Guest Speakers Offer Insights into Athlete and Coach Development (part 1) – Philip Kearney

Guest speakers are critical to the MSc Applied Sports Coaching, providing insights into their practice and stimulating the coaches on the programme to reflect on their context. Specific activities before and after the guest sessions provide coaches with the structure to engage deeply with the guest speakers as they tell their story and answer questions. In this series of blogs, I will provide a brief insight into the three guest speakers who supported the Athlete and Coach Development module in the month of June.

Session One: Transitions in Athlete Development

Our first guest session featured Dr Deirdre Lyons, Marcus Horan and Mossy Lawlor. Deirdre manages the development and delivery of all aspects of the Player Development Programme at Rugby Players Ireland. Deirdre’s role cultivates career, education, personal and financial development as well as player well-being. On the ground, she is also the Player Development Manager for Connacht Rugby where she is an integral part of the players’ support team.

Deirdre opened the session by reviewing the theory that underpins athlete transitions. This introduction was followed by the perspectives of former rugby players Marcus Horan (Munster and Ireland) and Mossy Lawlor (Munster and Wasps). Marcus and Mossy provided powerful insights into their personal experiences of transitions, both as players and in their current roles supporting players (Marcus as Rugby Players Ireland Player Development Manager in Munster and Mossy Lawlor as Elite Player Development officer in Connacht Rugby).

Theory provides a structure to understand complex topics, so that coaches can identify efficient practical solutions. Key messages in Deirdre’s introduction included defining transitions as phases rather than discrete events, recognising an athlete’s career as part of their life career, and the importance of building optimism. Although the coaches on the programme are working in many different contexts (e.g., different age groups, different sports), the initial theory provided a common language through which they could compare and contrast their experiences with transitions. As a cohort, multiple different transitions were discussed: from the transition from multi-sport to single sport during adolescence, to the junior-to-senior transition, to the transition into coaching or out of the game altogether. Thus, all coaches were able to identify specific aspects of transitions that were relevant to their context, stimulating discussion within the session and reflection after the session; for example:

Youth Soccer Coach:What strategies would you implement to counter an exclusively athletic identity in academy players/young aspiring-to-elite players?”

Endurance Sports Coach:I think so many athletes haven’t been shown how to transfer the skills they learn from their time as an athlete into the real world…… a lot of them have the skills to do really well but it’s transitioning these skills that’s the problem; don’t forget as an elite athlete they make critical decisions all the time.”

For those coaches concerned that time spent focusing on preretirement planning is time taken away from performance, research from University of Limerick Adjunct Professor David Lavallee has in fact revealed a positive relationship between player performance and engagement in sport career transition planning.


A critical component of the MSc in Applied Sports Coaching is the quality of guest speakers, telling their story and providing coaches with another perspective to stimulate reflect on their development. Over the summer module, the guest speakers have provided insight into a wide range of topics relating to athlete and coach development, allowing each coach to focus on specific issues most relevant to their context. The student perspective:

“It was only really when I was reading your notes on the discussions that I realised the amount of transitions that we plan and deal with unknowing to ourselves. I had never thought of the transition from being a multi sport athlete to specialising on one sport. I’ve learned loads so far this semester.”

You can find out more about the MSc in Applied Sports Coaching at the University of Limerick here. You can also take a look at #MScAppliedSportsCoachingUL where you will find insights such as exemplar pre-course activities and examples of the type of research we will be engaging with.

If you are interested in the programme or require further information please contact:

Dr Philip Kearney PhD
Course Director – MSc Applied Sports Coaching
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
University of Limerick
Tel: 00-353-61202844

Dr Phil Kearney is the Course Director of MSc. Applied Sports Coaching within the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.  View Phil’s profile:

You can contact Dr Kearney via email at or view his research profiles on:
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