This spring semester, as part of the module ‘Youth Sport and Policy’, our 4th year physical education undergraduate students engaged in a 7-week community placement in association with Limerick Sports Partnership (LSP). The module involves service learning during which students are given an opportunity to develop civic engagement skills. The aim of Limerick Sports Partnership is ‘Getting Limerick Active’ and they run a number of programmes in the community in order to achieve this aim. The programmes cater for different populations around Limerick, ranging from youth groups to older adult groups to sports clubs. The physical education students were divided into groups of three and four and went out to work with these groups once a week for seven weeks in the hope that they would bring something to these groups which they may not have experienced before with the objective of enhancing their knowledge and appreciation of physical activity.
The students planned, developed and delivered physical activity plans for the community groups to which they were assigned over seven weeks. The variety of groups the students worked with included ‘Buggy Fit’, a mother and baby group; ‘Men’s Shed’, a group where men come together to participate in agreed activities,; Active Retirement groups, a group of older adults who meet to pursue hobbies and leisure activities; ‘Desk to 5K’, people who want to increase their fitness levels; ‘Being Well’, a gym-based programme for people with disabilities. Each of these groups was composed of people of different abilities, different ages, different genders and different attitudes. The students really stepped outside their comfort zone in some cases, as it was a totally new experience for them. Of course, the students found parts of the placement challenging at times but overall they enjoyed and appreciated the experience and learned that their jobs as physical educators is important in the community as well as in school. Feedback was positive, with one student noting, ‘I now realise that I have a duty of care to the community as well as to my school – I am a role model in both cases’.
The objective of the collaboration between LSP and PESS is to give the students an opportunity to see how their skills as physical education teachers are not limited to the classroom. . The students developed their organisational and interpersonal skills and more significantly, learned how to adapt and tailor activities for different people. Physical education students are used to working with a school-going cohort, so for many students, working with older age groups was a challenging prospect. However, on completion of the placement, student feedback was particularly positive about getting this aspect of the module. On completion of their placements, students returned to campus and delivered presentations to their class where they shared their experiences with each other. During the presentations, they spoke about their expectations before the placement, challenges that arose during the placement, highlights from the placement and also recommendations about how to improve or enhance the placement for the participants. One common theme that emerged was how valuable they found the experience and how their confidence about their skill set as a physical educator had increased as a result.
This initiative between PESS and LSP has been running for the past number of years and, each year, improvements are being made. Each year, student feedback informs the next reiteration of the module to be offered to the next cohort of undergraduate students.
Phelim Macken, director of LSP commented, ‘“Limerick Sports Partnership are delighted to have this working partnership with the PESS Department at the University of Limerick as it provides our targeted community groups with excellent tutoring and facilitation around physical activity. The legacy component is also key as groups are provided with resources to continue best practice after the students are finished.”
This is a fantastic initiative between PESS, LSP and the local community groups. It is mutually beneficial for all with the students learning the importance of civic engagement and also developing new skill sets, LSP providing the community groups with people who have some expertise in physical activity and PESS having a visible presence in the community and increasing their contribution in ‘Getting Limerick Active’.
For Further Information
- For details on Limerick Sports Partnership please view Here!
Claire Walsh is an Applied Studies Coordinator in the PESS Department.
Claire’s Email Address: Claire.Walsh@ul.ie