Movement & Skill Acquisition Ireland hosts its second conference – Phil Kearney

Following the success of their inaugural event in 2018, Movement and Skill Acquisition Ireland are hosting their second conference in Cork on April 24th and 25th. The theme for this year’s event is:

The Coach-Athlete relationship across the lifespan: For the active participant through to the elite performer

Dr Phil Kearney from the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick is one of the cofounders of this organisation and also one of the organisers of the conference. In this blog, he tells us more about skill acquisition, and about the conference.

What is skill acquisition?

Skill acquisition is the science that explains how movements are learned and executed, particularly within a sports context.

What is Movement and Skill Acquisition Ireland?

Movement and Skill Acquisition Ireland was formed in 2017 by Dr Ed Coughlan (Cork Institute of Technology), Oliver Logan (British Swimming), Dr Phil Kearney (University of Limerick) and Alan Dunton (Student representative; Cork Institute of Technology) to raise awareness of the science of skill acquisition within Ireland. Our inaugural conference in 2018 saw over 100 coaches, coach educators, academics and sport scientists from five countries attend two days of discussion on current topics in skill acquisition. The event received attention in the national press both before and after the event, as well as on radio. Building on the positive feedback from the event (below), we are really excited to run our second edition in 2020.

Who is speaking at the conference?

We have a really exciting line up. The speakers include coaches working in hockey, golf, and soccer, as well as academics and consultants whose work is applied across a wide range of team and individual sports.

Professor Sophia Jowett From Loughborough University, Sophia is an expert on building effective coach-athlete relationships
Sarah Kelliher Head Coach of England Hockey’s Under 18 Women’s side, Sarah is a former Ireland captain and owner of Flourish Consulting
Stuart Morgan Head of Swiss Golf Pro Team and Coach to Bernd Weisberger, Stuart is the author of Gifted Junior and focuses on junior development and performance players
Sheelagh Quinn & Declan O’Leary Representing Sport Ireland Coaching and iCoachKids, Sheelagh and Declan will present on Coaching Children: The Paradigm Shift
Mark O’Sullivan & Dennis Hörtin Youth football change architects with Swedish club AIK Stockholm
Keep Youngsters Involved Presenting the results of their European-wide project to answer the question: ‘How can we prevent youngsters (age 12-19) from dropout from sport?’
Jorg Van Der Breggen & Jan Verbeek Working in youth development with the Dutch FA
Prof. Keith Davids & Richard Shuttleworth Experts in skill acquisition, Keith and Richard will be fielding questions in our panel event on Friday night

In addition, conference delegates will receive exclusive access to a pre-event podcast from The Talent Equation.

What makes this conference different?

It’s the interaction. We bring together coaches from across a wide range of sports; our feedback forms from 2018 revealed that we had coaches from athletics, basketball, soccer, Gaelic football, hurling, hockey, tennis, golf, rugby, swimming, road bowling, Special Olympics and modern pentathlon, as well as physical education specialists. Some of this interaction occurs during the breaks, but one of the elements we are most proud of is that after each speaker presents, delegates gather into small groups of 10-15 with a facilitator. They then have 20 minutes to clarify any aspects of the presentation, to ask questions, and to discuss how the topic can be applied within their specific context. You can see an example of this facilitated discussion in this video from the 2018 conference . This emphasis on interaction ensures that you leave the conference prepared to experiment with your coaching practice.

Who should attend?

This conference presents an exciting opportunity for athletes, coaches, strength & conditioning practitioners, sport scientists, students, academics and sports medicine personnel across a range of sports to interact and interrogate their practice.

Where can I find out more?

Further information about the conference is available from the event page: or by following Movement & Skill Acquisition Ireland on twitter. Use #MSAI18 to see what happened two years ago, or #MSAI2020 to learn more about the upcoming conference.


Dr Phil Kearney is Lecturer in Motor Skill Acquisition  Coaching and Performance and Course Director of MSc. Applied Sports Coaching in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.  Dr Kearney’s current research interests include maturation and youth sport, coaches’ knowledge and practices and enhancing practice quality.  You can contact Dr Kearney via email at or @kearney_phil @MSAIreland or view his research profile on Researchgate  Google Scholar   ORCID

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