Shining a Light on Professional Practice: PSI Summer School at PESS – Tadhg MacIntyre & Nicole Cassidy

Inspired by attending a Winter School in Austria, organised by Prof. Juergen Beckmann (TUM; Technical University of Munich), the idea of a Summer School became clear. Their Winter school held in Obersdorf, provides an intensive program of dissemination, discourse and debate between 12 noon and 9pm. Experiencing this event at first hand in March, I witnessed students, staff and guests probing one another’s assumptions underlying their research questions. Dr. Mike Rogerson, a green exercise researcher, was an invited keynote and appropriately the day really began at dawn with alpine skiing for all. Dr. Felix Ehrlenspiel coordinated team building activities and kept us on schedule and task-focused.

Summer School Participants at Clarisford Park, Killaloe
Summer School Participants at Clarisford Park, Killaloe

Our ambitious program comprised five days of intensive learning nine to six daily with presentations each morning followed by case study reflections by the participants after lunch. Experienced in high performance sport psychology delivery the experts included doctoral candidate Hannah McCormack MSc (PESS), Phil Moore from the Sport Ireland Institute, Dr. Paul McCarthy (Glasgow Caledonian University), Dr. Alan Ringland (IT Tralee), and four German psychologists from Munich adding an international dimension: Prof. Juergen Beckmann (TUM), Dr. Insa Nixdorf (TUM), Dr. Raphael Frank (TUM) and Dr. Denise Beckmann (Private Practice). The venue for the third day was off-campus in Clarisford Park, complete with a nature walk. Presentations on the final day capped off an intensive week of case-study analysis with group presentations with Prof. Craig Mahoney, external examiner of our Masters program providing guidance and feedback. The weather would live up to the billing but what of the student voice? The following student accounts convey the first hand responses of the Summer School participants.

“I was fortunate to take part in the PSI Summer School organised by the PESS department. Perhaps I’m biased because UL is my alma mater, but nonetheless, for me it was one of the most worthwhile educational weeks I’ve had in a long time. The standard of speakers was top class. What’s more, that while theoretical knowledge in this field is obviously necessary, the information and insights shared during this week were practical, contextual and relatable. As a practitioner, these conversations are vital for continued growth and development.”

Cathal Sheridan, sport psychologist with Munster Rugby and MSc. graduate.

“I appreciate the professors and assistants who put lots of effort and contribution in this module. Everyone in the class was so energetic and enjoyable, the atmosphere was good when everyone supported each other to solve the problems. I loved the day we stayed in Clarisford Park, learning in nature environment and listening to the birds could help us be more relaxed and engaged. Thanks for the Green Spaces.  Secondly, different speakers showed me diverse perspectives about sports psychology, because of their different cultures and backgrounds. Not only learnt the psychological experience about Ireland, Germany, UK, but also knew more about ethical dilemmas, which really broadened my horizons. What really surprised me was that speakers are very critical, strict and serious during the questioning and testing process, but they are also very humorous and kind when we talked with them closely, and they are willing to share their opinions, and don’t mind giving help to students.   I really don’t want to say goodbye to my teachers and classmates, because I had a good time studying in PESS building.”

Wen Yang MSc. Sport, Exercise and Performance Psych student from
Beijing Sport University.

“I recently attended a summer school in the PESS dept. at the University of Limerick. Two main themes ran through this summer school, professional ethics and practitioner self-care. Delivered by top national and international practitioners working in the fields of organisational, sport and clinical psychology, each talk provided first hand practical experience and knowledge of working with athletes of all calibres. Some of the topics discussed included the importance of mental health and well-being in sport, working in contexts that are diverse and complex, practical approaches to working and listening to clients, practitioner self-care, understanding the road to accreditation and importance of evaluation.  On the third day of the programme, we turned to the outdoors and green spaces of Clarisford Park, Killaloe, to discuss the importance of mood tracking and well-being.  Speakers delivered talks to strengthen and broaden the contextual knowledge of working in high performance environments as well as their entrepreneurial skills. Over each of the five days, groups were presented with “real life” case studies in which they had to prepare a presentation for at the end of the day.  These case studies gave a unique insight into the potential challenges of working in applied sports psychology from the practitioner’s perspective as well as been tested by thought-provoking questions. It also gave students the opportunity to develop problem-solving skills on sensitive applied situations while getting immediate expertise feedback. Case studies included dilemmas surround doping, interpersonal relationships and challenges, injury, mental health, burnout, confidentiality plus loads more. For those interested in becoming applied practitioners or psychologists wanting to develop their skills and broaden their repertoire I would highly recommend in taking part in future events of the same nature if possible.”

Clodagh Butler is a PhD student at UL, supervised by Dr. Deirdre O’Shea (Sen. Lecturer in the Kemmy Business School) and Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre.

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“The key learning’s for me were that the most skilled psychologists have the lightest touch. Our job is to make ourselves redundant by enabling our clients to be independent. Prof. Juergen Beckmann spoke about being a present, being available to people, someone who watches, listens and makes the slightest changes, rather than being the Sport Psychologist who confuses clients by using too many tools and plans etc. With experience you strip all this back to the basics. Dr. Paul McCarthy described this well, he spoke about the unconditional positive regard that you have for your client and how active listening is your most powerful tool. Being truly seen and listened to is a profoundly positive experience.  I learned a lot from the class and really enjoyed the dynamic within the group. I think we benefited from Dr.Tadhg MacIntyre’s relationships with the speakers, as having those long standing relationships meant that the speakers were much more open with us. So, we learned more in a very nice informal way.  Personally, I really enjoyed the UL Campus the green and blue spaces there are fantastic, this was a wonderful week of learning – more please!”

Marianne Dillane is a Positive Psychology Coach and a graduate of UCC’s Masters in Applied Psychology (Coaching) course.

This joint venture between the Psychological Society of Ireland and the PESS Dept. led to seven participants joining with our graduate students for this module with international expertise from Germany and the UK. Plans are now afoot to develop further CPD activities in the near future (although skiing may not be an option in Limerick). We leave the final word to one participant who aptly summed up their experience with the following quote: “One week felt like one day because it was so engaging and inspiring.”

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L-R Dr. Raphael Frank, Hannah McCormack, Terri Morrissey (CEO PSI ), Dr. Tadhg MacIntyre, Dr. Insa Nixdorf and Dr. Paul McCarthy at Clarisford Park

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Nicole Cassidy, DCU journalism student and GO GREEN EX intern for editing the article text. We also wish to acknowledge the efforts of the administration staff at PESS (Maeve Gleeson and Madeleine O’Sullivan) and at PSI (Alison Corr) and the leadership of PESS HoD Dr Giles Warrington, PSI CEO Terri Morrissey and PSI DSEP Chairperson Dr James Matthews. The event could not have happened without the assistance of UL Sport (Andree Walkin), Wood and Bell Café, Killaloe, Lakeside Hotel, Ballina and Clarisford Park (Caroline Madden).

For further information on forthcoming events please go to

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