Alan Swanton

Qualifications: BSc. Sport and Exercise Sciences , University of Limerick, 2002.
MSc. (Research), University of Limerick, 2012. ‘The development of a recording system to empirically analyse the shooting characteristics of Olympic trap clay target shooters’.
 
Current Position: Sports Performance Analyst at the Irish Institute of Sport.  I am responsible for the planning, implementation and service delivery of performance analysis support with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, Paralympics Ireland and Swim Irelands high performance centre at the University of Limerick.  Performance analysis is best summarised as the practice of recording, processing, and interpreting events that take place in training and/or competition in sport.  The process can be used to evaluate the technical, tactical and behavioural activities of individuals, teams and/or specific units within teams.  It can be used during or after an event to quantify the athletes’ performance in an accurate and reliable manner.  The analysis is used to make a permanent record of performance, allowing for changes in performance related variables to be easily tracked.  The role primarily revolves around the use of video, which the coach and athlete can used to identify key technical components within their performance which need to be improved upon should they wish to progress. This feedback can be either qualitative analysis of the athletes’ performance or can also progress to a notational analysis where key performance indicators are indentified and tracked over time.
  
Career Path:
2002-2005: Lab Technician (Physical Education & Sport Sciences department, University of Limerick). 
2005-2009: Lab Technician (National Coaching & Training Centre (NCTC), now Coaching Ireland).  This involved ensuring that all testing equipment was working and calibrated to the highest possible standard.  The role involved working closely with the exercise physiologist in the testing of elite athletes in a variety of different sports including rowing, distance running and cycling. 
 
Within this role there was an opportunity to work in other service areas in sports science and from very early l began work in performance analysis.  Some of the earliest projects provided me with an opportunity to provide performance analysis support with amateur boxing and Paralympic athletics.  Quite quickly l developed an interest in the service area which progressed over time to the position l am currently working in.  I have been very fortunate to be involved in numerous international competitions including 3 world and 3 European championships with the Irish amateur boxing squad and l’m closely involved with the current Irish squad in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Games in London.  I was also involved in the planning and preparation of the Irish squad for the Paralympic Games in Beijing 2008 which l also attended, as well as numerous world and European championships within a number of Paralympic sports including swimming, track cycling and football.
 
Why did you choose to Study Sport & Exercise Sciences at UL?
I always had an interest in a wide variety of sport and the idea of the course always appealed to me.  At the time it was the only sports science degree in Ireland and while l did look in England, once l got the points needed the decision to come to UL was a very easy one to make.
 
COOP Work Experience Placement
Erasmus placement to Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).  It was a good placement as it gave some insight into how sport science is taught in other universities. 
 
What advice would you give to school goers considering choosing Sport and Exercise Sciences?
First and foremost l found the sports & exercise sciences degree in UL very interesting and challenging throughout.  The degree gives the student a solid overall background in all of the disciplines of Sport Science but it is by no means conclusive.  Progression within the area requires the student to gain as much experience as possible (often unpaid at first).  With this experience will come opportunity from which a career path can develop and grow.   
 
What advice would you give to future graduates of Sport and Exercise Sciences?
I would urge any students within sports science to try to gain as much experience as possibly within team or individual sports.  Go and shadow your local club coach or possibly someone working in a sport science discipline.  This will help to gain an understanding of how you can apply the sport science principles which are taught in the UL degree with athletes in their sporting environment.  Jobs won’t come to you, you will rarely see them in the newspapers as you do with other college courses so you have got to identify the area of sports science that you are most interested in and go and get as much experience as possible. 
 
The biggest compliment that l can give to the sport science discipline within which l work is that it never actually feels like work!!  So while it might be challenging to establish yourself as a sport scientist, it can potentially be an incredibly interesting and rewarding area to work in.