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#ThisBUCSGirlCan - Interview with Professor Marie Murphy
Charlotte Peile November 7, 2016

#ThisBUCSGirlCan – Interview with Professor Marie Murphy

UUSU Sport spoke to Professor Marie Murphy, lecturer and former Head of School for School of Sport, British Gymnastics coach and coach education tutor as part of the #ThisBUCSGirlCan week.  Marie was a lead researcher for the Student Activity and Sport Study Ireland commissioned by Student Sport Ireland.

  • Please tell me a little about the position you are in now; title, what the role entails, how long you have been in this role?

I am Professor of Exercise and Health and I lead the Centre for Physical Activity and Health Research at Ulster University.

  • Please provide me with some background on how you have come to be in this role?

After completing a degree in Sport & Leisure and a PGCE in Physical Education at University of Ulster, I  then taught Physical Education in several schools in Northern Ireland and England before returning to postgraduate study doing an MSc in Sport & Exercise Sciences at Loughborough University. Following this, I worked for the National Coaching Foundation (now Sportscoach UK) as the Northern Ireland development officers before taking up a post as Lecturer in Exercise Physiology at the University of Ulster in 1992. I completed my PhD in Exercise Physiology part time at Loughborough while lecturing at Ulster.  Since then I have undertaken mostly teaching and research roles including Head of School and Co-Director of the Ulster Sports Academy from 2006-14.

  • How has sport and physical activity impacted your life?

From a young age sport has been a central part of my life- firstly through my involvement in gymnastics through to hockey and athletics – competing for Leinster and Ireland at high jump and long jump.  From an early age I became interested in coaching (gymnastics) which I have continued to until today. I am currently Chair of the Board of Directors at Salto National Gymnastics Centre and a British Gymnastics coach and coach education tutor.

  • Who inspired you to aspire for a leadership role in your field?

I have been fortunate to have had several amazing sports coaches, teachers and leaders. From my first gymnastics coach in New York (Adrianne Arthur) to my aunt and athletics coach (Nancy Quinn) and my wonderful Physical Education teacher (Sheila de Courcey) in Arklow.   At university I was taught by excellent lecturers  and physical educationalists who inspired me to challenge myself as a PE teacher. In the National Coaching Foundation I worked with Baroness Sue Campbell who was an inspirational leader and role model. In gymnastics I was lucky to work with and learn from Tony Byrne the founder of Salto National Gymnastics Centre.  His enthusiasm and commitment to gymnastics was infectious and his knowledge was always cutting-edge.  In academia I have been privileged to have had superb supervision during my PhD (Professor Adrianne Hardman and Professor Clyde Williams)  and  an excellent role model in  Prof Nanette Mutrie, my mentor and friend, who has provided a shining example of how to harness and lead multidisciplinary teams to address ‘real life’ research questions.

  • What is the best piece of advice you have received?

One of the pieces of advice that has remained with me since school is that “what you get out of life depends on what you put in.”

This advice is applicable to all aspects of life including sport  work, study, training and relationships and is one that my children are now sick of hearing me repeat!

  • Define a leader: What are some traits you think great leaders possess?

A good leader helps people to find solutions to their own challenges, enables and encourages people to achieve their potential and builds effective teams.

  • What is one leadership lesson you have learnt during your career?

To treat people fairly – you often need to treat them differently- which is challenging at a time where equality is (correctly) at the forefront of our thinking.

  • What advice do you have for female students aiming for positions of leadership?

Have confidence in your own ability but open to learn.  Always be prepared to admit when you are wrong and remember, we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.