"Rugby has kept me sane through all my academic endeavors."

Great feature article on a rugby player who’s a grad student at the University of Michigan and helping children with Down Syndrome …

Rugby player links athletics, academics
She’s a team player on the field and in Down syndrome work
Monday, September 18, 2006
BY TRACY DAVIS
News Staff Reporter

Meghann Lloyd is what you might call a colorful person.

It’s not just because of the varying shades of blonde or red that she tints her hair, or the rainbow of bruises she often sports.

Lloyd, 28, is a doctoral degree candidate in kinesiology at the University of Michigan and a champion rugby player. Although the Canada native has played club rugby for years, she recently retired from the demanding time and travel of the Detroit Rugby Football Club women’s team, which she helped bring to a Division II National Championship in 2004.

Although most of Lloyd’s time nowadays is consumed by her doctoral pursuits, the connection between her physical life and her academic life is strong. Lloyd’s studies focus on adapted physical activity, or physical education for anyone with a
disability.

She first started working with children with disabilities as an undergraduate, changing majors four times before settling on kinesiology.

While earning her master’s degree, Lloyd began to narrow her field of study. She looked at self-regulation in children with and without “developmental coordination disorder.” When she arrived at U-M, she began studying whether the use of infant treadmills helps children with Down syndrome who are at risk for cerebral palsy develop more normally. Her dissertation is about the impact of physical activity on those children.

“I’ve always enjoyed physical activities and sports. … I feel like there’s more that can be done for the children in that realm. There’s just so much learning that takes place outside the classroom.”

Lloyd, who grew up in Toronto, earned her master’s at McGill University in Montreal and her undergraduate degree in kinesiology from Acadia University in Nova Scotia, where she started in organized rugby. While in Quebec, she played for the Montreal Irish Rugby Football Club.

“Rugby has kept me sane through all my academic endeavors,” Lloyd said. “It’s a great community of people and a great physical outlet, although I don’t think my academic advisors or my mum ever understood that.”

Beyond Lloyd’s athletic and academic gifts, Dale Ulrich, professor of movement science and director of U-M’s Center on Motor Behavior and Pediatric Disabilities, calls her a team player who is an unusually good collaborator.

“She works extremely well with everyone,” he said, noting that she is very confident without being intimidating.

That translates to her relationships with her research subjects as well.

Lloyd worked with Laura O’Connell’s daughter Molly, a 21 month old with a form of Down syndrome known as Mosaic Down syndrome. O’Connell said Lloyd went above and beyond providing information, and although she’s no longer working with Molly, she’s still a great resource for O’Connell.

“You don’t research a disability until you are faced with one, and Meghann had a wealth of information to give me,” she said.

“She’s had a great impact on Molly’s life. Typically with Down, they are slower to walk. Slower motor development means slower cognitive development. So our big push was to get Molly walking, and Meghann helped us do that.”

O’Connell believes that happened sooner than it would have otherwise because Lloyd has a natural connection with children.

“That alone improves the kids’ outcomes because they are more receptive to working hard,” she said.

“I think she goes beyond what a typical scientist and researcher would do,” she said. “She calls them her babies, she cares about her babies and she wants them to research the developmental milestones they need to.

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