When people first enter the Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Sciences they can be unsure about what the career trajectory attached to this course is and whether it is a theoretical or practical programme. As a prospective student (back in the day) it was one of my main concerns.
Will this course provide the relevant theory-practice experience I need to pursue my career?
The selling point of this course for myself and for many is the emphasis placed on bridging the gap between the theory and the practical application of sport and exercise. This course covers a broad variety of fields in the sport and exercise world and offers numerous opportunities to develop key practical skills. However, this can sometimes get lost amongst the four years for students who don’t take full advantage of the opportunities offered by this course.
Having only recently finished my undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Sciences (SES) in the PESS department, and fortunately been offered to undertake a PhD in Biomechanics, I felt the best use of this blog would be to offer my advice to students as to how to utilize the numerous opportunities provided by SES:
Don’t Underestimate the Power of First Year
A common pitfall in the first year of the programme is to underestimate the importance of first-year content due to the fact that QCA doesn’t count toward the final degree award (a trap that I certainly fell into).
What first year does offer is a broad introduction to the core disciplines within SES (physiology, psychology, anatomy, biomechanics and coaching science). The concepts and skills delivered in first year are critical for SES students going forward and provide the foundation for more applied modules going forward.
Apply yourself in first year (read loads, question everything) and you’ve set yourself up for success going forward.
Don’t be afraid to spend some time enjoying it too!
Engage in Labs and Tutorials
Labs and tutorials are where SES theory links with the practice. In particular, laboratory experience is where you will develop the integral research skills.
From video analysis in the biomechanics lab to testing energy expenditure in the physiology lab to examining the effect of exercise on psychological outcomes (i.e. anxiety, depression) in the psychology lab, SES provides you with a wide variety of opportunities to develop key skills in sports performance and exercise testing.
Make the most of these labs and tutorials. Engage, volunteer for everything, ask questions. A lab or tutorial without this engagement is just a lecture.
SES is one of the best courses for providing opportunities to volunteer and get experience in an area that interests you.
Opportunities for gaining practical experience include:
- Performance testing (i.e. VO2 max, timing gates)
- Video analysis
- Coaching experience
- Assisting in postgraduate research
- Volunteering as a participant for research (good karma!)
The opportunities listed are just a few of countless offered to SES students to gain valuable experience in the field. This experience is invaluable for students and the best way to apply all the theory delivered in lectures, and the skills taught in labs and tutorials into the practical environment.
Any opportunity that interests you, apply for it.
The University of Limerick has one of the best Cooperative Education departments in terms of the number of opportunities and is a key period in the SES programme.
By year 3, it is my experience that you tend to develop a stronger interest in one of the core disciplines. Use this opportunity to select a placement which will allow you to gain experience in this area of interest. This will allow you to develop additional and more specific skills in your discipline of interest.
Don’t choose a placement out of ease, rather choose the one that’ll benefit you in the long run.
Use Your Peer Network
SES is a challenging course focused on challenging concepts and theories and finding explanations to a wide range of questions. From lab reports to group presentations to practical exams, the course will challenge your thinking in a variety of ways. Your best resource in this respect is your peer network.
Share ideas, ask questions – you never know who might have the answer, divide the workload. You cannot do it all on your own.
In essence, SES offers all the opportunities needed.
Grab them with both hands!
Evan Crotty is a PhD Researcher is the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. His current research interest includes sprint start biomechanics. You can contact Evan via email on Evan.Crotty@ul.ie view his research profile on Researchgate or follow Evan on Twitter