Not a case of a fish out of water for Lorna Barry; leveraging MSc Sports Performance learning for innovative practice with Swim Ireland.

Q1) What course did you study for your undergraduate degree and where did you study it?

I studied a BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Limerick and I graduated in 2009.

Q2) Route to the MSc

After my undergraduate degree, I was determined to get as much hands-on experience as possible in the industry. I was acutely aware that combining my academic learnings with practical experience was the essential next step. I applied my trade working within underage rugby structures and learned from experienced senior strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches.  However, after two years I noticed that to work in an elite setting, a higher level of education in a sport-specific course was necessary.

Q3) Aspects of the programme that you enjoyed/benefitted from?

Looking back on the pace and content of the course, I realise that we covered a significant amount of detail in a very short space of time. However, the content was delivered practically and I enjoyed that most lecturers based their content on real-world sporting scenarios. This made embracing the course content much easier. The most enjoyable aspect of the course was the semester set aside for problem-based learning. During this period, the lecturer posed different real-world scenarios, often with an actual athlete with a specific performance-related problem. We had access to fully equipped labs for each area of study, including; a performance analysis suite, an S&C room, two biomechanics labs and a physiology lab. This allowed us to utilise and familiarise ourselves with many pieces of sports science equipment which have proved very useful in my career to date. Furthermore, the lecturers, teaching assistants and technical officers have an open door policy for students. They were always on hand to answer any of my queries throughout the year.

Q4) What skills did you learn in your time at UL that have direct application to your role?

The MSc is designed to give you a good working knowledge of several areas of elite performance. I found that by getting a good foundation in nutrition, performance analysis and S&C, I had covered the major areas in terms of sports performance. Since leaving University I found that my knowledge base in these three elements has made me more versatile and beneficial to a team, as one person can look after three areas as opposed to three separate specialists having to travel to an event which is often cost-prohibitive.

Q5) Outline any placements or internships during or since graduation?

During my MSc, I undertook a six-week placement with the Western Province Institute in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This placement was organised in conjunction with the university and allowed me to experience a vastly different training environment to what I had previously been exposed to. Additionally, during my final months in the MSc, an internship for an S&C coach with Rugby Canada was advertised solely through the PESS Department. I applied for this internship, interviewed and got the post before finishing in UL. The security of a clear path of employment directly out of the MSc was hugely beneficial in my career.

Q6) Pathway to your current role

On completion of my MSc, I transitioned from an internship with Rugby Canada’s national men’s team to a full-time position. I thrived in this environment, taking the opportunity to work with high calibre athletes within an elite system. In this role, I oversaw the rehabilitation system, which allowed me to observe the cost associated with a significant injury. This experience gave me the motivation to seek a full-time role in this field. Upon returning to Ireland in 2015, I began working in the Sports Surgery Clinic, Dublin and gained first-hand experience in dealing with return to sport pathways for a high volume of complex clinical cases as well as strong research-based practices. I took a keen interest in shoulder rehabilitation and research during my time in Dublin and after two years, I looked to apply these learnings to a performance environment. I took up an S&C role in 2017 with Swim Irelands National Centre based in Limerick. My return to Limerick, combined with my experience in high-level sport and an interest in maintaining a foothold in research, strengthened my desire to pursue a PhD. Currently, I am an IRC employment-based researcher, completing a PhD in conjunction with Swim Ireland. This role allows me to accomplish my goal of becoming an applied researcher working within high-performance sports.

Q7) What advice would you give to a student who was considering applying for this MSc?

This course is an excellent option for a student seeking to further their education whilst developing a strong element of practical coaching and real-world experience. This course has the support of an elite sport centered university and experienced lecturers. Whilst the course requires dedication and diligence, you gain a strong academic foundation, solid practical experience and leave a very employable candidate.

Enquiries to Dr. Catherine Norton, Course Director of the MSc Sports Performance,  

Applications online for the MSc Sports Performance will open in June for a January 2023 start date. See the UL programme website for further details and how to apply.

Lorna Barry is a graduate of the MSc Sports Performance Class of 2013, Lorna Barry is an IRC Scholarship awardee working as a strength and conditioning coach with Swim Ireland whilst completing a PhD in the area of training load related injuries/illness in swimming.

Follow Lorna @Lornabarry86

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