In downtown Chicago, Bryan Mejia ’16 found the perfect internship to put sports psychology into action. Mejia, a psychology major from Miami, Fla., interned with Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago while participating in Chicago Semester. The program allows juniors and seniors to explore opportunities related to their unique interests through seminars, internships and urban life. Central has been part of Chicago Semester since its founding in 1974.
The program has placed students with Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for over 20 years, but because Bryan had specific interests related to his major, program leaders created a brand-new opportunity by working with the top-ranked hospital’s Adaptive Sports and Fitness Program for the first time.
For 16 weeks, Mejia took on the role of sports manager. “I was put in charge of organizing team travel plans, moving sporting equipment, helping set up and run tournaments,” says Mejia. “It was a perfect opportunity to explore my career interests and gain experience in the professional world.”
The best part, Mejia says, was leading hand-cycling practices each week for adults and youth with physical disabilities. Mejia helped train athletes for RIC’s SkyRise race and fundraiser.
Nearly 3,000 participants climbed the Willis Tower stairs to Skydeck Chicago in this seventh annual race. Meanwhile, 40 athletes used their upper-body strength to hand-cycle the equivalent distance and elevation on machines calibrated to match the stair-climbing challenge.
“My supervisor allowed me the flexibility to incorporate mental skills training into the practices,” Mejia says. “Most of the athletes beat their scores from the previous year, so that training may have helped them dig deeper into their motivation.”
A former football player, Mejia says he knows the importance of mental stamina. “I’ve always loved how influential the mind is on an everyday basis,” he says. “Half the battle in overcoming challenges is knowing your mental resources.”
At Central, Mejia also found opportunities related to his interests — like pursuing his own psychology research. “Last year, I conducted a study which revealed social support may affect your performance more than self-talk,” he says. “As a psych major, conducting studies in my interests definitely helps.”
After graduating from Central, Mejia is continuing his education and specializing in sport and performance psychology. He is currently is master’s degree student studying sport and exercise psychology at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
“I’m forever a fan of the underdog, so I love how many people underestimate the power of the mind,” says Mejia. “I would like to help others achieve their goals through mental skills training.”