How can you hit your stride in the field of sports performance?
Several University of Limerick graduates can attest that the right postgraduate experience is a good place to begin.
That’s because they benefited greatly from the MSc Sports Performance at the Department of Physical Education and Sports Sciences. This programme prepares future professionals for a career in sports performance analysis, specialising in strength and conditioning, video analysis and nutrition.
By deepening their understanding of advanced processes and practice, graduates learn to challenge industry norms and design more innovative alternatives for the future.
Due to the Corona Virus outbreak, in March the programme moved to an online learning mode in the interest of ensuring the safety of our students and programme tutors alike. This demanded new skills and ways of thinking about the delivery of an applied programme such as this. It has allowed tutors to explore alternative digital learning strategies and better utilise open educational resources during this time of social distancing. A new professional practice and development module has been introduced in response to restricted access to work placement and internship schemes for students.
During the impending semester, the programme will be delivered using a number of blended learning approaches with both online and face-to-face teaching and learning. Professional accreditations will be retained in the form of the International Society of Performance Analysis in Sport (ISPAS) Video Analysis Accreditation and the NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Award. Developing practical understanding and competencies will be prioritised in the face-to-face teaching and learning.
Here’s what three international graduates have to say about how this course shaped them into sports performance specialists.
Fine tune skills for global markets
Narasimhan Asuri Krishnan from India decided to switch his career path after completing an internal audit degree. Instead, he pursued a postgraduate degree and sought certifications that would facilitate his entry into the world of sports performance.
This led him to the University of Limerick’s MSc Sports Performance programme back in 2018.
He spent hours developing his knowledge, understanding and practical competencies in the library, classroom sessions and labs. He engaged with lecturers in Biomechanics, Physiology, Strength and Conditioning, Nutrition and Sports Coaching for both personal and professional development.
During his time on the MSc programme, he also joined the backroom team of the University of Limerick Senior Varsity Ladies Gaelic Football team as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. During this time, Narasimhan’s basketball knowledge was used by the team management to help transfer skills from basketball to Ladies Football. For example, during attacking plays, he coached players how to create space by using screen plays. The team’s head coach, D.J. Collins remarked: “Narasimhan’s attitude was one of always wanting to learn; he brought this to each session and this fitted very well with the ethos of the team”.
After completing the MSc Sports Performance programme, Narasimhan emerged ready to contribute to his home country. Besides fine-tuning his coaching skills at a strength and conditioning facility, he also got back into coaching basketball to young athletes – “I work on improving motor skills, qualities of athleticism, and the key actions required by the sport,” he said.
Then in April 2020, Narasimhan got his big break as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Invictus Performance Lab in Bangalore. Here, he works in a multidisciplinary team comprising nutritionists, physiologists, psychologists, sports scientists, as well as physical and athletic therapists.
“I aim to use this opportunity to bolster and sharpen my skills as a sports performance specialist,” he said.
Pursue enduring academic returns
Chaoyue Ma came to Ireland from China having earned an international scholarship to study the MSc Sports Performance. Despite the challenge of an initial language barrier he persevered to not only earn his postgraduate degree, but also several certifications as part of the programme.
At the University of Limerick, Chaoyue expanded his practical knowledge of strength and conditioning, testing athletes and using cutting edge technologies. The postgraduate experience also taught him to better communicate in English, as well as read, interpret, and critique academic papers.
“I gained internship experiences with Sport Ireland, UL Sport Arena, Ahane GAA Club and also got to facilitate PhD research,” Chaoyue shared.
As the strength and conditioning coach with Ahane GAA club, Chaoyue started working with under-18 players but quickly took on the role of overseeing the physical development of all of the club’s younger players. Soon he was integrating the skills of the game in every session, a daunting prospect given he had no background in Gaelic games. Club coach and player Niall Moran commented: “Chaoyue left an indelible mark on everybody whom he worked with. Within a very short period of meeting the different playing groups, he had them captivated through his technical ability, organisational skills, his varied teaching methods (from a broad range of sports) and above all, his endearing charisma. The development of our players over this period is testament to the individual himself and the studies he undertook on the Sports Performance programme”.
Upon returning to China, he completed another postgraduate course in Olympic and Sport Sociology. Today, he lectures at Beijing Sport University’s Strength and Conditioning Department.
Chaoyue considers himself lucky, attributing his career progress to the “multidisciplinary nature” of his education and experience.
Gain multifaceted insights into sports performance
Vivek Plakkoke from India joined the MSc Sports Performance programme in 2018.
“Due to a lack of sports science exposure, it was very important to have a professional masters’ degree and not just certifications,” he explained.
For Vivek, the MSc Sports Performance provided insights into all aspects of sports science in a high-performing environment, underpinned by academic study.
“Having this knowledge, practical application and exposure facilitated the game-changing experience of learning how to blend science and art together for the best outcomes,” Vivek said.
During his studies, Vivek, applied some of his knowledge and skills whilst working with the University of Limerick Division 2 Varsity Ladies Gaelic Football team as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Head coach of the team commented: ‘Vivek brought great energy and enthusiasm to the strength and conditioning sessions that our players were doing. Players fed off this in a positive way. He was well prepared, always asking questions to improve his own knowledge and understanding of the game. He really was a pleasure to work with’.
Today, Vivek is an athletic performance coach to professional footballers, cricketers, as well as track and field athletes in India.
“There is never an end to learning as a sports science graduate; new advances in the field keep coming at a rate faster than one can imagine,” he reflected.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, education was undergoing a transformation that will continue long after the virus threat subsides. The Covid-19 response, however, has demonstrated clearly how technology can enhance and transform the teaching and learning of theoretical, laboratory and applied aspects of Sports Performance. The stronger learning capabilities that emerge could stand as a positive long-term outcome from this difficult period.
Though they find themselves on varying career paths, all three graduates of the MSc Sports Performance agree that the course provided the right stepping stone towards enriching professional avenues.
More detailed information about the MSc Sports Performance can be found here.
For information on how the MSc Sports Performance programme bridges the gap between research and practice, you can listen to this open day talk by course director Dr Mark Lyons.
Apply today to carve your niche in the world of sports performance!