Professional News

UK sport psychology leader honored for impact in the field

Marc Cormier has been named a Fellow by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.
Marc Cormier has been named a Fellow by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Photo by Amanda Nelson.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 8, 2024) — The University of Kentucky’s Marc Cormier, Ph.D., director of the sport and exercise psychology graduate program in the College of Education, has been named a fellow by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). This distinction recognizes Cormier’s significant contributions to the field of sport, exercise and performance psychology — both as a faculty member and practitioner.  

Cormier’s career has been consistently recognized by the AASP, with this latest honor following his 2021 Early Career Practitioner Award and the 2022 Teaching Excellence Award. He is also an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion. 

“Dr. Cormier has made numerous contributions to his field in a relatively short time,” said Jack Watson, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health and Human Services at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Watson was one of Cormier’s three nominators for the honor. “To have met the criteria to become an AASP fellow at this early stage of his career is a testament to his dedication to the profession of sport, exercise and performance psychology and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology.” 

In addition to his academic role, Cormier serves as director of counseling and performance psychology services for UK Athletics. Cormier was crucial in establishing this program, which now serves all 22 varsity programs. His commitment to providing this service for student-athletes allows UK sport and exercise psychology students to gain valuable certification hours in an elite sport environment while increasing UK athletes’ access to sport psychology services.  

“Sport psychology was pivotal to not only my career but also my everyday life,” said Madison Lilley, a four-time All-American and former UK Volleyball captain who led the team to four straight Southeastern Conference titles and the school’s first-ever NCAA championship in 2020. That same year, she was named the NCAA Division I player of the year and NCAA tournament MVP.  

Before that stellar season, however, Lilley found herself in an unfamiliar “darkness,” as she describes it. “I knew I needed backup to help me get back to my roots. I turned to Dr. Cormier with very little understanding or expectation of the process or outcome, and after our first session, I was blown away that I had gone about three years without that support. Voicing some things out loud was difficult, but in hindsight, completely necessary to develop into the mentally capable athlete I was when I left the University of Kentucky.” 

Lilley played professionally for two years in Europe and represented the USA at the international level before returning to UK as one of the assistant volleyball coaches. In her coaching role, she has turned to Cormier on behalf of her team so that they can experience the same well-being benefits of sport psychology she found as an athlete.  

“We were able to turn (last season) around and win our seventh SEC title in a row. Of course, there are a lot of factors that play into that level of success, but from personal experience, I can say that sport psychology is integral to consistent performance at the highest level,” Lilley said.  

Much of Cormier’s motivation and reward in teaching and mentorship comes from watching students succeed. Graduates of the sport and exercise psychology program he developed and oversees have a 100% pass rate of the Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC) exam on their first attempt. These graduates are accepted into top doctoral programs and medical schools or are hired to work as practitioners in their desired settings such as the NCAA, professional/Olympic sports and the U.S. Armed Forces. 

UK’s sport and exercise psychology program prepares students at the master’s level but also supports Ph.D. students with an interest in sport and exercise psychology in related areas, like counseling psychology, rehabilitation sciences and social work.  

Learning from Dr. Cormier has largely contributed to the practitioner and person I am today,” said Samantha Leavens, a 2021 sport and exercise psychology graduate and one of the few women working in that field in professional hockey. Originally from Toronto, Leavens is a mental performance coach within the Chicago Blackhawks organization in the National Hockey League. 

While the curriculum and program requirements have been carefully curated to prepare students for a seamless transition into the field, Dr. Cormier’s unwavering support and mentorship, even for those who have graduated from the program, create an environment in which individuals can find a balance between challenging themselves and feeling comfortable,” Leavens said. “Through numerous contributions to the field, Dr. Cormier continually proves his commitment to students, athletes, his program and the field.”  

“As I often tell my students, being a practitioner makes me a better teacher, and vice versa. My academic and applied work complement each other and offer multiple channels through which I have been able to contribute to the field,” Cormier said. “It is an honor to become a Fellow within AASP, the largest and most important organization in applied sport psychology. I look forward to continuing to build a community of future practitioners and leaders across the performance spectrum.” 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.