Faculty Profile: Judy Favor
Judy Favor observes the Lego tower being built by one group of students in her Group Dynamics for Adult Learners course.
Athletics and academics are in Judy Favor's DNA.
"The two have always been intertwined for me," said Favor, assistant professor of educational leadership at K-State Olathe. "I've never been the stereotypical coach who just teaches because I have to. I was very much an academic-oriented athletic coach. I put just as much effort into my teaching as my coaching, and every student I've coached or taught has known that."
Favor has continuously blended athletics and academics throughout her career as an athlete, coach and educator. More recently, she is exploring how the interplay between these subjects can be used to accurately predict the interactions of a classroom or team, as well as a team's success.
The classroom and coaching
For Favor, there was never any question about whether or not to go college. The question was how to get there.
"My dad never went to college but my mom did," Favor said. "Somewhere along the way I realized really early that I needed to be smart and athletic to be successful. So, I made being a smart athlete my ticket to college and earned both athletic and academic scholarships."
After earning a bachelor's degree in physical education from Culver-Stockton College, Favor spent three years teaching eighth grade English and coaching varsity basketball and softball.
"While I enjoyed that, my dream, my lifelong goal at that period of my professional life, was to be a college coach," she said. "So, I resigned from K-12 teaching and went back to school fulltime so I could make that goal a reality."
Favor earned her master's degree in guidance and counseling at Southeast Missouri State University. She then took a job at Columbus State University in Georgia as the head softball coach and sports information director for the university's NCAA Division II athletics program.
Although coaching and athletics were a large focus of her job duties, Favor did not find herself far from the classroom. She spent the first three years of her seven-year career at Columbus serving as the sports information director for nine sports, head softball coach and also instructed physical education courses. After leading the softball team to their first national ranking in her third year, she was allowed to focus just on teaching and softball, and built the softball program into a nationally recognized powerhouse.
After seven years at Columbus, Favor, a self-described "small town kid," decided to move back to the Midwest — an area she calls home. She took a job coaching softball at Wichita State University, choosing for the first time to focus solely on sport rather than classroom education.
While on the field, Favor found herself spending more time trying to manage player personalities and how those personalities affected the dynamics of the team more than developing and improving players.
"I felt like what I was trying to do — and often failing at — was handling all of the drama and stuff that comes along with trying to manage 17 or 18 young female athletes over the course of a long season," Favor said. "I wasn't alone in this either because my colleagues were struggling with the same thing. I decided team dynamics was something I needed to know more about. I wanted to study personality and how personalities impact teams, so I could share this knowledge with others who were also struggling."
Favor left coaching after three years to pursue her doctorate with the goal of understanding what she viewed as the most challenging and elusive aspect of coaching: team dynamics.
Coaching and the classroom
Since earning her doctorate in education from the University of Kansas, Favor has become a specialist in understanding team dynamics, personalities and how personalities affect teams.
"Whenever you put a group of people together, you have different personalities, values, social upbringings, etc.," Favor said. "The challenges are how do you get everybody to work together more effectively and appreciate each other for their uniqueness and their quirks? As a leader, you also have to look at how to manage personalities effectively over the long haul because it's in periods of stress and pressure that our less favorable traits can become problematic."
Currently, Favor is doing an applied study with three college teams. She is collecting data on the teams, including identifying networks of trust and influence among the players, and personality data. She then works with coaches to help them develop strategies for working with individual players more effectively.
"Team dynamics is a fascinating area and something that coaches and leaders usually don't know enough about," Favor said. "You can know a lot about strategy and can design plays that use people's talent to overcome the opponents, but we know much less about how to deal with all sorts of different personalities and keep everybody moving in the same direction."
Favor's experience on the field and in the classroom is paying off. Before the Women's Final Four, she will present her research on personality and team chemistry at the annual convention for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association in Dallas.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Favor said. "Presenting my research about team dynamics to this group is an opportunity to help coaches enhance their effectiveness."