Friday, December 1, 2017

Why sport science is a growing industry with Geraldine McTavish

When you've worked as a sport scientist with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, various branches of the GAA and the Special Olympics, you pick up a few things. Geraldine McTavish took time from her hectic schedule for a chat with me.

We started by talking about what sport science is, and how the role has changed so much in recent years. Geraldine said there was a time when you didn’t see jobs advertised in this area but Ireland is fast catching up with the UK and America.

Her own interest came from playing basketball, soccer, GAA and doing athletics as a teen.

She said: ‘I suppose I was keyed into the science behind it all – the anatomy and physiology of doing sport. Every sport is different, the demands vary. Are you looking to improve your speed or your strength? Are you looking to improve the team spirit? What a sport scientist can do for you depends on the individual situation.’

Geraldine with Irish boxing coach Zaur Antia  (All images @germctavish )
She often works with athletes doing individual sports who are recovering from injury – and would attend training sessions to see where the problems lie.

Geraldine said it’s not only focused on the body, saying: ‘You can be looking at the dynamics between characters in a team. In boxing you are looking at one person’s values. In a team situation maybe only the coach wants you to be there, not the players. So you have to be tactful.’

And for anyone wondering how to break into the industry, she said there are no set paths.

This link shows 13 Sport Science courses offered in Irish colleges, but there are other ways. Geraldine worked in Youth Development, and did the outdoor education degree in GMIT before moving into sport science. 

Geraldine said the scene changes so fast, you have to be ready for further study all the time. She said: ‘You need to be creative, and a bit of a risk-taker. You will be moving between organisations, and you don’t know if it will work. The skills are transferrable but it’s a risk. Everything changes so quickly – I went back and did re-training.

‘If you’re thinking about this area, I would start doing coaching seminars and workshops. College is an option now too, and for some people that’s better as the risk of just doing it is too much. You can do FETAC and PLC courses too.’

And of course in such a people-centred job, Geraldine stresses: ‘You need to network, and try and build up your contacts especially if you’re a woman. We need to advocate for each other.’

Geraldine is now working with Special Olympics, but told me about a great female seminar she ran with IABA - another post on that soon. 

Follow Geraldine McTavish, sport scientist on Twitter for more advice on this exciting sports career:  @germctavish

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