What’s your hometown?
I always say nowhere and everywhere! I grew up in a military family and spent much of my childhood overseas.
Describe your area of research in a sound bite.
By training, I’m a sport scientist and sport psychology practitioner. Currently, I’m funded by the National Institutes of Health to identify the factors that make sports fun for kids. This research is important because the number one reason children drop out of an organized sport is because it is no longer fun. In fact, 70 percent of kids will drop out of organized youth sport by the age of 13. This is significant because physical in activity, particularly among children and adolescents, is a serious and growing national public health concern. My aim is to use the data we are currently collecting to design interventions in order to improve youth sport programming to promote and sustain children’s active and healthy lifestyles through sport.
When you’re not doing research what is your favorite thing to do?
I really enjoy being active with my friends, family members-including my dog, Duchess. I am probably the only person in the DC-area with a cocker spaniel that has a jogging routine. We go out and run three-times a week for fun. Duchess’ current personal record is 7-miles and she’s training the Army 10-miler with me, along with my dad, brother, and sister-in-law. A family that runs together stays together!
Imagine that you’ve been given the ability to change one public policy that would have a big impact on public health—what would you do?
I would focus on a public policy that would ensure that all children in the United States get more physical activity during the school day. Physical activity is essential to normal growth and development for children and adolescents and early physical activity patterns track into adulthood. Unfortunately, school-based physical activity has not been a solution to the overweight and obesity epidemic facing children today. In fact, in many schools, physical education continues to be reduced or has even been eliminated. From a policy perspective, it would be great if students were provided opportunities throughout the school day for both structured and unstructured active learning and play.
Does the fact that you’re doing research in the District of Columbia have any special meaning for you?
Yes, professionally, being in the District challenges me to intersect my research and its outcomes as part of the capital connection to a healthier world (through physical activity). Really what this means is that our location alone makes me really consider the national and global public health relevance of the research we do in the Department of Exercise Science. And, I’m lucky in that the District’s built environment provides opportunities for active transport making it easy to inject regular activity into my daily life. On top of that, the upside to being a sport scientist means that when it’s time to go out into the sports field to collect data from youth athletes, their parents, and coaches, I trade in my high heels for a pair of Nikes—how cool is that?