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New professor examines how well sports develop people

Anthony Rodriguez
Thu, 2018-10-04 06:00

Asst. Professor Leeann Lower combines research, students and community to serve the mission of higher education

Sports has been at the forefront of Leeann Lower’s life since she was a kid.

Her parents work for a non-profit sports organization; she’s attended high-profile sporting events such as the Final Four; all of her siblings have had careers in sports; she was a collegiate cross country and track athlete and student director of intramural sports programming at Anderson University.

And that just scratches the surface.

As an assistant professor of sport management in the Department of Human Sciences, Lower is using her passion for sports to serve students in every way she can.

In her sports law course, she chats up with students as she passes out materials before class. She actively collaborates with 10 students on her research investigating the social benefits of recreational sports for young adults and youth.

“I have always heard that you'll be at your best as a professor when you can line up your research, your teaching and your service,” Lower said. “Students are my No. 1 priority and since Ohio State is a research intensive institution, if I can incorporate the mission of higher education into my research efforts, I feel like that’s just a perfect blend.”

Investigating human development and sports involvement

As a researcher, Lower examines how people develop as a result of participating in youth and recreational sports – she’s discovering that a big part of it comes from the way a program is designed, how the staff are developed, and how the curriculum is implemented.

She’s also studying how the United States’ sport club model is designed and why club sports produce better results than other recreational sports.

Ohio State started its recreation sports program in 1913, one of the first at a university in the nation. The university has 58 club sports, compared to 37 varsity sports. Each club sport is run entirely by students, who find practice facilities and pay for rent, purchase gear, market the teams, run social media, recruit members, coach, schedule hotels and flights and prepare to compete.

“I'm really interested in human development. I socially developed from sports and I love to see how sports can make an impact, can develop participants in all respects – socially, cognitively, spiritually, physically, psychologically,” Lower said. “I'm just really interested in how well sports can be used as a mechanism to develop people.”

‘The perfect, perfect dream job’

Lower’s role in the College of Education and Human Ecology’s sport management program is a perfect fit for her, but she learned her true path after reading “The Social Benefits of Intramural Sports” by Scott Forrester while in her master’s program at Baylor University.

That article was a “game-changer,” she said. It aptly described her experiences with sports in high school and college. Reading the research behind social development and sports propelled Lower to learn more, write her master’s thesis, earn her PhD at Ohio State and, now, to teach and do research.

Her doctoral adviser and now colleague, Brian Turner, professor of sport management, couldn’t be happier to have her at Ohio State.

“Lee is probably the nicest person you’ll ever meet,” Turner said. “She does an exceptional job in the classroom, she’s developed a great line of research and she wants to be involved.”

Her passion for her work is exuded in her words, interactions with students and in her service to the university and the community.

“If you could think of the perfect, perfect dream job that matches your passions with your strengths – a lot of people sometimes don’t even discover that in their lifetime – I have it,” Lower said. “I’m just over the moon because teaching is a way to serve and it’s a way to develop and to have a long-term impact on people. It is so rewarding.”

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