Victoria Matthew – BBs (Hons) in Sport with Business

Name: Victoria Matthew

From: Donegal

School: Royal and Prior Comprehensive, Raphoe

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and why you chose this degree?

I’m 48 years old, a mother, student, and disability advocate. When my youngest son, entered his leaving certificate cycle, I completed a two-year Business Administration Course in the ETB in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. I had already decided that I wanted to go to college and get a degree, but at the time I was unsure of what discipline to study. During work experience at the local leisure centre, the manager suggested that I train as a lifeguard as I was a strong swimmer. As a wheelchair user since 2008 I laughed at this suggestion, it was something that I had never discovered. When it came time to applying for a degree, I discovered that I could mix business studies with practical sport disciplines including the opportunity to train as a lifeguard. I decided on this Sport with Business in ATU Sligo because I thought that if I, a mature student, a mum, a wheelchair user could successfully complete this degree, that there would be no reason why any degree could not adapt and be inclusive of all abilities.

What specifically about the degree did you particularly enjoy?

I enjoyed so many things, so it is difficult to narrow down to one thing.  Yes, the practical’s such as Outdoor Recreation and Sport Pedagogy, but also learning how to manage a business, people, become a leader and work as part of a team. The importance that everyone has a view, and that there can be multiple answers to one question. The degree is well balanced between practical modules and fully academic ones. Taking part in physical activity helps with concentration and learning, so for me it’s the perfect combination. You will be part of a team, and the lecturers are more like coaches. They know their stuff, but make learning fun and engaging, you won’t be falling asleep in class out of boredom.

 Any favourite modules during your time studying?

In Year 1, it would have to be the practical modules. I qualified as a pool lifeguard with my classmates, became a gym instructor by completing the gym instruction module and the health and fitness module.

In Year 2, for me it was work experience, where I got to work under the guidance and supervision of the Sport Inclusion Disability Officer at Sligo Sport and Recreation Partnership. The role involved office administration duties such as typing reports, data collection and analysis, and working on designing exercise programmes for adults with intellectual disabilities. It is important to note that all of the other modules supported the fulfilment of this role from customer care, managing people to digital content and analysis.

Sport pedagogy has become my favourite and led to my dissertation topic on the inclusion of children with physical disabilities in physical education. I am now continuing this work with my master’s in research. Having a physical impairment, means adapting the way I do things, societal barriers lead to non-participation in physical activities that are not inclusive or adaptive. I want to help remove societal and access barriers so that all children can take part in a meaningful way in not only physical education in schools but also in clubs in their communities.

Could you tell us a little about how the supports in ATU Sligo helped?

My first port of contact was with the Access Office, who helped  me register as a student with a disability. From there, I had access to the disability office.  An assessment of not only my academic needs but also physical ones was carried out and I availed of a Learning Educational Needs Letter which I could share with my lecturer. Within this, during flare ups, I could apply for extensions if needed or the use of a laptop in class. I also received assistance from the Assistive Technology Department, where I was provided with an iPad for recording practical’s for teaching purposes, a laptop and  an echo pen for recording notes. I also had a personal assistant to help me around campus as I needed it.

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

I have learned to design and develop physical activity programmes for all abilities. Research skills gained in my final year and my project has pushed me into research as a postgraduate student. I believe that inclusion in primary school physical education is the gate to inclusion in community clubs for children of all abilities and my research will focus on enhancing their experiences.

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

Come along to open days. If you are a student with a disability, don’t exclude yourself from a sports degree. Lecturers will support you on your journey, and you can have an amazing time. At the end of the degree, you have so many choices- you can go into marketing, business management, open your own business, work in the sports industry.

What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo?

Changing perceptions! I remember my first class, with all these young abled bodied students, and I was thinking what are they thinking about me? We were classmates for three years, we worked as a team, and I am convinced that everyone of my wonderful classmates will be inclusive in their approach and discipline no matter where their career takes them.

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

If you have any type of disability, a hidden illness, a learning disability, register for supports. They make life so much easier and its totally confidential. You can get the technology supports you need, any physical supports, academic supports.

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