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Q&A with Springfield Dean of Physical Education Sue Guyer

By Garrett Cote

Sue Guyer, Springfield College’s Dean of Physical Education, Performance and Sport Leadership, is remarkably decorated and accomplished. After spending time at several different institutions, Guyer has called Alden Street her home for the past 23 years. She continues to be an inspiration for young women aspiring to be involved in her line of work, and sat down with The Student’s Garrett Cote to talk about her journey, inspirations and biggest achievements over the course of her illustrious career in physical education and athletic training.

Cote: Where are you from?

Guyer: I’m originally from upstate New York, a little town called Burnt Hills. It’s near Albany, a small little rural town. Then I went to college in Vermont at Castleton State College. Then I basically went all the way down the east coast. I went to Old Dominion University in Virginia for my Master’s. I worked down in Florida for about 10 years at a small private school called Stetson University, and then found myself back here. I was only going to be here for a year. Well, 23 years later, here I am.

Cote: What was the reason you chose to stay at SC?

Guyer: The students. That’s everybody’s answer because it’s true. When you’ve worked at multiple different places, you realize there’s something special about this place, there’s something special about the students here.

Cote: When did you realize you wanted athletic training to be a part of your future?

Guyer: When I was in ninth grade, I sustained a pretty significant injury. I had a severe contusion to my kidney. I was a [soccer] goalie and I kind of leaned sideways, and someone came in and kicked me up underneath the ribcage and contused my kidney. I was bleeding internally and I was laying on the field. Long story short, I got out of the hospital and I came back to practice and talked to my coach. ‘There’s got to be someone who is there for athletes when they get hurt on the field.’ And he said ‘Yeah, they’re called athletic trainers.’

Cote: Considering the lack of women in sports, what did it mean to you to work in an athletic-based occupation?

Guyer: Well, when I first started out, it was much different. I think only 20% of athletic trainers were women. So we were definitely overcoming some biases sometimes, especially when I would work with men’s teams. And looking back now 30 years later, 52% of athletic trainers are women, and 48 are men. So we have made that shift. Because women, I think we’re good care providers, we truly are nurturing. We give good care, we’re holistic in our care.

Cote: What are some accolades you are most proud of?

Guyer: The Excellence in Teaching Award. And the reason I’m really proud of that one is it was an award that was solely given through students. So the students voted, it wasn’t the committee. It wasn’t something I knew about. It wasn’t something I was vying for. I just got a call from the Senate one day and they said congratulations, you’ve been nominated for the Excellence in Teaching Award.”

Cote: Who is your biggest inspiration?

Guyer: My mom. She is no longer on this earth, but she is in my heart and in my head every single day. She was a woman before her time. She was the head of the household, she was the center of the wheel and my best friend. She was tough as nails yet as soft as a pillow.

Cote: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?

Guyer: I love anything outside. So kayak, hike, and be on the water. I absolutely love being on the water. I find water very peaceful. And just if I’m stressed, and I’m near a body of water, I can just center myself.

Cote: As a woman, how hard was it for you to find your way into your field of work? Were there times where you felt mistreated?

Guyer: Because I had such strong female role models throughout my entire career, and a father who never thought anything was beyond my abilities, I was lucky in that way. But it was difficult, because sometimes you’re the only female in the room. And especially on road trips, you’re with a men’s team, men’s coaches, and you’re the only female and you’re taking care of 35 guys. But I feel blessed because I was always treated with respect. Part of that, I think, is being confident enough to demand respect.

Cote: This year is the 50th anniversary of Title IX. How important has the law been to women as a whole?

Guyer: It gave women equal access to education, and to sport. So if you were federally funded, you had to give equal opportunity – in the classroom and also on the playing field. I mean, just how far women’s athletics have come in 50 years is mind-blowing.

Cote: What was your reaction when you found out that Billie Jean King would be giving this year’s commencement speech?

Guyer: Oh, gosh. Well, we had a little inside scoop that she might be our commencement speaker, but I don’t think any of us really thought it would come to fruition. Luckily, we have Board of Trustee members who know her and were able to talk to her. And then President Cooper sealed the deal. So I’m very excited. And I’ll be up there [on stage with King], because as a Dean, we have to be up there. Just being in her presence is going to be a little nerve-wracking. I’m in awe of everything she has done.

Cote: What is your favorite course to teach at Springfield College?

Guyer: I loved teaching prevention of athletic injuries. And the reason I did is because it was all first-year students. And with the first-year students, you kind of set the stage, you’re getting to know them, they’re getting to know you, they’re getting to know the college experience. Plus, prevention is one of those things that is the cornerstone of athletic training.

Cote: As a professor of Humanics, what does the Humanics philosophy mean to you?

Guyer: The Humanics philosophy means to me that you treat everybody with respect and dignity, from the moment you meet them to eternity. If we’re just kind to people all the time, I think that’s really, really important. And I would love to see a lot more of that nowadays.

Cote: What is your favorite tradition at Springfield College?

Guyer: I like the beanies. Because I get to see the end result, I get to see some of the alumni faculty who are still wearing them. Some of them have bills that were leather, and they’re all cracking because we still have it. So it’s a uniting factor between the new students, all of our alumni and then some of the teachers who are still here from their undergrad.

Cote: If you could change the maroon and white colors of Springfield College, what would you choose instead?

Guyer: I’m going to say red. And the reason I’m going to go with red is because people who are here believe in it with their whole heart. So when you think about heart, I think about blood. And I don’t want to see people bleed for this place, But I think everyone who’s here is here for a common mission. So I’m going to say the color red.

Cote: End the debate – is Spirit the Lion a male or female?

Guyer: It’s a non-binary mascot. Yeah, we’re gonna call it androgynous – which is perfect.

Photo: Springfield College

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