How DO they do it?
By Jane Johnson Vottero
MEET THE FEITS. Your typical married couple in their 30s. Except that they simultaneously are working on their PhDs at Springfield College, Adam in physical education with a concentration in sport and exercise psychology, and Mary Kate in physical education with a specialty in teaching and administration. Except that she is an assistant professor of strength and conditioning, and associate director of the strength and conditioning program. Except that he is the inaugural Dr. Mimi Murray ’61, G’67, Scholarship award recipient. Except that they have two children, Cody, 7, and Macy, 5, who are working on elementary educations of their own.
Mary Kate, G’09, grew up in Merrimac, Mass., has a Bachelor of Arts in biology from College of the Holy Cross, a Master of Education in applied exercise science from Springfield College, and expects to be hooded this May. Adam ’06 grew up in Chicopee, Mass., and received his Bachelor of Science in applied exercise science before a Master of Science degree in exercise science and health promotion from California University of Pennsylvania. He also expects to graduate in May.
Since they met at Springfield College, they’ve coached in three states, lived in three different apartments, and changed license plates and licenses and insurances.
Currently, they have different but interlacing roles and responsibilities. Mary Kate is in a one-year position at the College as assistant professor of strength and conditioning, teaching undergraduate and graduate students in exercise science-related fields. As associate director of the strength and conditioning program, she works with director Brian Thompson, PhD, overseeing graduate assistants who are strength and conditioning coaches for Springfield College student-athletes, evaluating, providing feedback, and observing their work with the athletes. “I’m helping them develop and grow so they’re giving our students the best possible program,” says Mary Kate.
Adam serves as coordinator of physical and mental performance, a position in the College Department of Athletics. In this role, he serves on senior staff with Thompson and Mary Kate supporting graduate assistants through supervision and mentorship. In addition, he is a Level 2 Master Certification Coach and assistant director of performance nutrition for Precision Nutrition, Inc. “With my experience in nutrition coaching in my full-time position off campus, as well as my sport psychology work, I’m able to essentially bridge the gap. … I consider myself one of the utility players in the department.” He supervises program design and implementation of the football strength and conditioning program, mentors graduate students and intern strength and conditioning coaches, and conducts sport psychology performance enhancement workshops with the football, softball, women’s volleyball, and field hockey programs. His research is evaluation of the use of mental skills amongst strength and conditioning coaches.
In her research, Mary Kate is “looking at strength and conditioning internships and how that educational experience is happening, what aspects of the internship are promoting learning experiences, and what aspects may not be as helpful from a learning standpoint,” she explains.
And, they are raising a family. In a typical day, they are up by 5:15 a.m. Mary Kate might work with a personal training client and then arrive at her desk by 7 a.m., Adam handling breakfast, lunches, school drop off, and arriving on the campus by 9. On other days, roles reverse. The same is true for after school pick up, but the work is pretty evenly divided between them.
For dinner, they do a lot of advance preparation. “We’re very good at family breakfast though. … That’s our go-to family meal. We even do birthdays at breakfast,” says Adam, “But, usually we’re both home for whatever we call dinner.”
DID THEY PLAN this?
Brian Thompson contacted them when an exercise science fellowship opened up. “When this opportunity came up, Mary Kate looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I have to do this.’ And, I said I am 100 percent behind you,” recalls Adam.
“We always talked about going all the way and doing things as a team, so I asked if I could do this with her and go into the sport psychology concentration,” he says. “With her blessing and approval, and through many countless nights of figuring out ‘is this really the best thing?’ [now] we’re almost there,” he says.
“Owning and running the gym was pretty awesome, but I felt like I wasn’t learning anymore,” says Mary Kate, who had given up her work in college athletics when they opened a performance gym in New Jersey. “I really dug into my history and what I loved the most about being a collegiate strength coach, and [realized] it was developing future professionals.” It was then she knew she wanted to become a professor.
Adam is working to find his specialty in generalizing, to maximize those opportunities wherever they are, and getting clarification as he finishes his degree.
HOW WILL THEY remember this time of their life?
“Everyone is always asking ‘how are you guys doing this? It must be so crazy,’ and it is crazy, but it’s not,” says Mary Kate, “It’s only when things that are unexpected happen. The routine all feels very organized. Organized chaos.” Looking back in later years, she says, “I will value the way that we were able to organize it all.”
“I think I’ll take a lot of pride in the fact that we are doing all this, but I don’t think it’s affecting our children in any negative way. They come home from school and we are very present,” says Mary Kate.
Adam adds, “I don’t know if I could do this by myself, if Mary Kate was just working. The fact that we go through the shared struggle, we understand what the pressure is from school, we know that our Google calendar has to be synched up and it’s got to be color coded and we’ve got to be on the same page.”
Adam says that when they were taking classes at different times from one another, they did not have the same level of understanding.
“Once we started specializing into our focus, it was like ‘yeah we’ve got this.’ How else could we do this without the support of each other … It’s been an incredible opportunity to see what we’re capable of,” he says.
And, they’ve given their kids a second home at Springfield College. “If they know they’re coming on campus, they both put their Springfield shirts on,” says Mary Kate. “They love interacting with the athletes.”
“SC is home,” says Adam. “This is where we started our careers. This is where we found out who we were. This is where we met each other.”
“As we say down in the weight room, there’s no place we’d rather be,” concludes Adam.