Since beginning my role in UL as a teaching assistant the most frequent question I get asked is ‘so..what is it you do?’, so I think this would be a good opportunity to outline my role and experiences to date.
I graduated from UL in 2018 upon finishing my undergrad in Physical Education and Irish teaching, and I went straight into teaching full time as a PE and Irish teacher which I thoroughly enjoyed, however soon found myself veering back towards PESS, and applying for the job of teaching assistant in PE and Sport/Exercise science the summer of 2019. I completed a diploma in personal training and certificate in strength and conditioning from Setanta College which accelerated my interest in this side of sport.
My role as teaching assistant includes module co-ordinating on first year PE modules Pedagogy of Outdoor Adventure and Introduction to Fundamental Movement Skills. I also tutor on SES modules including qualitative research methods, coaching science, psychology of movement from infancy to adolescence and one of the more novel modules sport organisation and management which includes organising the annual Jacinta O Brien memorial event with our second year students.
Aside from teaching, I am also a school placement tutor for second and fourth year placement students, and I am a supervisor for PE students final year projects, I have to date supervised FYP’s under the title ‘The Relationship between Fundamental Movement Skills Mastery and Physical Activity Levels among Irish Youth’ which is an extremely interesting and topical research subject. I am currently supervising 3rd year PE students under the title of ‘The Impact of Role Models on Physical Activity Levels and Sport participation among Female Youth’, this is my own area of research also.
In January of 2020, I signed up to a PhD on the area of ‘Role Models and Sport Participation’ which I decided to do part-time with AIT as I continued my role in UL. I am one year in (to the day today) of my studies and it has truly been an eye-opening experience so far. Female sport participation has also been close to my heart and I jumped at the opportunity of playing a part in hopefully increasing this in Ireland. My current research investigates the identification of role models through the eyes of adolescent youth, and how they characterise these role models who range from parents, to peers, to coaches to athletes. There is a worrying lack of female role models for young girls in all walks of life and primarily sport, however there is strong evidence to show that those who do have sporting role models are more likely to be physically active and participate in sport. The main aim of my research will be to identify these role models who are most likely to be influential when local, relevant and have a rapport with the young athlete throughout their lives. The aim is to create a role model led intervention at a local level which will aim to increase sport participation and retention in sport among female youth.
Overall looking back at the past year or so, I am very happy with the path I’ve been on and the opportunities that have arose. Striking the balance between teaching and research has been a challenge however when you are interested in the content it truly is half the battle, I love teaching PE and SES practical labs, there is never a dull moment with our students and I learn something new everyday. The experience I have gotten from my time teaching in UL so far has been invaluable and working with such a high calibre of staff has only added to my motivation. The one piece of advice I would give to any final year student who may be reading this is – don’t worry about life after college too much, just keep working and following your areas of interest, ask questions, volunteer your time in projects of interest, keep upskilling and you will be surprised where you will end up!
I am currently working fully online along with the rest of the nation, and truly missing the craic and banter from the ever-entertaining PESS students – looking forward to the return of the madness sooner rather than later.
Eimear Kelly is a Teaching Assistant in the Physical Education and Sport Sciences Department at the University of Limerick. Contact Eimear at email@example.com and follow on twitter @eimearkelly1126