Mark Kilgallon

Qualifications
BSc. Sport and Exercise Sciences 2002

Current Position
Wales National Academy Strength and Conditioning Coach. My role involves managing the physical preparation of the Welsh U20 rugby squad each year for both 6 Nations and the Junior World Cup. I also coordinate and direct strengthy and conditioning (S&C) delivery for Welsh National Academy members across the 4 Welsh rugby regions.
 
Career Path 
Completed Masters in strength and conditioning at University of Edinburgh. 2 years as both intern and an assistant S&C coach at Harvard University working across over 40 different sports. 3 years in Qatar at the Aspire Sports Academy as Assistant S&C coach to national junior athletics program. 3 years senior S&C coach at Sports Institute of Northern Ireland working with elite boxing, hockey, handball, wheelchair basketball and athletics.
 
Why did you choose to Study Sport & Exercise Sciences at UL?
I loved sport and wanted to stay involved and potentially work in it long term in some capacity so chose to do Sport and Exercise Sciences. At that time UL was the only University in Ireland offering degree in Sports Science. It had a good reputation and the programme had proven history – many top names working in elite Irish sport had come through UL’s sports science and physical education programmes.
  
Cooperative Education Placement
Assistant sports scientist with professional Australian Rules football team the West Coast Eagles in AFL. This was the best part of my 4 years at UL. I got to see where the rubber met the road - how what we had learned in classroom setting was actually applied and the huge part that science can play in maximising the physical preparation of elite athletes. After Australia I knew I wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach, and from that moment on, I was driven to achieve that goal.
 
What advice would you give to school goers considering choosing Sport and Exercise Sciences?
Working in professional sports is the best career in the world. It can take you all over the world and getting up in the morning is never a drag. Before jumping into a sports science degree make sure you have your eyes wide open. Sports science will give you a great broad foundation in a wide variety of sports related sciences. But do not expect to just do a degree and then walk into a great job. You will need further expertise and crucially experience before you are of interest to any potential employer. Professional sports is very competitive and it will probably take a number of years of further education in your chosen speciality and a number of years volunteering to gain the hands on experience before you will be able to get your first full time job. If you want to make it in sport – it takes time and perseverance. In terms of handling the course work, being good at maths & physics helps a lot with biomechanics while an interest in biology is fundamental to understanding anatomy and physiology elements of the programme.
 
What advice would you give to future graduates of Sport and Exercise Sciences?
While at university be proactive and get a real work placement in third year. This can be the most valuable 8 months of your 4 years if you choose it. Don’t settle for something easy just to pass the 8 months, it will not help you in long run. And don’t wait for someone else to set it up for you, make it happen yourself.
Once you graduate you will find yourself in a catch 22 where to get a job you must have a certain amount of experience, but to get that experience you need to have had a job! If you don’t have enough experience, or it is at a very low level you will not get called for an interview, trust me. So my advice is get as much experience as you can while still in college and after you graduate. Volunteer and assist in any way possible and use the time to learn and hone your skills. Get experience with teams, coaches, athletes, in labs; with people who are very good at what they do and are respected in the industry. Look up the job descriptions of the type of work or position you would want to have in 5 years time and start putting each of these skill sets and experiences in place as soon as possible. It takes time.