Be Like an Athlete: Dr Clodagh Butler discusses the thinking behind the Pan-European Study

Bouncing Back and Bouncing Forward

My pathway through psychology has included the development of a rigorous research programme on a household term-resilience. As a PESS intern I conducted a feasibility study into an online resilience training programme among elite academy Munster rugby players. My PhD, entitled Dynamic aspects of workplace resilience: Using proactive coping to build resilience during workplace stress, explored strategies to predict resilience development in high-stress contexts.  During this time, I followed the advice of the late  Prof. Aidan Moran (1956-2020)to focus on a psychological approach that is rich in theory, and conceptually driven, with application of the theory being paramount.

Be Like an Athlete: European Perspectives

Testing the application of psychological theory across five European countries, is one of the goals of our project, which focuses on what Prof. Dan Gould would describe as positive youth development in sport. Our UL team with Dr Norma Bargary an SFI funded investigator (Department of Maths and Statistics) and Dr Tadhg MacIntyre and I are tasked with developing and validating the Socio-Psychological Profile Questionnaire (SPPQ). This Erasmus + Sport Collaborative Partnership funded to the value of almost 300,000 euros is among several that have had PESS involvement in recent years (Fix the Fixing; Empatia). Dr Teresa Fig.. at ISMAI, Portugal, the inspirational project coordinator, says that “Be Like an Athlete – BLA” aims to enhance the personal development of young people, through the optimization of psychosocial skills. The project will outline a transnational socio-psychological profile of student-athletes involved in dual careers programmes and inform how to support the next generation of performers.

European Week of Sport

It is fitting that we feature our project during European Week of Sport (Sept. 23-30th) which focuses on inter-generational sport and active recreation. Sport Ireland has just launched their policy on sport and physical activity in the outdoors. It’s arguably a critical time to look at outdoor sport during the COVID19 challenges of indoor sport and activity. Perhaps our sporting futures are outdoors in green space something that I cherish.

Practitioner Hat

Been a scientist-practitioner is important to me. During my PhD I received Sport Ireland Institute Accreditation.  Both processes were complementary to one another in relation to the transferable skills sets I developed from each.  Conducting research within high-stress/performance contexts needs to be realistic to the needs of athletes/stakeholders.  Working as a practitioner informs contextual knowledge, for me contextual knowledge is very important as its the reality of how things operate.  Occupational health and resilience development is different from person to person, from group to group, from season to season.

Athletes during COVID19

Together with a team of researchers led by Tadhg MacIntyre we decided that COVID19 was presenting a unique acute stressor for athletes across multiple sports and other stakeholders in sport. We developed recommendations for athletes applying a strength-based approach: Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Tips for Players and Athletes COVID-RECOVER and these were endorsed by the British Psychological Society Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology. The global pandemic has a positive side-we can learn from the response of athletes during lockdown and de-confinement. These lessons may provide learning for athletes’ future transitions and challenges on an off the competitive arena, and perhaps sport can be a natural laboratory for knowledge generation for all.

Future Pathways

A career in Psychology has given me ample of opportunities.  Due to its transferable skills sets my research, teaching and applied work spans across health, sport and business.  Research is one of the main transferable skills you can have and I am hoping to use it to influence and guide future researchers within the area of resilience.  My applied teaching (KBS/PESS) has kept me up to date with the current literature and helped expand my research and applied networks.  Consultancy/applied work brings it al back to the reason I started a career in psychology, working with interesting people!


About the Author

Dr Clodagh Butler graduated from UL in 2019 with a PhD supervised by Dr Deirdre O’Shea (KBS) and Dr Tadhg MacIntyre (PESS). She had previously completed a MSc. in Sport Performance at PESS graduating with first class honours. At NUI Galway she graduated with an MSc Health Psychology, after completing her undergraduate psychology Bachelor’s degree there. An accredited by the Sport Ireland Institute, and a graduate member of the Psychological Society of Ireland Clodagh is currently a Post-Doctoral researcher on the BLA project and has led a series of studies into the effects of CV19 among elite athletes.  View Clodagh’s profiles on Researchgate or on Linked-In.  Contact Clodagh on or on Twitter @ClodaghB4



BLA is funded by the Erasmus + program of the European Union (Project ID: 613311-EPP-1-2019-1-PT-SPO-SCP)

BLA ResearchGate


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