Engagement with students and lecturers alike is vital for sports facility operators, and is a vital part of the Recreation and Sport Management course
From zip-lining down Ireland’s longest zip-line to sitting in the home dressing room in the Aviva to cycling the beautiful Waterford Greenway and much more, it has been a busy semester for second year Recreation and Sport Management students.
A central focus of the degree programme (WD019, WD212) is preparing students for their future careers in recreation and sport management through extensive industry engagement during the four years of the programme. To this end, an ‘industry engagement’ day was devised by the Course Board. Second year students were free from lectures on Wednesday afternoon to facilitate visits throughout the semester to a variety of sport and recreation facilities. Two modules fed into the engagement day during the semester, ‘Sport and Event Tourism’ and ‘Facility Operations’.
Sport stadia visits
Highlights of the semester included a trip to Croke Park and the Aviva where students not only got a tour of the stadia but also received a personalised operations talk from stadium staff where they learned interesting and relevant information related to managing and operating Irelands two largest sport stadia.
Discovering recreation trends
Castlecomer Discovery Park in Kilkenny is home to Ireland’s longest zip line (300 metres long and 35 metres over the ground at its highest point). After completing the Octagon High Ropes Course, students then zipped over the stunning woodland, two lakes and 17th-century hand-restored bridge. Along with leaving feeling completely exhilarated, students also got a valuable insight into the running of this Social Community Enterprise. Jo McCarthy, who is the Activities Manager at the park, spoke to the students about the nature of her job, challenges faced, scheduling of staff, insurance costs, assessing new and emerging trends in recreation and running events and much more.
Back in Waterford city, the students spent an afternoon in Activate. Bernard Deegan (manager of Activate) presented an overview of operations management for a commercial facility, covering target markets, marketing, health and safety, procurement and purchasing new equipment, scheduling and programming etc. It wasn’t all theory as the students also got to try out some of the activities (laser area, rock climbing, bowling and mini golf).
On a beautiful February afternoon, the students explored the Waterford Greenway. Again, specific student tasks focused on the management and operation of this resource, with a focus on how to incorporate social media and digital engagement trends into the management and marketing of the Greenway.
Sustainability in sport and event tourism
If some of the students are going to be employed in the sport and event tourism industry in the future, then gaining an insight into the sustainability aspect of tourism is key. To raise their awareness of pollution, one of the visits for the 2nd year students was to Tramore beach to engage in a beach clean in conjunction with Tramore Tidy Towns. Despite it being early and raining lightly, the students donned their gloves, pickers and bags and headed out across the beach and the sand dunes. The resulting rubbish collection was very impressive and prompted further discussions around reducing and preventing waste in our natural resources.
The industry engagement highlighted above is from just one semester (year 2, semester 2) on the Recreation and Sport Management programme in Waterford IT.
Four years of industry engagement
Students are continually exposed to industry partners throughout the 4 years of their degree. This year alone such industry engagement has included travelling to International fitness conventions, visiting the National Sports Campus to tour the facility and to meet course graduates currently employed there, outdoor recreation activities (e.g. surfing, coasteering, team-building and abseiling) in partnership with Shielbaggan Wexford, coaching with local clubs, visits to local parks and assessing their suitability for promoting physical activity, a Recreation and Sport Management speaker evening including Mary O’Connor (Federation of Irish Sport) and course graduate Rob O’Leary (AIB Digital Content Manager), volunteering with local and national organisations (e.g. FAI, Special Olympics) and numerous guest lecturers.
Guest lecturers from world of sport management
Regular guest lecturers include Mick Evans delivering a guest lecture on planning and design (WIT Arena), David Lenane (FAI National coordinator for Women’s Football) delivering a guest lecture on strategic planning, tasks, issues and challenges in sports development, Ken Sauvage (Treo Project) delivering a guest lecture providing an insight into the planning requirements and outcomes associated with their project, and even a Skype call with course graduate and current QPR 1st team Sport Scientist, Dylan Mernagh to name just a few.
Liam Griffin (Sport Ireland National Sport Campus and Recreation and Sport Management, WIT graduate) suggests that not only does this type of engagement upskill students and staff about current happenings within industry, but that it also benefits the sport and recreation industry as a whole: "Investment in higher education empowers the Irish sport and recreation industry to grow. Graduates’ knowledge and capabilities continually improve the standards across our industry. Institutions such as WIT are key centres of research and knowledge generation in achieving this. In an age where the demands we place on our offerings are to ‘be first, be best or be different’ industry engagement with students and lecturers alike is vital for sports facility operators."
By Laura Finnegan, course leader Recreation & Sport Management, Department of Sport & Exercise Science, WIT