Plattsburgh State junior Kassi Abbott is giving those who think sports and smarts don’t mix a run for their money.
Goalie for the PSUC women’s hockey team and fitness and wellness leadership major, Abbott reached new heights for her program when she became the first student athlete at PSUC whose work was published in the International Journal of Exercise Science ﹘ a feat she accomplished on top of being in season and taking a full course load.
Under the guidance of PSUC professor of fitness and wellness Andreas Stamatis and Rice University’s Zacharias Papadakis, the Boston-native spent most of the fall 2017 semester collaborating with another student from Rice on their study, “Mental Toughness in Sport: Moving Toward Conceptual Clarity and Consensus.”
“When an athlete doesn’t have a lot of mental toughness, you can see it in their style,” Abbott said. “The more confident you act, the more confidence you gain, the more mental toughness you gain.”
In conducting the study, Abbott and her partner independently sifted through 155 scholarly sports psychology articles in order to come up with a clear definition of the cloudy term. The two spent several three-hour phone calls comparing and melding meanings. The other student then presented the project at the Texas American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Austin, Texas, where PSUC was represented for the first time.
Ironically, Abbott could not attend the conference due to hockey playoffs.
“There’s a lot of things we can celebrate as a major,” Stamatis said. “A student athlete in season, an inter-institutional collaboration with a top university in the country, [being] published [and the] Texas [conference].”
Abbott has already incorporated what she’s learned about mental toughness in her college sports career.
“It was one of the things I struggled with personally in hockey,” Abbott said. “It was a lot of self-doubt.”
Abbott said she frequently battled negative thoughts during games, often thinking if she let in one goal, it’d tie the game, or if she gave up another, her team would lose.
After graduation, Abbott hopes to pursue physical therapy as a result of enduring several injuries over her 10 years of playing sports.
“My own physical therapists helped me a lot,” Abbott said. “When you get an injury, you get down on yourself, and you think you’re never gonna be the same athlete again, but with my ﹘ mental toughness ﹘ I can be the same athlete or a better athlete than I was before.”
Neither Abbott nor Stamatis believe this will be the athlete’s last published work.
“It’s [about] helping students go places,” Stamatis said. “She has the potential to do great things.”
Stamatis hopes building a research lab in Memorial Hall will incite more students to turn scholars of sports medicine, fitness and wellness in the coming years.
The lab would feature exercise machines that will guage levels of mental toughness, stamina and other athletic qualities.
“That will make competitive graduate students, add value to the degree [and] people will know SUNY Plattsburgh more,” Stamatis said.
From where he’s sitting, for Stamatis, “it’s all good.”
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