Professor John McNamara is the program director for the Exercise and Movement Science Online degree at St. Francis College, where he has worked for 16 years. However, his passion for education and exercise science began long before St. Francis College. From playing ice hockey as a kid to competing in Olympic Weightlifting as a Ph.D. student, Dr. McNamara’s broad athletic interests make him the best instructor for this program.
Read on to learn more about John’s background, his philosophies on physical education, and his journey to St. Francis.
This article is a 4-minute read.
Keeping a Broad Focus
Ever since he was a young kid, John has been interested in every subject imaginable, from physics to world science to religion. “There’s just not enough hours in the day to learn it all,” he said, and his approach to athletics is no different.
Growing up in Canada, John played every sport and activity he could get his hands on. Although ice hockey was (and still is) one of his favorites, he never developed tunnel vision. In fact, he branched out even more from typical team sports when he developed an interest in the arts. While earning his bachelor’s and master’s at the University of Alberta, John took as many dance classes as possible. While he appreciated the artistic expression and the beauty of dance, he was also incredibly aware of the physical training and exercise principles behind every technique.
While earning his Ph.D. at Temple University in Philadelphia, John competed in Olympic Weightlifting. Although some may have trouble connecting dance to Olympic Weightlifting, John saw a firm connection between the two activities. “I could see how everything is related, from dance to, you know, Olympic weightlifting, football, basketball, soccer, hockey,” he said. “I can see that there’s a common thread through them all.”
While some of John’s professors told him that he had to narrow his focus, John sees his range of knowledge and interests as an asset. Not to mention, it’s what led him to St. Francis College. A friend of John’s had come across a St. Francis job posting, and seeing that it called for the ability to teach in different areas and subjects, he brought it to John and told him it was right up his alley. “That was 16 years ago,” John laughed.
Passion for Education
For John, physical education was always the best part of the day in school. Combined with his various athletic interests, it seemed natural for John to gravitate toward a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education. The more John learned, the more he realized that his favorite classes as a kid were often ineffective at teaching proper exercise techniques, or even dangerously incorrect.
Beyond poor technique, John had personal experiences and knew of many others who had negative experiences with the coaches or instructors themselves.
“This has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I just decided that every one of my classes was going to be different and I’m going to give [students], the biggest things⸺ a safe, effective, and filled-with-information phys ed class.”
Over the years, John has developed a few physical education principles:
Respect that every student is an individual.
Every student will be at a different level, from total beginner to life-long athlete. They also have unique goals and comfort levels. Meet students where they’re at.
Highlight people’s strengths.
Even as the coach or instructor, you may not be the best in the room at every sport, and you can take advantage of this fact. For example, if a student is good at taking free throws, ask them to be the example and point out their techniques.
Don’t overwhelm beginners.
For those who are new to exercise science, a good experience can completely change lifestyle and outlook on physical education.
Focus on the basics.
It’s not about how fast someone can run or how much weight they can lift, rather if they grasp the basic principles of physical education.
St. Francis Experience
Coming from a big university, one of the first things John noticed about St. Francis was the community. Moving from 500-person lectures to 12-person classes, John quickly saw the benefits of St. Francis’s individualized teaching methods. He could connect with every student in the course, know their names, extra-curricular, sports, interests, and fields of improvement.
Translating this personalized approach to online teaching was a feat, according to John, but it was something that the entire university got behind and believed in. In addition to his training and certifications, John approaches online learning by putting himself in the shoes of his students. From lighting and audio, class format, and organization of the online platform called Canvas, John adjusts his online teaching to suit the needs of his students.
John also displays all of St. Francis’s resources on his Canvas page, so that students can access the same incredible resources as in-person classes, including free tutors, financial aid, mental health, stress counselors, and academic advising.
For 160 years, St. Francis has provided an affordable and quality education to all students. We strongly believe that the quest for knowledge was not to be an end in itself, but a quest to live more authentically within oneself and morally within the world community.
When you enroll in our online program, you receive the same level of commitment and quality of education. If you’re interested in pursuing exercise and health with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Movement Science, contact one of our Admissions Experts to learn more