Student Perspective of BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences – Conor Cantwell

The BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences in PESS at the University of Limerick was the first degree in this area in Ireland. The programme began in September 1993 and covers theoretical and applied areas related to sport and exercise.  Conor Cantwell is a current year 4 student on the programme and he has written the following piece on his experiences in the programme to date.

Conor Cantwell Experience of BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences:

In September 2017, I arrived in UL to begin studying Sport and Exercise Sciences (SES) in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences. It was all that I expected and more. From day one, you are immersed in subjects like physiology, anatomy, coaching science, biomechanics, and psychology creating a great base of theoretical knowledge early in the course. Unlike your secondary school days, where you engage with books and then are examined with a written exam this course is very applied, even in its teaching of classroom knowledge from the get go. For example, our first-year physiology module was taught with the underlying question of what makes an Olympic champion? We learned about the physiological mechanisms from that perspective. The course is also geared towards real life situations. In first year, I recall a module where we had to research a given topic and debate for or against the topic with another group. This challenge was very practical as these are the situations we face as we begin to coach or get involved in the sports and exercise industry. The importance of a good scientific rationale and justification is a great lesson that is taught early on.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my time as a SES student so far has been my practical learning alongside my coursework. From early on, I got involved in some voluntary coaching positions and I cannot emphasise enough how beneficial this is to your learning as a student. Gaining experience is complementary to your learning as this prompts you to ask better questions of the literature you read, while this literature also prompts you to critically assess and reflect on coaching, both observed from others or delivered yourself.  All in all I have found this to be a fantastic way to learn and develop.

One of the best aspects of the SES course is the diversity of topics covered, suiting all interests within the field of sport and exercise. Across various modules you will be exposed to topics such as; periodisation of training, where you look at how to plan out and sequence athletes’ training so they perform at their best when it really counts, such as an Olympic final. You will also cover topics such as cardiovascular disease and how exercise interventions can be effective against the onset of such disease. I had established quite early on that strength and conditioning coaching was my area of passion and this is where I focused on gaining my experience. I was fortunate to learn and coach with Munster Rugby, assisting with their underage athletic development programs across various age groups. I also gained experience with Garryowen FC rugby club and the National Centre Limerick High Performance swimming team based out of the UL Arena. Having established my passion was strength and conditioning coaching, when I heard about the opportunity to study abroad in second year I was immediately interested. So, in January 2019, I packed my bags and headed stateside for 5 months, studying at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) which is home to world renowned researcher, Dr Mike Stone and highly successful coach, Dr Brad DeWesse. While at ETSU I also completed an internship. I was assigned to coach and observe athletes from both the on campus Olympic training site and the university men’s baseball team. The opportunity to travel and learn in another country and environment is one I would highly recommend students take.

Another major factor that attracted me to the SES program in UL was the opportunity to go on an 8-month work placement in third year. I obtained my placement with Munster Rugby observing and assisting with the training of the senior squad training. This was a great learning opportunity, and I felt the coursework and my practical experience had really prepared me, allowing me to make the most of this opportunity. If you do decide to study on the SES program, take all the opportunities that present themselves, you only regret the chances you don’t take!


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