This feature tells the story of how two students, Greig Oliver (Munster Rugby) and Andree Walkin (UL Sport), on the MSc in Sport, Exercise and Performance program conducted their dissertation research. Their respective qualitative studies explored the lived experiences of participants in extreme sports, outdoor adventure and recreation in green and blue natural spaces. It was only fitting that their account of the research experience was co-created though an interview with myself as research supervisor. Thankfully, as will be borne out by their narratives they did the transcription themselves and the questions and their responses are now presented.
Who was the best interviewee?
Greig: Giles Warrington, by far. He is so in touch with the subject, in his mind and body, and how he looks after his own well-being. I could see how passionate he was about looking after himself and seeking balance in his life.
Andree: They are were all very captivating and intriguing in their own way and we knew that each would bring something interesting to the study. Personally, I really connected with Humphrey Murphy (Everest Climber and first descent kayaker). His outdoor education perspective echoed with my own previous education in GMIT.
Which interviewer made you laugh?
Greig: Jess Barr (PESS PhD candidate, IRC Scholar). It was the small but significant things. Her dog, which she said she didn’t really want initially (when she got the dog from the refuge) opened up a new dimension for her at a crucial transition phase in her athletic career. At first, she had to go outdoors more often to walk her dog Lilly, but in reality, it opened up her mind to the benefits of getting into nature. Unknown to her, she needed the dog at this time in her athletic life, so that made me laugh.
Andree: Surfer Tehillah Mc Guinness told me great stories from her youth and shared her experience with boundless energy. I felt inspired after our SKYPE interview about surfing. It also made me reflect on my own youth, life in a sport and competition environment and the importance of surrounding yourself with good people in a supportive environment.
What surprised you the most?
Greig: I thought that most of the interviewees would be connected to nature. The individuals that I perceived would need to be connected with nature didn’t necessarily exhibit that connection. The older the interviewee, the more connected they became, which is a problem in itself-how do we develop nature connectedness?
Andree: The time it takes to transcribe interviews (seven times longer than the interview itself) and the honesty and openness of the interviewees who shared very personal experiences.
What would you do differently?
Greig: After many hours of transcription as a researcher, as a coach I am now really conscious of how many words I use to communicate with players. Less is more.
Andree: Looking back at the MSc. module in Qualitative Methods-it could have focused more on thematic coding as the analysis presented a steep learning curve for us all.
Why did you choose qualitative?
Greig: I think it had to be qualitative, we do need the facts and figures, but you don’t get into the lived experiences without an interview process.
Andree: It appealed to me as this approach utilises the interviewees experience to explore the interviewee’s perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs.
What impact did the process have on you?
Greig: It had a lasting effect on me as seeking nature experiences are a big part of my life now. It’s about making the most of what we have, whether it’s taking the dog for a walk or making the most of time and opportunity, the experience is even more rewarding now.
Andree: It gave me a real sense of gratitude to be able to interview these amazing people and gain an insight into their privileged world.
Was there value in participation in the study for the interviewees?
Greig: Definitely, it made them aware of what they were doing or what they were not.
Andree: Yes, I think so. Each individual expressed their gratitude following the interviews and very often you could infer from their emotional expressions and body language that they enjoyed the process of discussing their personal stories, savouring the memories and sharing their ideas.
Should we have a module on nature and well-being?
Greig: Nature is all around us, and I believe we don’t use the opportunity it presents. I would love to see more widespread access to natural spaces, especially in urban areas. Without nature contact people may overlook the benefits to health, mental health and well-being. Nature can add value to your life, so including a module on nature based interventions for well-being would be key for the next generation of practitioners.
Andree: The walk and talk element of our Applied Positive Psychology module brought nature contact to the fore so this is one of the few topics where I would say more is better. I for one will continue to study this topic area, researching the Lough Derg Blueway, organising the MINDSCAPE Conference and hopefully progressing on to further study.
Greig and Andree will both graduate next August having achieved distinctions in the MSc. in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology. Their research findings funded by Waterways Ireland will shortly be published in Physical Activity in Natural Settings: Green Exercise and Blue Mind (Routledge, 2019) and many of the case study participants will tell their stories at the 2019 MINDSCAPE conference in UL and Clarisford Park, Killaloe, on May 23-24th.
For more information on the GREEnEX initiative see the video here
Dr Tadhg MacIntyre is a Lecturer in Motor Learning and Applied Sport Psychology in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Contact Tadhg via email at Tadhg.MacIntyre@ul.ie or view Tadhg’s research profile on Researchgate