Eileen Finn: My Journey to Becoming a Rec Therapist and WAS Instructor
I see, on a daily basis, individuals setting, working toward, and achieving their goals in sport and recreation, but also because I see how that process builds confidence, self-efficacy, and improved quality of life beyond the hour or two they are skiing, biking, or participating with us.
It’s been a long, windy road that led me to Utah, but every day I get to work with WAS reminds me that it was all worth it! When I first seriously decided what to do for a living, I was a freshman in college, had just watched the movie Miracle, and was going to be a sports film producer. A year later, I realized film producers don’t get to be part of the action on a daily basis, so decided to study sport management instead. After seeing the movie Murderball, I decided adaptive sport was the way to go. I interned with US Paralympics in Colorado Springs, and then landed my first job as—plot twist—a college lacrosse coach. Hardly a linear move, but I learned a lot in five years, and still love the game!
I was fortunate to spend my last three years coaching at a school affiliated with an awesome therapeutic recreation and adaptive sport company, Northeast Passage, and skiing with Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country. Volunteering with NEP and ASPNC helped me realize that I was at my happiest working in adaptive sports, and I started swerving back to the professional path I swan dove off of five years earlier. I completed a master’s degree in recreational therapy in the spring of 2016, and moved to Park City with my better half, Justin (also an instructor for WAS), a week later.
My master’s research project investigated the meaning of adaptive cross-country skiing for individuals with visual impairments. We found that for the participants we interviewed, the most meaningful parts of their skiing experiences were being with others, freedom (of movement, independence, and being outdoors), and equality, or a sense of ‘normalcy.’ While my research focused on a specific population and a specific sport, in all my work as a recreational therapist, and an adaptive sport instructor, I’ve found these things to be true across people and experiences. For me, the best part about working with WAS is the programming we provide is centered around providing those same things to our awesome participants on a daily basis.
As I said earlier, I am so stoked that my journey has led me to be a part of WAS. Not only because I see, on a daily basis, individuals setting, working toward, and achieving their goals in sport and recreation, but also because I see how that process builds confidence, self-efficacy, and improved quality of life beyond the hour or two they are skiing, biking, or participating with us. In just one short year, WAS has given Justin and I an incredible community and family, and there is no doubt that as much as we have taught and given in the past year, we have learned and gained so much more!
For the kids out there, the lesson here may be that movies can be great career ideas, but really, it’s that finding a career that simultaneously can make yours and other’s lives better is the way to go. If you’re excited to get up for work everyday, you’re doing something right!
Wasatch Adaptive Sports
Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort
9385 S, Snowbird Center Dr.
Snowbird, Utah, 84092-9000