An international student from Venezuela, Andres Rodriguez is an advocate for changing the field of public health. As a recent graduate with dual degrees in Exercise Science and Psychology, Rodriguez, who is also a graduate of the USF Honors College, strives to integrate techniques of fitness and mindfulness into his work and highlight how psychology plays a part in the rehabilitation, conditioning and strengthening processes. Rodriguez's education began with training athletes, and today he strives to promote access to holistic health plans and to enhance the well-being of his community.
What motivated you to pursue a degree in Exercise Science?
I have always been physically active and played sports my entire life, and felt that the Exercise Science program at the University of South Florida would allow me to develop my knowledge of fitness principles, while remaining close to my passion of athletics and performance. The more I learned about the Exercise Science degree, the more motivated I became to pursue it!
What do you enjoy about your major?
I really enjoy the diversity that the Exercise Science program at USF offers. Among its subfields there are general fitness, cardiac rehabilitation, physical therapy, sports medicine, strength and conditioning, among others. While my primary interests are related to the strength and conditioning aspect of the field, I also enjoyed the coursework that helped me learn about the chronic diseases and musculoskeletal injuries, as these are important issues that all practitioners should be well aware of. The internship experience in my final semester was invaluable, as I was able to work with elite professional athletes in a strength and conditioning facility, and it provided me the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge and training principles in a real-world setting. The internship experience also allowed me to observe the training methods and goal setting for elite level athletes. Overall, the Exercise Science program helped me develop my training philosophy and the various dimensions of health and fitness such as the physical and mental components.
What goals do you hope to accomplish after completing the program?
Currently, I am pursuing my dream of playing professional baseball as it has been my passion since I was very young. It gives me a great advantage to be knowledgeable in how to program and structure my own training with proper techniques and being aware of how to accomplish specific goals. At the same time, I will take a strength and conditioning position with the Detroit Tigers, in which I will help other players achieve their best physical level by providing them with great training and helping them prevent future injuries. In the long run, I would love to establish my own facility, which I’ve already started working on. My project is called Beast-Mode Performance, and it will focus on helping anyone who wants to optimize their health and fitness. The main goal of this project will be to help create healthy habits for both the regular population and for professional athletes. I want to be able to make an impact on people’s lives by helping them achieve the best version of themselves through scientific foundations from exercise science and psychology.
Why did you choose to attend the University of South Florida for your studies?
I was already pursuing my degree at a different university, but the level of academic rigor and athletic competition at USF was higher, so I wanted to experience more enriched opportunities and decided to switch universities. I was confident in my decision to study in the Exercise Science program at the University of South Florida after meeting the professors and the extremely helpful guidance of my honors adviser, Cayla Lanier.
What other activities and student organizations do you participate in?
My initial experience as a student pursuing athletic opportunities did not allow me to participant in other organizations as much as I would have liked to; however, I was part of the USF Honors College, which provided me the opportunity to conduct a research project under the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Nic Martinez in the Exercise Science program. My honors thesis examined the concept of mental toughness and how it relates to sports performance. I feel that my honors thesis provided me with a culminating experience that helped me bridge the gap between the physical and mental aspects of performance.
What experiences have you had as part of the Exercise Science Program that have prepared you for your future work?
The classes are very well structured as they focus on theoretical information for the first part of the program. Through progression of coursework, the program becomes much more practical, which gave me a great sense of confidence because I was able to get hands-on experience related to what I had been learning. Additionally, the internship during the last semester represents a great opportunity to obtain practical experience regarding whatever the student wants to achieve relative to the field (i.e. strength and conditioning, health and wellness). I had the opportunity to intern with Bommarito’s Performance Systems in Miami and learned from professional coaches that have vast experience training high level professional athletes in different sports.
What is unique or stands out about the Exercise Science Program at USF?
I really like how the program gives a strong base to any of the subfields previously mentioned. It is up to the student to keep focusing on his or her specific goals. Additionally, the final internship creates a huge opportunity to grow in the field you would like to focus on. Personally, my internship allowed me to focus on exactly what I wanted to do in the future. I worked with some elite-level athletes of different sports and helped them prepare for their upcoming season, which gave me a lot of confidence and preparation for my future endeavors.
What makes you passionate about helping people meet their health and performance needs?
It gives me a very gratifying feeling to know that I am being a contributor to preventing and eliminating global problems like chronic disease and obesity, among others. Additionally, being able to raise the level of performance during competition makes me excited! For instance, just to be able to help someone who has suffered from an injury for years due to an imbalance, and make that pain stop so this person can live at the fullest makes me feel great about this profession. Additionally, inspiring and helping someone achieve their health and fitness goals through hard work and dedication represents a great reason to be passionate about the field, as it demonstrates that we all have potential to do whatever we want as long as we prepare properly and continue improving on daily basis.
What advice do you have for those who are interested in pursuing a career in this field?
The most important piece of advice I could give is to make sure that you are passionate about whatever you are trying to achieve. Our performance is so much better, and our stress levels are so much lower when we enjoy what we do! Additionally, I would advise them to understand that this field is constantly evolving, and it is important to keep your mind open to learning different concepts. I believe this philosophy applies to every field and life in general.
Why would you recommend USF to future or prospective students?
Primarily, USF is a school that offers multiple opportunities such as the USF Honors College, and collegiate sports teams at the highest collegiate levels. More specific to the Exercise Science major, I would say that USF has amazing professors that are very proficient at what they do, and really care about their students, which makes for a great reason to be part of the Exercise Science program!
The Exercise Science program at the University of South Florida is designed to equip future exercise professionals with the knowledge and skills to meet the diverse health and performance needs of our population through the integration of coursework with laboratory-based and field-based experiential learning.