Finding Meaning Through MMA

When young people cultivate a sense of purpose, they may experience better mental health and more optimal youth development. Purpose is “a stable and generalized intention to accomplish something that is at once meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self” (Damon et al., 2003, p.121).

Purpose  =   Goal directedness + Commitment + Meaning + Beyond the self

Sport can provide purpose and structure for individuals with trauma.

We did a study to understand the potential for purpose in a sample of male MMA athletes, who experienced developmental trauma. We had two research questions:

  1. Are MMA athletes, a history of trauma, able to develop purpose?
  2. If so, how did these athletes develop a sense of purpose through MMA?

Two of the researchers, Will Massey & Meredith Whitley, interviewed five male MMA athletes. These athletes had different MMA careers: e.g., retired from competition, amateur status, competing in Ultimate Fighting Championship [UFC].

I analyzed the data from these five retrospective in-depth interviews. First, just read the interviews and wrote first impression memos. Then I re-read them again and wrote second impression memos. Third, I  generated codes from the interview guide and coded all five interviews. I did a content analysis of those codes.

Then, I coded a second time, but this time I determined the codes while I was coding (aka in-vivo coding). After that second round of coding, I analyzed the data to answer research question #1 — which was, Did the athletes develop purpose? Then I analyzed the data to answer research question #2 — How did they develop purpose through MMA?

Research Question #1: Did the athletes develop purpose?

Yes, the athletes did acquire the core criteria of purpose.

Purpose CriteriaAthlete 1Athlete 2Athlete 3Athlete 4Athlete 5
Goal-directedness
Commitment
Personal meaning
Beyond-the-self focus

Research Question #2: How did they develop purpose through MMA?

1. Survived Trauma & Dissatisfied with the Status Quo The participants described childhood as “survival.” They did not want to be “naïve” or “gullible.” They found themselves lacking resources and social capital. They lamented the lack of pathways to long-term success: “No direction.” They recognized the downward trajectory and wanted to be different.

2. Moved & Inspired to Be a Part of Something Beyond the Self: MMA The participants are introduced to MMA through inspiring individuals. “I want to learn to do that too.” They come to realize, through MMA, that there is a bigger world out there. They feel a sense of belonging to a unit larger than themselves. The MMA team is likened to a “sport family” and “brotherhood.”

3. Meaningful MMA Eventually Trumps Other Activities & Groups MMA means more to these participants than money, gang obligations, etc. Because of this meaning, they were goal-directed and committed. “Dedicated.” MMA was a space where they felt “empowered” to build their skills. Yet, they had rocky, non-linear paths to a meaningful MMA career. “Streets follow you.”

4. Existential Awareness Builds a Pre-Purpose Foundation The participants could be their authentic selves in MMA. They asked existential questions about their lives. “Man, what you been doing with your life?” They realized it was worthwhile to pursue goals. “Life is so short.” The men began to consider the well-being of others (e.g., the next generation of athletes). Lastly, they realized their futures are worth planning for. “I could be something.”

In conclusion: These MMA athletes developed goal-directedness, commitment, meaning, and beyond-the-self focus through MMA, suggesting that sport can be an avenue through which individuals find purpose following trauma.

Certain hurdles need to be cleared before those with trauma can begin to find purpose through sport, such as recognizing one has a future life worth planning for. Without this foundation, purpose cannot be cultivated.

If you enjoyed recess as a child, will you be more active later in life?

My colleague Alex Szarabajko and I presented at the virtual SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) 2021 conference.

The co-researchers are William V. Massey, Janelle K. Thalken, and Sean P. Mullen.

Video from SHAPE 2021 Conference

Enjoying recess as a child predicted how much you enjoyed physical activity later as an adult. Being excluded during recess as a child was associated with being socially isolated as an adult.

Essentially, if you experienced social exclusion within a physical activity as a child, it is possible that you do not enjoy or engage in physical activity later as an adult.

This study supports similar research which found that being picked last in PE (Physical Education) or not enjoying PE as a child was related to being less active later in life (Cardinal et al., 2013; Ladwig et al., 2018).

The research publication can be found in the academic journal entitled Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Authors are William V. Massey, Alexandra Szarabajko, Janelle K. Thalken, Deanna Perez, and Sean P. Mullen.

WHO’s “Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health” – A Synopsis

In 2007, the World Health Organization released a seminal paper entitled, “A Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health.” The original 79 page document can be viewed at this link. My own synopsis of the paper follows.

The previous paradigm of improving health was a strictly biomedical health model. Stakeholders and medical leaders erroneously believed that improvements in medical care alone would generate major gains in population. This paradigm assumed, for example, that scientific improvements in surgeries or medicine would make all of a population healthier. However, this strictly biomedical health paradigm has been debunked.

Instead, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented A Conceptual Framework for Action on the Social Determinants of Health. As presented by the framework, various social, economic, and political mechanisms give rise to individuals’ socioeconomic positions. In other words, populations of people are divided by income, education, gender, and ethnicity. These hierarchical socioeconomic positions in turn directly affect people’s specific determinants of health status (also known as the intermediary determinants of health). Social determinants of health can be defined as the structural social stratification mechanisms, institutions, and processes – which are in turn embedded in socioeconomic and political context.

An individual can be more exposed and vulnerable to health-compromising conditions as a direct result of his or her socioeconomic position. For example, a migrant farm worker from Mexico can potentially be more exposed to the harmful effects of pesticides. Or perhaps a Vietnamese American woman who provides manicures and pedicures is more exposed to the hazardous chemicals found in glues, nail polishes, and nail polish removers.

The guiding principle of the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework is health equity. The term health equity can be defined as the absence of unfair and avoidable differences in health among groups of people. The first element of the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework is the socioeconomic political context; this refers to a spectrum of societal factors that are immeasurable at the individual level. These are the broader structural, cultural, and functional aspects of a social system. They have powerful influences on one’s hierarchical position in society and, as a result of this position, one’s health. 

The second element of the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework are the structural determinants and the resulting socioeconomic positions. Socioeconomic positions can be measured at three levels: the individual level, the household level, and the neighborhood level. Structural determinants generate or reinforce social hierarchies in the society. They can also define individual socio-economic position. These include elements such as income, education, occupation, social class, gender, and ethnicity.

Finally, the third element of the framework recognizes that these structural determinants operate through intermediary social factors – also known as the social determinants of health. The WHO purposefully chose the vocabulary of “structural determinants” and “intermediary determinants,” because they wish to underscore the causal effects of the structural factors. In other words, if the model only focused on the intermediary determinants, then it would fail to consider the root causes. These root causes are the structural determinants. According to WHO, intermediary determinants can be material, psychosocial, or behavioral and biological. Examples of these material determinants are housing, neighborhood, work environment, as well as money to purchase food and warm clothes. Examples of the psychosocial determinants can include stressful living circumstances or social isolation. Examples of behavioral and biological factors include nutrition, physical activity, alcohol, smoking, and genetics. 

The WHO Social Determinants of Health framework makes it a point to explicitly state that the health care system itself can be considered a social determinant of health. Not everyone has equitable access to healthcare. Moreover, the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework also incorporates a feedback loop. The model recognizes that illness can feedback on, or directly affect, an individual’s social position. For example, if a person becomes very ill, he may lose his job, and as a result lose health insurance. Hence, this directly feedbacks and affects how this person can cope and treat his illness. Another type of feedback involves how pandemics can feedback and change the influence of social, economic, and political institutions.  

According to the WHO Social Determinants of Health framework, there are three key strategic directions to ensure that policy to adequately addresses Social Determinants of Health. These helpful strategies suggests that we (1) address the context, (2) encourage intersectional action, and (3) enable social participation and empowerment. In conclusion, positive changes can be strategically be made to address social determinants of health – including the participation and empowerment of community members.

Geocode into US Census Geographies

Source: https://github.com/ilyankou/geocoder-for-google-sheets

If you have a spreadsheet of addresses, you may want to extrapolate relevant US 2010 Census information.

I had ~475 addresses and was not sure about the best way go about it.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a really helpful website created by Jack Dougherty and Ilya Ilyankou. In it, they talk about how to bulk Geocode your addresses using data from the 2010 US Census. Ilya’s GitHub page also houses this information.

Essentially, they wrote a script for GoogleSheets. The script can geocode your US addresses into latitude, longitude, GeoID, and census tract – so helpful!

If you would like to use this feature, you need to first make a copy of their Google Sheet template. Go to ‘File’ > ‘Make a Copy to your Google Drive.’

Second, you will copy and paste your US addresses into column A.

Third, you will select columns A-H and select the Geocoder menu: US Census 2010 Geographies.

Next, the script may ask for your permission to run. Wait a bit for the script to run; this could take a while depending on how many addresses you have. Then….

Voilà! Now, your spreadsheet has addresses in column A, and GeoID and Census tract in columns G and H.

P.S. The other option is run a batch of addresses through the official US Census Geocoder website. That website can be found here. You do need to clean up your data first. The website usually worked for me, but sometimes did not.

Reverse GeoCode Google Sheet

Converting the address to latitude and longitude is known as geocoding. Whereas, converting the latitude and longitude to an address is called reverse geocoding.

Because I am probably not the only person who would like to reverse geocode a dataset, I thought it would be helpful to share my own reverse geocoding process.

Ideally, the dataset would first be in a csv file– with latitude was in one column and longitude in another.

I came across a script that could be used with Google Sheets. It’s on Stack Overflow and called “Get City, State, Country from Latitude and Longitude in Google Sheets. Per the instructions provided by Stack Overflow user Gabriel Rotman, I created a Google Sheet template.

Here is a link to an open, public Google Sheet Template that I created. Feel free to make a copy of it, and then edit it to fit your own needs!

This Google Sheet will provide the address when given the latitude and longitude. The following is the formula: “=reverse_geocode(A1,B1).”

Otherwise, you can copy and paste the script yourself into the ‘<> Script editor’ portion of your Google Sheet (under ‘Tools’). Script is below:

function reverse_geocode(lat,lng) {
Utilities.sleep(1500);

var response = Maps.newGeocoder().reverseGeocode(lat,lng);
for (var i = 0; i < response.results.length; i++) {
var result = response.results[i];
Logger.log('%s: %s, %s', result.formatted_address, result.geometry.location.lat,
result.geometry.location.lng);
return result.formatted_address;
}
}

Again, all credit for the script goes to Stack Overflow user Gabriel Rotman — much thanks to Gabriel!

Cheers!

Japanese Tea
Japanese Tea

School Recess + Adults = ?

I recently presented research on how adults can influence school recess.

This year the North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Exercise and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) hosted a virtual conference. Instead of the traditional poster presentation, my lab created a short 4 minute video, which was uploaded to YouTube.

Find the YouTube video below:

School Recess + Adults = ?

Often, when we think of recess, we think it’s all fun and games — but, actually, a lot of bullying and teasing can happen during recess too. So, the purpose of our study was to check out problems during school recess and try to figure out why these problems happen.

In order to do this, our lab went to 25 different schools throughout the USA and observed 112 recess periods. We used a guide (called The Great Recess Framework-Observational Tool) to help us observe recess. While we were out on the playground during recess, we also wrote down some notes to help us remember what we were noticing. We jotted down notes about (1) safety, (2) student behaviors, (3) adult behaviors, (4) physical activity, and (5) what happens right before and after the recess bell rings.

After we were all done going to schools, our lab re-read all the notes. We tried to notice any patterns from our notes.

We noticed a few patterns. First, we noticed problems with the schoolyard itself — like holes in a chain link fence, lots of trash, or broken rusty play sets. Problems with the schoolyard seem connected to safety problems; kids could easily run into a busy street or trip over hidden holes in the grass.

Second, we noticed that there were often too many kids in a small schoolyards with not enough things to play with (like jump ropes or balls). When this happened, it seemed like the same kids were usually left out and excluded from playing during recess. We noticed that older boys usually got to play, but others couldn’t. For example, 6th grades boy would play soccer and 5th grade boys would play basketball, but other kids could only just walk around or watch.

We might think that children can handle recess all by themselves, but adults can be a part of recess too. They can help make sure things go well for all the kids. For example, the principal or vice principal can walk around the school yard before recess starts to make sure there are no holes in the fence or rusty, broken play equipment. Teachers or yard monitors can make sure the balls are being shared with everyone — not just the oldest students. If a kid is being bullied or teased, adults can step in and stop this. Even better, adults can play and hang out with kids during recess. For example, teachers can pitch the ball in kickball, be goalie in soccer, or shoot some hoops in basketball.

School Recess + Helpful Nice Adults = Fun Safe Recess for More Kids!

OSU Research Team: Deanna Perez, Janelle Thalken, Alexandra Szarabajko, Laura Neilson, & William V. Massey

Kinesiology Program | School of Biological and Population Health Sciences | College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Small thoughts about research

I am learning the foundations of qualitative and mixed-methods research.

Ethics always guide my decision making. I recognize how research is embedded in culture. I aim for my research to include marginalized groups.

My end goal is not to simply create knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Rather, I hope that the knowledge I can help co-create will be applied in real word settings.

Through my research, I hope to effect positive change — especially for people of color and those from low income neighborhoods.