From Agility Trainer to Sports Psychologist


Warren Hills alumnus of 2014 Kathleen Oswald leads the way for her dog in the Spain World Agility Open in 2016. (Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Oswald)

Aidan McHenry, Sports Editor

For alumnus Kathleen Oswald (’14), the psychology of competition and training are similar for both canines and athletes.

The current Graduate Assistant at Ithaca College for the Department of Exercise and Sports Sciences is an internationally-recognized Dog Agility trainer and competitor. Oswald has continued to compete in Dog Agility through high school and into college; her dog is a 2014 World Team Champion and 2017 Silver Team Medalist. 

Oswald said she first knew that she wanted to be a sports psychologist when she began competing nationally in her sport and has been competing and training others in Dog Agility since she was four years old.

As a Graduate Assistant Oswald said she grades papers, manages schedules, and conducts research such as data collection and literary review. 

“I get exposed to a wide range of research topics and learn more about how to perform my own research,” she said. “I’m lucky to be guided through professional experiences, like conferences or publishing papers with academic journals.”

Some of these research topics include cognitive training interventions on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), relationships between owning companion animals and quality of life for senior citizens, and the role of virtual reality programs in sports training. 

“Our brain perceives virtual reality similar to how it absorbs real experiences,” Oswald said. “This allows us to practice technique, and test attention, memory and decision-making skills, all without physical damage to athletes’ bodies.” 

While at Warren Hills and beyond, Oswald said she was quite perseverant. When she found there was no psychology class offered here, Oswald read psychology books on her own time. In college, when she learned there was no sports psychology class offered at Stockton, Oswald again pursued sports psychology on her own. 

“Read and explore the topics you love, even when there is no school credit involved,” Oswald advised. “I was upset to learn that Warren Hills did not offer a psychology class, but I read books on psychology anyway.”

Oswald has traveled all over the world for dog agility, to places like Canada, and even Norway when training other people in Dog Agility techniques. 

Upon completion of her graduate studies, Oswald will be a sports psychologist, but more specifically, she will work with performance enhancement and researching areas in sports psychology and hopes to earn her Certified Mental Performance Consultant license. 

“I have a passion for helping people grow and reach their maximal potential,” Oswald said. “Working as a consultant and researching cognition will allow me to help others reach success in their sports as I have in Dog Agility.”