Guest Speakers Offer Insights into Athlete and Coach Development (part 2) – 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 have supported the Athlete and Coach Development module in the month of June.

You can read part 1 here.

Guest Session Two: A Tale of Athlete and Coach Development

Our second guest session featured coach and athlete (and mother and daughter team) Deirdre and Molly Scott. A member of Ireland’s U20 relay team that won a silver medal at the World Championships in Tampere, Finland, Molly has her sights set on representing Ireland at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, rescheduled for 2021. The sprinter and hurdler from St Laurence O’Toole’s club in Carlow has already represented the Irish senior team at the European Championships. As Molly and Deirdre are currently navigating the junior to senior transition, this session neatly developed the themes introduced by Deirdre Lyons, Marcus Horan, and Mossy Lawor [See blog part 1].

A particularly interesting discussion focused on the role of age grade competitions – “baby games” – such as treating the European U23 championships as developmental; a stepping stone on the path to the eventual target of the Olympic games. As such, Molly competed across two events rather than concentrating on just one, leading to a heavy racing schedule. Gaining an insight into Deirdre’s decision-making process and reflections on this approach, coupled with Molly’s experience of the competition, set up post session reflection on each coaches’ own views around age grade competitions, in addition to how well clubs and national governing bodies promote development age-grade competitions.

Unsurprisingly, the topic of coach-as-parent featured prominently in the questions asked by the coaches:

  • Did you ever feel the need to set out ground rules to separate the coaching from the parenting? If yes, did they adhere to them in the long run? Were they effective?
  • As a parent coach how difficult has it been to separate both roles?
  • How did Molly feel about the athlete/daughter role?
  • Are there siblings, and what was the impact on them if so?

Although the coach-as-parent is very common within sport, there is relatively little research on the topic, and so gaining both athlete and coach perspectives was hugely informative for coaches who wished to further explore this avenue. Any parent-coaches wishes to read more on this topic should start with Chris Zehntner’s excellent work from a swimming perspective.


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:

“Really informative. Many thanks for sharing your experience

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.

Closing date for applications July 31st 2020.

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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