Dónal Ó Loideáin – BBs in Applied Sport with Business

Name: Dónal Ó Loideáin

Current Job: Physical Education Teacher

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choose your course:

From a young age I was always passionate about health and fitness. This passion led me to pursue a career in health and fitness. I chose this course (BBS in Recreation and Leisure as it was known then) because I had a huge interest in working with people through sport as a coach, gym instructor, personal trainer, and eventually as a Physical Education teacher. This course seemed perfect for me as it offered an opportunity to learn practically and outside of the traditional classroom, which suited me as PE was my favourite subject going to secondary school. I also chose this course over similar courses provided by other third-level institutions due to the sporting facilities offered by ATU Sligo. I also was impressed by the number of certificates and qualifications that was embedded in the course (e.g., pool lifeguard award, assistant swim teacher’s award, gym instructor, personal trainer, etc.). I knew that these would enhance my chances of gaining employment in this sector after graduating. I was also hoping to eventually progress to a career in education as a Physical Education (PE) teacher so I thought this course would be a suitable fitting to give me an insight into that career through the work placement module in year two (in which I spent 12 weeks in a secondary school helping the school’s PE department, teaching my own classes, and helping coaching the school’s various sports teams and for the post-primary schools athletics competitions).

What specifically about the course did you particularly enjoy?

I particularly enjoyed the practical side of the course. The course offered numerous opportunities to study outside of the classroom, which was a welcome bonus to all of us who enjoyed being active. Examples I fondly remember include classes in the Knocknarea Arena, classes on the running track, and powerboating off Sligo harbour. Surprisingly to myself, I also enjoyed the business modules such as accounting and economics. Although these were challenging as I did not do business in secondary school, the lecturers were very helpful and delivered the module in a manner that made it interesting.

What is the best thing about the course that you think new applicants should know?

This course offers you numerous opportunities to obtain certificates that will help you find employment in the leisure, sport, and tourism sector. Certificates include IRFU mini-Rugby coach, GAA Foundation and/or level one coach, FAI PDP1, basic gym instructor, EQF Level 4 personal trainer, assistant swim teachers’ award, full swim teachers’ award, pool lifeguard award, pool plant operator foundation award, and Athletics Ireland level one coach. These certificates helped me get employment once I graduated from college as a gym instructor and pool lifeguard in a leisure centre. I recommend signing up and getting as many certificates as possible.

Any favourite modules during your time studying?

My favourite module was the work placement module in second year as it allowed me to be placed in a secondary school and gave me an insight into what being a PE teacher is like. This confirmed that I wanted to become a PE teacher. Other modules I enjoyed included outdoor recreation, financial accounting, lifesaving/swim teaching, and macroeconomics. I enjoyed the mix between the sport and business modules.

What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that have influenced your career?

There was an emphasis on public speaking, which was daunting at the time, but has greatly influenced my career. We were assessed through debates, presentations, and coaching on a one-on-one basis and coaching groups of people (including children, adults, people with SEN, and older adults). This helped me gain the confidence to speak in front of people which is a valuable asset to me as a PE teacher.

Can you share some detail of your career path to date:

After graduating from ATU Sligo in 2014, I got employment in a leisure centre as a fitness instructor and pool lifeguard. My roles included creating fitness programmes for members, carrying out gym inductions for members and hotel guests, lifeguard duties, swim teaching, pool plant operations, teaching various fitness classes, and general cleaning duties. After a number of years working there, I was promoted to supervisor and eventually to assistant manager. While working in the leisure centre, I was also a substitute PE teacher for a local secondary school. In 2020, I decided to return to third-level education and pursue my dream of becoming a qualified PE teacher. This led me to completing the Higher-Certificate in Physical Education at the London Metropolitan University (provided by the Portobello Institute in Dublin) and then the Professional Masters of Education in the University of Limerick. I have now gained employment in a secondary school as a PE teacher for the 2022/2023 school year.

What does your current role involve?

My current role as a PE teacher involves planning and preparing lesson plans, unit plans, and schemes of work individually and as part of the school’s PE department alongside the other PE teachers. Also, I am required to teach and coach a range of sports and physical activities to pupils of different ages and abilities, while managing classroom behaviour and ensuring a safe environment for students to learn in.

What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field?

I would recommend that students get as much experience as they can coaching and working with young people through sport and fitness because the experiences I had in ATU Sligo have helped me become more confident in my abilities to teach and coach. Since the subject of PE has changed a lot in the last decade, I recommend all students become familiar with how it is taught now at both junior cycle and senior cycle.

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo?

I liked the atmosphere and the relaxed environment of ATU Sligo. Being in small classes allowed me to create a positive relationship with my lecturers (e.g. Roddy Gaynor, Kerry Larkin, Paula Ryder, Patricia McCaffrey, and Shirley McKenna). They were all very approachable, understanding, and helped us with our studies.

What advice would you give a first-year student starting in ATU Sligo?

I would advise all new first years to get involved in as many things as possible. Joining sport clubs are a great way to meet new people of similar interests as yourself. Your time in ATU Sligo will fly so enjoy it and take as much experience and memories from it that you can.

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