a sport and do that is pretty crazy in terms of time. It all worked out because I wasn’t very good at it.

Usually student athletes want to get better and I like that. In high school I wanted to go into physical therapy but I wanted to deal with more healthy people. Which interestingly now, I am working a lot with physical therapy patients who want to get back to daily living rather than get back to playing a sport.

Do you see yourself working at ULV until you retire?

Until I retire? Wow, that is a long time. So I probably have 30 years until I retire so that is a hard question. I definitely see myself here for a long time, I am not sure I can promise 30 years, which isn’t out of the question either. I am very happy here and I see a lot of potential for ULV.

But gosh, 30 years? I am 31 now so that would put me at 61 years old. That is a long time to be looking ahead.

What would you change at ULV if you could?

I think right now it is changing already. With Jonathan Reed being our dean, I want to see more change in regards to research. I don’t mean research in a sense just to do it, but instead done for the benefit of teaching.

I can only speak for myself, but I know when I write research papers for publication it informs my teaching which is really nice. I get the latest journals and mark things that are taking place in my classes. I want to see more emphasis on research because it helps our teaching and it helps us as professors engaged in the current practices.

I know some would think it takes away from their teaching, but I feel it helps me. I do not see it as an additional add-on; I really like research.

I think right now my classes are really big. I liked it when I had smaller, manageable classes. In my health class I have 36, which is super small to any other school, but it’s fairly big for ULV. I would like to see those classes smaller eventually.

I guess I can take the excess as a compliment. Sometimes I have a hard time saying no to people so I usually add a few people even if it is past my limit.

I also think there should be fresher, organic food on campus. I haven’t eaten at Davenport in forever. I do not eat much meat, but do not classify myself a vegetarian. If I am presented with a non-meat option though, I will choose it. On campus this is difficult. At Barbara’s Place they have a really good veggie burger but I can only eat it so many times a month. I know some students complain about the unhealthy food. In health and fitness strategies classes we emphasize what to eat and then it becomes difficult for those who do not have many options.

Why do you think sports are seen as this amazing thing?

That is a good question. I can only speak from my perspective. For me, there is something so pure about sport. Although that being said there is so much advertising about how much athletes get paid. There are also these not so pure things involved. But I think the basic of sport and human movement in general is pretty cool. I think on a very pure basic level, it is very exciting. Or from a sports psychology perspective, how the mind can influence the body to do certain things.

Of course we have a lot of extraneous things on top of it. But if we peel all of that away, it’s really cool to see people compete against their own best self.

Sports have become very mainstream and celebrity. Do you think it will ever go back to just pure sport?

You know, this is very disturbing to see this, in terms of glamorization of sport. Typically what we know about behavior change is that usually people identify with people similar to themselves. Most will not identify themselves with a professional athlete. We set people up with these super high standards that they feel they can never meet. When I taught high school I had a student who played baseball. He was really nice but he was convinced he would become a professional. I am not saying he didn’t have the talent or the will but I just know from the probability of it all, it was a very low chance he would become a pro baseball player.

He ended up failing my class but he said he liked it. I had a conference with his father and he said that his son didn’t need school because he was going to be a professional baseball player. It was so disheartening to me that he wasn’t exploring all of his options.

Sports make us see it as a single path. Injury, which is potentially uncontrollable, can stop that path instantly and without a back-up you’re left alone.

Schools tend to market based on sports teams. So sport becomes a marketing tool rather than the pure, basic fun that it was made to be. Children drop out of sports because it is no longer fun. Most people get the mentality that you play to win and some just want to have fun.

Sometimes I am discouraged at society and sport, but that’s how we can use our education to help create change.

Kristen Campbell can be reached at

Warren Bessant

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