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A&M-Commerce Kinesiology Student Focus As A Champion For Accessibility In Sports

Students from Bonham ISD participate in a unified basketball event hosted at A&M-Commerce on Feb. 29. Photo by Chris Gage | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications.

 

COMMERCE, TEXAS: Standing courtside at a recent unified basketball event hosted at Texas A&M University-Commerce, kinesiology student Katelyn Frisbie’s eyes light up as she cheers for special education and general education students participating in the event. As an aspiring adapted physical education (PE) teacher, she feels right at home in this environment.

What is Adapted Physical Education?

Adapted physical education fosters welcoming environments where individuals of all abilities can participate in sports and physical activities. Working closely with students, families, and other professionals, adapted PE instructors focus on accommodating various disabilities, including mobility and sensory impairments, intellectual disabilities, and emotional or behavioral disorders. It can include anything from modifying the equipment and rules of traditional sports to developing therapeutic exercises that help students improve their balance and coordination.

Beyond simply developing physical fitness and motor skills, adapted PE aims to enhance social skills, self-esteem, and overall quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

The Road to A&M-Commerce

Raised in nearby Lavon, Texas, Frisbie participated in the Pride Prep program at Community High School, which provided her with a direct pathway to attend A&M-Commerce. The program included dual-credit courses at Commerce High School and A&M-Commerce throughout her high school tenure.

Thanks to this early exposure, Frisbie began her full-time college experience classified as a sophomore.

“I was fully established with A&M-Commerce by my senior year in high school,” Frisbie recalls. “I liked the environment. It’s spread out enough to feel like a big campus but still a close community. Continuing my education here felt like the right thing to do.”

Discovering Adapted Physical Education

Frisbie said she had always aspired to become a teacher and had considered the particular education field. At Community ISD, she partnered with special education students in her PE classes and volunteered in special education classes and events.

“I would also have lunch with the special education or life skills class,” she said. “I loved the environment, the students, and everything about it.”

At A&M-Commerce, she majored in Kinesiology and Sports Studies with teaching emphasis.

“PE is supposed to be a student’s favorite class, but many people have had terrible experiences and memories about it,” she said. “They might avoid physical activity the rest of their lives because they have a negative psychological response based on their experiences. That fuels my fire because I want to be the teacher that people remember for a good reason.”

Her path became apparent when she attended Dr. Kelly Featherston’s Adapted Physical Education class. She credits the course for broadening her perspective on adapted PE.

“On her second day in class, Katelyn had this ‘a-ha’ moment,” Featherston recalls. “She said, ‘This is what I want to do. It is what I want to be.’”

Only then, Frisbie says, did she have no idea that adapted PE was a career path.

“Taking that class and learning everything about adapted PE just made it all click for me,” she said. Observing various Special Olympics events and general education classes also solidified my desire to pursue adapted PE as a career.”

Gaining Experience

Frisbie says it’s essential to dive deep into the field to better understand the challenges and rewards of working with special needs students. She continues to pursue opportunities that broaden her exposure to adapted PE and events for students with disabilities.

“Katelyn is brilliant, humble, and a hard worker,” Featherston said. She led and excelled at every event we had last semester, and it was immaculate to witness that process.”

Frisbie said learning about adapted PE is relevant to all educators.

“If you’re a teacher, these are concepts you need to understand,” she said. “It’s not just about being an adapted PE teacher; it’s also the effect that you can have with it and how you can apply that to your teaching, whether at the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary level.”

Championing Accessible Sports

Frisbie advocates for accessible PE programs like unified sports events that combine students of all abilities.

“I did a research project last semester on unified sports,” she said. “It was cool to learn how many sports have unified Special Olympics sports. I’m excited that A&M-Commerce hosts events like that.”

She says inclusion is important because they do not educate many people on disabilities and special education classes.

“Exposure to inclusive classes and events integrating special and general education students will create more understanding and empathy. I want to be the person who does that.”

Commerce ISD student Aiden Belanger said participating in sports has helped him learn sportsmanship, gain strength, and become a team player.

“It helped me play better,” he said. “We are working as a team, and I enjoy being competitive.”

Frisbie said it takes passion and communication for communities and schools to provide these accessible activities.

“Dr. Featherston flourishes at these events. She’s all over the place and so excited to do it,” Frisbie said. “So, it takes someone passionate and willing to take those first steps to communicate with schools and get the idea going.”

Encouraging Others and the Road Ahead

Reflecting on her experiences, Frisbie encourages students interested in adapted PE to gain as much exposure as possible.

“You can’t just jump into it,” she said. You need to be prepared to be empathetic and patient and understand what these students are going through. College is a chance to get that exposure without being nervous or feeling unsupported.”

As for her career, Frisbie hopes to become an elementary-level teacher after graduation.

“I know I have to start somewhere. I could start as a PE teacher or a life skills teacher, but the goal is to become an adapted PE teacher,” she said. “I’m passionate about it because I’ve had all these experiences, and I’m ready for this to be my career.”

From there, Frisbie said it’s possible to facilitate adapted PE at regional and national levels.

“I just love the environment and being with the kids. My goal is to keep moving up. I want to experience it all,” she said.

Are you interested in a fun and rewarding career in physical education? Check out opportunities available through the Department of Health and Human Performance at A&M-Commerce.