A fond farewell…for now – Steve Morton.

There’s substantial truth in the expression “it’s the people that make the job special”. Although still very early in my academic career, I have been lucky enough to have had lived evidence of this three times.

Once at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) as a student and staff member, once in my time working with the para-football squads, and now here at UL. Having become accustomed to a certain level of ‘community’ at MMU, I left my time there with a saddening worry that I would not be able to find that same sense of belonging in the future. My time here, at UL, has shown me this worry was unfounded. It has broadened my horizons and given me the confidence to step forward on the challenging and competitive career pathway that lies ahead.

There is a strong community in the PESS department at UL, from both staff and students. This department is one that exudes warmth and is something that I have been grateful for over the course of the past 8 months. There have been some challenging moments, but these have been substantially outweighed by the good.

This is the part where I could turn this week’s blog into an elongated “Oscar acceptance script”, thanking the script supervisor’s dog etc. Fear not, I’ll try not to! But I would like to quickly put on record my thanks to everyone who has offered a kind ear of support, and for their advice along the past few months. I owe many people, many beers, glasses of wine, or coffees, and time is running out to pay this debt!

Amazingly, my year with UL is already nearly up, and I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts of the past few months. Sorry to say, some will not be original:

First UL Memory?

Walking onto the campus driveway from flagpoles and then around the site for the next hour and a half. I was struck by the enormity and brilliance of the campus. We truly are lucky to have such wonderful grounds to enjoy in our spare moments. There has been some great comfort in the peace and tranquillity that is to be found here.

Lowest Point?

Living out of hotels for the first 10 weeks… Though I suppose it was an authentic elite sport job experience!

Highest Point(s)?

Clichéd though it may sound, it must be watching our students’ successes. Nothing beats seeing students do well. Be that in assignments, exams or in fulfilling their personal/career aspirations. I try not to make a habit of taking credit for the success of others, but there definitely is something quite fulfilling about going home on some days and thinking “I was a small tool in that process”. That feeling is the big motivator for me wanting to establish a future career in academia.

Most Embarrassing Moment?

Turning up late and to the wrong building (Health Sciences on North Campus, instead of PESS) for my first day on campus. In hindsight, I probably should have been a little more sympathetic to my students who turned up to classes late over the past year, with this experience in mind! In all seriousness though, for any students reading, be professional, punctual and know where you are going; main building is another labyrinth!

Biggest Regret About Living and Working in Ireland?

You’ve ruined Guinness from a can for me, but I do promise to respect this henceforth!

Biggest Positive Take Away from Living and Working Ireland?

GAA! I’d seen a bit of Hurling in the UK before, having spent time playing in a hockey team with a group of Irish students who all had their Hurls with them. From an outsider’s perspective they’re slightly mad sports but fantastic once you get a bit of a handle on the rules. The culture that surrounds GAA is something to behold! My experiences watching and seeing it first-hand has redefined my perceptions of sporting passion. Rumour has it that Sir Alex Ferguson used to show his Manchester United squads of old, footage of the All-Ireland finals to show them what true sporting passion looks like!

Advice for Prospective Students?

Come and see this place for yourself. There is a great opportunity to come and see us at our upcoming open days. If it is not on your list of institutions to consider studying at, it should be! Oh, but do get organised early with your accommodation, if you can!

What’s Next for You?

On the personal front, I get married to my wonderful fiancée later this summer in Edinburgh. That’s the good bit. Sadly, we’ve also seen our prospective property purchase fall through in the past few weeks. However, home ownership aspirations are still on the horizon! Sidenote: Don’t do either of these things remotely if you can help it. COVID has shown us many things can be achieved remotely, these two aren’t among them yet!

On the professional front, who knows? That’s slightly scary to write! There are, however, some irons in the fire. Sadly (perhaps thankfully for some students!), UL isn’t currently among them for 2022/2023. I have just submitted my British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences accreditation application, so perhaps a move back to professional sport support is on the cards if the right opportunities align. The reality of the current academic landscape is that PhDs are essential for permanent lecturing posts, and I’ve made no secret that this is high up on my hit list too, so here is hoping that will not be in the distant future!

It seems a little premature to say a likely goodbye in mid-March when I am contracted until June. However, with teaching commitments winding down in April, the countdown to me physically leaving UL is getting closer. So, when I do leave, I leave you with a fond farewell and best wishes to the future successes of PESS, its staff and its students, and hope that our paths might cross again one day.

Steve Morton is a Teaching Assistant in the PESS department at UL. Prior to working at UL, Steve provided physiology-based support for athletes preparing for competitions in extreme environments, such as the Marathon des Sables. He has also previously supported UCI para-cycling road world championship competitors and both mainstream and disability soccer teams. Contact: steven.morton@ul.ie. Follow on twitter: @SJ_Morton

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