Engaging with our community through the UL Beo Lecture series – Gary Ryan

The University of Limerick strategy “Broadening Horizons” mentions the importance of community engagement. It is a pillar of this University to be connected and part of the community around us and it is part of the focus of the UL Beo project. Community engagement manifests in many ways, such as our connection with National Governing Bodies, community groups or local industry. But at the beginning of the UL Beo journey, I was having a coffee with a local rowing coach Pat McInerney, and he said to me that the most important thing for people outside the University was access. It wasn’t access to the campus or building, equipment or finance, it was access to knowledge and people. UL has some world leading experts in a broad range of disciplines and more than anything, Pat asserted that hearing from the experts and being allowed to interrogate them about how practitioners could implement research into their daily practise was one of the best ways for a University to engage with the broader community. As a result the UL Beo lecture series was born.

Each year we ask a range of experts to deliver applied lectures, seminars and workshops to coaches, athletes and community leaders in sport and physical activity.  The series continues to be extremely popular and this year (despite the good weather) was no exception.  We also tried some different formats such as small workshops to increase the level of engagement with our audience. The first event in this years series was a workshop led by PESS faculty member, and athletics coach, Dr Phillip Kearney.   Phil is passionate about skill acquisition and his workshop focused on providing tools for coaches in terms of refining the technique of their athletes.

The workshop series also included a talk from Paul Kinnerk, PESS postgraduate student and coach. An exceptional coach in hurling, Paul Kinnerk was a huge influence on the winning of U21 and Senior All Ireland titles with the Clare Hurlers and his influence on Limericks emergence this season as a real force. His lecture on “Coaching Gaelic Games- A games based approach” reflected his passion for his PhD, based on the premise, that a predominantly games based approach to coaching GAA has better outcomes in terms of skill and performance of players.

The research on sleep and its impact on recovery was the topic of Dr. Giles Warrington’s talk. This is fast becoming a hot button topic in sport and is amongst the best recovery tools we have. Giles referred to the mechanisms that make it such a powerful tool but also how we might have better sleep.  While you might think Sleep Hygiene is about regularly changing the sheets, its actually about a variety of tips, practices and habits we all should have that help us have better quality sleep that results in better recovery from exercise and better daytime alertness and performance.

UL is a magnet for some of the Ireland’s best athletes to come to study and train. So, we thought that it would be a good idea to share the experiences of these wonderful role models with our community. The panel consisted of Niamh Briggs, former Irish Captain and one of the worlds best women Rugby players; Shane O’Donoghue, a former nominee for World young player of the year and an Irish Hockey Olympian; Fiona McHale, multiple All-Star, multiple club All Ireland winner for for more than a decade and one of the best Ladies Gaelic Footballers in the country; and Fiona Doyle, Irish Swimming Olympian and multiple World University Games medallist. They discussed their journey to the top of their respective sports and the challenges and difficulties on the way. A number of things shone through in each of their stories: a need for resilience, a love of sport, a passion for excellence and maybe most of all the positive influence of family on their success.

Annually we host the Pat Duffy Lecture in Coaching and Leadership. The lecture is in memory of the tremendous legacy and memories that Professor Pat Duffy left us with.  To honour that memory each year we invite a noted coach or leader in sport to speak about their experiences and a vision for the future. We have been honoured in the past with Baroness Sue Campbell, then of UK Sport now of the English FA,  Former Lions and Ireland Captain, Keith Wood and Drew and Hayley Harrison, coach to multiple Olympians, National record holders and champions. This year we invited one of the most high profile leaders in Irish Sport, Sarah Keane. Sarah is the CEO of Swim Ireland and the recently elected President of the Olympic Council of Ireland. She has taken on those two positions at points where the organisations were going through crisis and has led Swim Ireland to a much stronger position and is doing similar with the OCI. She spoke about the need to be brave as a leader and the need for leaders to take care of themselves. Sarah also offered the advice that we shouldn’t try to be extraordinary, just to add something extra everyday to your ordinary life.

Amongst a wide range of issues that Sarah addressed she mentioned the particular importance for organisations to value and support their volunteers as the lifeblood of sport. The recruitment and retention of highly skilled “unpaid professionals”, as she termed them, is one of the major challenges facing Irish Sport currently.

On the night, we also, were delighted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to our late colleague and friend Dr. PJ Smyth. Dr Phil Kearney, delivered a lecture mirroring PJs interests and passions in sport. It was a most appropriate and fitting way to remember PJ’s contribution, considering PJ’s thirst for knowledge and engaging with the community of sports coaches and teachers in Ireland.

Dr Giles Warrington announced on the night the dedication of a PESS scholarship in PJ’s memory which will be competed for annually.  We were delighted that many of Pats and PJs Family and friends were able to attend.

These events are just some examples of how the University of Limerick is reaching out into the community and disseminating its research and scholarship. We also welcome ideas from the community on projects or areas of interest that might exist for future engagement in sport and physical activity. If you have such an idea just contact UL Beo at gary.ryan@ul.ie

Gary Ryan Round

Gary Ryan is Project Manager at UL Beo. You can contact Gary at gary.ryan@ul.ie. You can follow Gary on Twitter  and follow UL Beo on Twitter

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