SED’s Power Couple
Husband-and-wife faculty team makes sport a positive force for athletes
John McCarthy and Amy Baltzell met in a counseling class in 1995 as graduate students at the School of Education. He was the offensive coordinator for Terrier football. She was newly retired from professional sports, having just sailed in the 1995 America’s Cup.
A decade and a half later, McCarthy (SED’04) and Baltzell (SED’96,’99) are married, raising three kids, and still passing each other in the halls of SED, where they’re both assistant professors dedicated to improving the lives of athletes.
McCarthy teaches coach-education courses, with a focus, he says, on the “philosophy, values, and the psychosocial development side of sport.” He urges his students to seize opportunities as coaches to teach kids good habits and positive social values.
McCarthy also directs SED’s Institute for Athletic Coach Education, which aims to improve training for the part-time and volunteer coaches who head up the majority of youth sport teams. The institute sponsors coaching workshops and provides speakers for coaching programs. McCarthy teaches “coaching theory sessions” to the hundreds of youth football coaches who attend USA Football Coaching School at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., each spring.
The institute takes an active role in Boston youth sports. McCarthy and colleagues recently completed projects with six Boston-area sports organizations—including baseball leagues and nonprofits that bring lacrosse, rowing, and soccer to urban kids. They helped the groups clarify their educational goals and teach their coaches methods for meeting them. The institute also joined Step UP, a partnership between area universities and the Boston Public Schools. McCarthy and SED grad students work directly with students at English High School each week and help to train coaches and administrators.
Baltzell coordinates the sport psychology specialization in SED’s counseling program. Most of her work centers on elite athletes and how they deal with the intense pressure of competition. She teaches courses in sport psychology and positive psychology, runs a study on the impact of meditation on collegiate athletes, and recently published a book, Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life.
A member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic rowing team, Baltzell says she “poured her heart and soul” into the book. “I gave the very best of what I’ve learned as an Olympic athlete, professional athlete, professor, researcher, practitioner,” she says. “It’s a book I wish I had had when I was 20, because I was physically gifted, but I didn’t know how to deal with the pressure. I had great success, but I could have had more.” And, she adds, she could have been happier along the way.
In her book and her broader work, Baltzell’s aim is not only to help athletes perform well, she says, but also to find joy and fulfillment whether they win or lose. Although McCarthy and Baltzell focus on different aspects of sport, he training coaches and she counseling professional athletes, what they both care about, in McCarthy’s words, “is that people are thriving, are flourishing in their experience with sport.”
Corinne Steinbrenner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments