Join our Team: Lecturer in Sport, Exercise and Coaching

We are seeking an enthusiastic Lecturer to join our vibrant team of nine academic staff involved in writing online/print materials, overseeing teaching activities and engaging in research/scholarship that connects with our growing BSc (Hons) in Sport, Fitness and Coaching. You will have good knowledge of a range of sport and exercise related topics and be willing to work collaboratively with colleagues to develop high quality distance learning materials for students and for wider public engagement.

You will join a team which has developed an innovative approach to Sport and Fitness education based on our expertise in distance education, and will contribute to the maintenance of our existing curriculum and potential new curriculum developments (e.g. new modules, Masters degree, higher/degree level Apprenticeship).

You must have a higher degree or equivalent professional knowledge in Sport and Fitness or a related field and a good understanding of approaches to studying this topic. You will have an understanding of distance learning; an ability to write clearly and cogently for a diverse student audience and have some experience of teaching in higher education.

Job Related Information (including person specification)

Information about Sport and Fitness qualifications at The Open University

Information about the Sport and Fitness team at The Open University

Click here to apply

Closing date: Thursday 16th April 2018 (5pm)

 

PyeongChang 2018 Part 2: Speed, skill and risk….. The fearless are back!

By Candice Lingam-Willgoss

 

 

Just as the dust has started to settle on the most successful Winter Olympics to date for Great Britain a new team of superstars have landed in PyeongChang.  Today sees the start of the Paralympics which run from 9 to 18 March 2018. With 80 medals up for grabs in six Paralympic sports the next 10 days promise to excite, amaze, and inspire the next generation of Para-athletes.

A reminder: where is Pyeongchang?

Pyeongchang is located in the Taebaek Mountains of South Korea, approximately 180km east of the capital city Seoul. Pyeongchang will be the third Asian city to host the Winter Games; the first two were in Japan, at Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998).  Events are taking place at two main locations Alpensia Resort and Gangneug Olympic park with several other standalone venues for the snow based sports.

What events are there?

There are six winter Paralympic sports:

  • Alpine skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Ice sledge hockey
  • Snowboarding
  • Wheelchair curling

This is the first time that snowboarding has been added as a separate discipline and will include banked slalom and board cross.

Can Team GB win any medals?

In short yes, Team GB are sending their biggest team since 2006 comprising of 17 athletes across 5 of the 8 disciplines (Alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboarding and wheelchair curling).

The biggest medal prospect has to be Millie Knight, having lost her sight at aged six she became the youngest person ever to compete for Team GB at the Winter Paralympic games in Sochi at only 15 years old.  Roll forward 4 years and she is coming into the Pyeongchang games having won a gold and two silver’s at the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Italy.  Let’s see if she and her guide Brett Wild can improve on her 5th place she got at Sochi.

With snowboarding featuring for the first time as its own discipline the trio of GB Paralympic snowboarders are a group to watch. Flag bearer Owen Pick lost his leg following an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 and saw snowboarding on the television during his rehab.  In the 2017 World Championships Pick won silver in the banked slalom and he is hoping for a double at this year’s games where he will also compete in the snowboard cross event.

2 years ago Scott Meenagh hadn’t put on a pair of cross country skis but he surprised the winter sport’s world and has qualified in six events over two disciplines of cross-country and biathlon.

Others to watch

The Canadian cross-country specialist Brian McKeever has 10 Winter Paralympic gold medals to his name already and while he may not be able to surpass the success of Germany’s Gert Schonfelder’s who currently has 16 medals he could get a step closer in Pyeongchang.

French alpine skier Marie Bochet competed in 4 events in Sochi 2014 and won them all, in Pyeongchang she aims to go one better and is competing in five events saying ‘I want to win … all the time’

Home advantage may not be something regularly associated with winter sports but Korea are hoping it helps them in their quest for their first ever winter Paralympic gold. A medal is a possibility potentially from alpine skier Jae Rim Yang.

So for now sit back and watch round 2 of the entertainment on the snow and ice.

 

Sir Roger Bannister Dies

By Helen Owton

At the age of 88 years old, “Sir Roger Bannister, died peacefully in Oxford on 3 March 2018” his family said he was “surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them”. He was best known in sport for breaking the four minute mile barrier (3mins, 59.4s) on 6 May 1954, nearly 60 years ago.

Something that he worked relentlessly to achieve remembering that, “I felt suddenly and gloriously free of the burden of athletic ambition that I had been carrying for years” (The First Four Minutes). He held the record for 46 days when John Landy, Bannister’s rival, ran a mile in 3mins, 57.9s in Finland on 21 June 1954. Indeed, breaking the four minute mile barrier was a giant sporting achievement particularly in light of the lack of training techniques, research and technology that currently exists today.

Life After Sport

Nonetheless, Sir Roger said, “None of my athletics was the greatest achievement, my medical work has been my greatest achievement and my family with 14 grandchildren. Those are my real achievements”.

For many, however, “Life after sport can be a challenging time, but it needn’t be. It’s a wonderful opportunity for reinvention.” (Richard Branson). Ending a career in sport can be a particularly challenging transition which can have cognitive, emotional and behavioural effects on individuals (Taylor and Ogilvie, 1994).  Many athletes struggle with life after sport particularly those who are ‘performance’ focused with a strong athletic identity whereas athletes more focused on ‘discovery’ tend to discuss life after sport more positively (Douglas and Carless, 2015). The transition from sport to life after sport can be even more disruptive if it was not planned (e.g. a career ending injury) (Allen-Collinson and Hockey, 2007). Regardless, if not supported, the dramatic transition can elicit stressful reactions and difficulty adjusting emotionally (Lavallee, Gordon & Grove, 1997).

Athletic careers have a short shelf life with athletes ordinarily retiring before their mid-late thirties, but Sir Roger was able to put his great sporting achievements in perspective and set his sights on other meaningful purposes enabling him to live a full life enriched by family and medical breakthroughs.

End of life

The irony of Sir Roger Bannister being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a medical field he had worked a lifetime in, is not lost on me. My Grandfather was diagnosed with bowel cancer after his wife, Joan Bebbington, had dedicated so much of her life working for Mr Douglas Macmillan (now known as Macmillan cancer). Similarly, another sporting legend, Muhammad Ali, also developed the degenerative brain disease Parkinson’s and died in 2016 at the age of 74 years.

Sir Roger may have argued, as a neuroscientist, that the brain is the most critical organ but the loss of a loved one will be felt most critically in all our hearts.

Olympic Mums: Juggling motherhood with elite sport.

By Candice Lingam-Willgoss

Zoe Gillings-Brier and her daughter Léa

One of the most significant life transitions that females can face are those related to pregnancy and motherhood. This transition can be all the more meaningful for active females due to both the physical implications and challenges related to gender ideology which can lead to conflict positing that women’s true role is to have and care for children (Weedon, 1997).

Traditionally women at elite levels have been expected to retire once they have children and this is factored into their retirement planning both because of expectations that they’ll be taking on childcare and because of the physiological impact of childbirth. However, it is becoming more and more common for elite athletes to decide to pursue their athletic career alongside motherhood and strive for both career and maternal success.  One such athlete is Snowboard Cross athlete Zoe Gillings-Briar who is competing in her 4th Olympics in PyeongChang; but her first as a mother.  She became mother to Léa in August 2016 and has openly discussed how she has taken inspiration from Jess Ennis-Hill “To see how Jess came back after pregnancy was awesome and hugely inspiring” (Gillings-Brier, 2016 cited in BBC Sport, 2016).

Zoe Gillings-Brier

Winning Mums

Ennis-Hill is not the only elite athlete to return to winning form following the birth of her son Reggie. McGannon et al (2012) explored the experiences of Paula Radcliffe following her return to competition after the birth of her first child, she came back and won the 2007 New York marathon 10 months after giving birth to her daughter. Likewise, five time Olympian Jo Pavey also re-wrote the history books at the 2014 European Championships winning the 10,000m gold to become the oldest female European champion in history, and like Radcliffe she did this 10 months after giving birth to her second child. More recently, Serena Williams has begun her comeback following the birth of her first child in September 2017, and while she has suffered some setbacks she is adamant that she aims to regain the top spot in the woman’s game (BBC sport, 2018).

Does type of sport make a difference?

With optimal fertility often falling at the same time as peak performance the decision to have a baby is often a meticulously planned for event in the case of an elite athletes (Cunnama, 2017). While research looking at the area of physical activity during pregnancy suggests that being physically active is beneficial to both mother and foetus not all forms of physical activity or sport will be appropriate (Barakat et al., 2015). It is recommended that higher risk sports such as those with risk of trauma (e.g. hockey), physiological risk (e.g. scuba diving) and collision (e.g. downhill skiing) should be avoided (Barakat et al., 2015). In contrast research exploring low risk sports has indicated that it is possible for competitive athletes to maintain strenuous regimes during their pregnancy and train at high volume (Kardel, 2005).  This can result in a return to high intensity training postpartum and a more rapid return to competition (Erdener and Budgett, 2016).   There are also a number of examples of athletes who have competed while pregnant such as Beach Volleyball player Walsh Jenning who competed at 5 weeks pregnant and rifle shooter Mohammed Taibi who competed at 8 months pregnant.  These two examples from the London 2012 Olympic games illustrate that type of sport has a clear bearing on what an elite athlete is still able to do during pregnancy.

This was explored further by McGannon and Schinke (2013) who looked at the different experiences of athletes from different types of sport specifically those that requiring specialist settings and significant travel for competition and training. Both of these factors can take a mother away from her family subsequently making a return to training and competition even more problematic.  This is one such challenge faced by the majority of Winter sports athletes if they don’t live in a location with easy access to snow or ice.  This is particularly pertinent to the return of Zoe Gillings-Brier who’s sport of Snowboard Cross requires not just snow but also a boardcross piste.  One might think this would make it impossible to juggle motherhood and sport but Gillings-Brier credits her supportive family with making this possible and allowing her to take Lea on the circuit with her (BBC Sport, 2018)

Why comeback?

Putting these potential challenges aside Gillings-Brier has made it back and aims to make this her best games yet after placing inside the top 10 in snowboard cross for the past two Games. But what makes an athlete who has already competed at 3 Olympics decide to go for a fourth? This may be related to something Paula Radcliffe (2014) has discussed ‘As an athlete, when you become pregnant, your sport does not just go out of the window because it is a big part of who you are’.

This relates closely to the concept of athletic identity, ’the degree to which an individual identifies with the athlete role’ (Brewer et al, 1993, p. 237).  They suggest that having a high athletic identity might limit an individual from possessing a multi-dimensional self-concept and they will see themselves almost exclusively as an athlete and in that role. This high level of athletic identity can result in more adjustment difficulties when faced with career transitions (for example, motherhood) (Martin et al, 2014).  Therefore the challenge can be both the need to manage multiple identities and balance the selflessness of being a mother with the selfishness required to train and compete at elite level.  However, research suggests that becoming a mother potentially gives the athlete a different perspective on their sport and that motherhood makes them a better athlete as they feel complete in all areas of their life (McGannon et al, 2012).  This is echoed by Gillings-Brier who has said that she has a new motivation and confidence in her performance since becoming a mother as she knows the better she does at the games the better future she can give her daughter (BBC News, 2018).

Other mums to watch

Three times world cup winner US Cross-country skier Kikkan Randall is competing in her fifth Olympics. She gave birth to her son in 2016 and has been instrumental in improving the provision for mothers at elite sporting events. French freestyle half pipe skier Marie Martinod returned to the sport in 2011 having had a family, a silver a Sochi and a win at the 2017 X Games sees her as one of the favourites for gold in her event.  Finally Marit Bjoergen the Norwegian cross-country skiing sensation who became a mother in 2015 is the joint holder of the record for most medals won by a female Winter Olympian (10) a record she is aiming to surpass at Pyeongchang.  So while there is bound to be some trepidation at leaving their children for the three weeks of the Games let’s hope Gillings-Brier and all the Olympic mums can make their children and their country proud.

 

Watch Zoe take on the Snowboard cross course on Friday 16th February 2018

References

Barakat, R., Perales, M., Garatachea, N., Ruiz, J.R. and Lucia, A., 2015. Exercise during pregnancy. A narrative review asking: what do we know? British journal of sports medicine, 49(21), pp.1377-1381.

BBC Sport (2016) ‘Zoe Gillings-Brier inspired by Ennis-Hill for 2018 Winter Olympics’ [online]. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/winter-sports/35599601 (Accessed 7th February 2018)

BBC Sport (2017) ‘Serena Williams to make comeback in Abu Dhabi after giving birth’ [online]. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/tennis/42472273 (Accessed 6th February 2018)

BBC Sport (2018) ‘Pyeongchang 2018: Manx snowboarder to make GB history’ [online]. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/winter-olympics/42820064 (Accessed 8th February, 2018)

Brewer, B, Van Raalte, J, and Linder, D. (1993) ‘Athletic identity: Hercules’ muscles or Achilles heel?’ International Journal of Sport Psychology, 24, 2. 237-254

Cunnama, J. (2017) ‘Chronicles of a pregnancy athlete’ [vlog]. Available at https://en-gb.facebook.com/jodieann.swallow/posts/1283077375146152. (Accessed 19th May 2017

Erdener, U. and Budgett, R., 2016. ‘Exercise and pregnancy: focus on advice for the competitive and elite athlete’. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 50 (10), pp. 567

Gillings-Brier, Z., (2016) Zoe Gillings-Brier: Life as a Mum [online]. Available at http://www.sealy.co.uk/about-sealy/inside-sealy/sealy-blog/2016/october/zoe-gillings-brier-life-as-a-mum!/ (Accessed 7th February 2018)

Kardel, K.R., 2005. Effects of intense training during and after pregnancy in top‐level athletes. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 15(2), pp.79-86.

Martin, L., Fogarty, G., and Albion, M. (2014) ‘Changes in athletic identity and life satisfaction of elite athletes as a function of retirement status’, Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 26, 96-110.

McGannon, K., R., Curtin, K., Schinke, R., J., & Schweinbenz, A. (2012) ‘(De) Constructing Paula Radcliffe: Exploring media representation of elite running, pregnancy and motherhood through cultural sport psychology’ Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 13, pp. 820-829.

McGannon, K.R. and Schinke, R.J., 2013. “My first choice is to work out at work; then I don’t feel bad about my kids”: A discursive psychological analysis of motherhood and physical activity participation. Psychology of sport and exercise, 14(2), pp.179-188.

Radcliffe, P. (2014) ‘Motherhood could make Jessica Ennis-Hill an even better athlete’ Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/athletics/10565198/Motherhood-could-make-Jessica-Ennis-Hill-an-even-better-athlete.html

Weedon, C., 1997. Feminist practice & poststructuralist theory.

 

PyeongChang 2018: Speed, skill and risk….. The fearless are here!

By Candice Lingam-Willgoss

I love sport – playing it, watching it, writing about it. It is a massive part of my life and I feel lucky I get to work in a profession where I can immerse myself in it on a daily basis with likeminded people.  So when a major sporting event is around the corner I prepare to be glued to the TV.  For me the Winter Olympics has always carried that aura of uncertainty and excitement – watching the world’s best skiers, snowboarders, ice skaters and more battle it out, braving the elements and taking risks albeit calculated ones.  Plus, there are also four new disciplines being introduced to the games this year, big air within snowboarding, mixed team alpine skiing, mixed doubles curling, and mass start speed skating, meaning the 23rd Winter Olympics promises to be something special.  With a record 102 medals on offer over 15 different disciplines there is a real buzz that Team GB can make this their most successful games yet improving on the 4 medals picked up in Sochi.

Where is Pyeongchang?

Pyeongchang is located in the Taebaek Mountains of South Korea, approximately 180km east of the capital city Seoul. Pyeongchang will be the third Asian city to host the Winter Games; the first two were in Japan, at Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998).  Events are taking place at two main locations Alpensia Resort and Gangneug Olympic park with several other standalone venues for the snow based sports. But who could make it to the podium?

Team GB

With their biggest squad to date of 59 athletes including defending Olympic Skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold, the prospect for Team GB is an exciting one.   The success at Sochi (2014) saw UK Sport double its investment in Olympic winter sports from £13.5m to £27.9m for the South Korea event (BBC Sport, 2018).  So will this funding increase have an impact?  No Briton has ever defended a Winter Olympic title but Yarnold is keen to achieve the double in an event which has seen significant dominance by British women since its inclusion at the games in 2002 (British women have medalled at all four games).  The biggest threat could well come from her team-mate Laura Deas who has produced the best results so far this season and is possibly a more realistic medal contender. Where Yarnold is driven to defend her title to gain the double, former OU student Elise Christie is going for a record breaking double of her own, the Short track speed skater is attempting this in the 500m, and her preferred 1000m event, as long as the South Korean’s don’t ruin the party!

Medals on snow have been somewhat lacking with Britain’s first coming at Sochi when Jenny Jones made history achieving GB’s first ever snow medal in snowboard slopestyle – however, a medal on skis remains elusive – the best chance of success here comes in the form of Freestyle skiers James Woods and Isabel Atkin who have a real chance of cementing their names in history.  But we mustn’t discount Slalom skier Dave Ryding; this will be his third Olympics and he is in competitive form with consistent top 10 finishes on the World Cup circuit this season following his World Cup medal in January 2017, will it be a case of third time lucky?

When it comes to team events in recent years Britain have had considerable success in Curling picking up medals in the men’s and women’s team events in Sochi and sitting 3rd on the all-time medals table. While not favourites by any stretch, the team has a positive blend of experience and newer talent which could result in a surprise medal.

Others to watch

Alpine skiing – 4 times Olympian Lindsey Vonn (USA) missed the 2014 games due to injury but she is back and in great shape going into the games.  Her team mate Mikaela Shiffrin, the youngest ever to win an Olympic gold medal in slalom is also in great form with some strong world cup performances at the end of 2017.

Snowboarding – Chloe Kim is another US athlete to watch – the first woman to land back to back 1080s in competition last year and sitting top of the world rankings, this is her first Olympics but she could produce something special if she can control her emotions on the day.

Bobsleigh – The Nigerian women’s bobsleigh team is made up of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, these three athletes decided to form the world’s first all-African bobsleigh team in 2015 and in doing so have already made history.

Biathlon – Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier ranked No. 1 in the world in 2017 looks set to shoot and ski her way to the top of the podium.

Ice Skating – King of the quads American Nathan Chen should be in Gold medal contention as the first person to complete five quads in a four and a half minute routine, wherever he finishes he is sure to have everyone’s eyes spinning with him!

The Games open on Friday 9th February so get ready to settle back and watch the excitement unfold in the 23rd Winter Olympics.

 

Reference

BBC Sport (2018) Winter Olympics: Team GB set best ever Pyeongchang medal target [online]. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/winter-sports/42618501 (Accessed 2nd February 2018)

 

 

Competing in the Dark: Mental Health in Sport Conference

** Registration for the conference is now closed, but we are hoping to provide a live stream of keynote speakers for OU staff and students on the day here and we will share some videos from the conference on this blog after the event **

If you have already registered for the conference, don’t forget to make your payment!

For more information please click here

To register for the conference please click here

To view the conference booklet and programme please click here

To download an abstract submission form  click here (completed forms should be sent to WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk)

To download a copy of this flyer  click here

Getting the message across: interpersonal communication

By Ben Oakley

If you only have a hammer in your tool box, then everything is a nail.

In other words, you approach every job in exactly the same way. Hammer it in. If it doesn’t need hammering, tough luck – hammer it anyway.

Now apply this to communication. Do you approach every situation in exactly the same way? Or do you vary your approach according to the requirements of the situation and the needs of the people involved? Which of these approaches do you think an employer would prefer?

Knowing yourself: a self-evaluation questionnaire

A key part of effective communication is being able to evaluate your own communication strengths and weaknesses and beginning to understand how others perceive you. One tool that can help is use of a short one page self-evaluation questionnaire (see link below). You may complete this yourself but it would be more powerful if you also asked trusted friends or colleagues to also rate your skills.

Communication Skills: Self-Evaluation Questionnaire

We are not presenting this as a golden nugget solution to communication; however, it will help you begin to identify how you interact. Developing self-awareness is a feature of those who are able to effectively communicate.

Ideally you might also complete the questionnaire and think about the subtlety different ways you respond to different groups such as work or classmates compared to closer friends.

Any feedback on this questionnaire would be gratefully received.

Conference: Competing in the Dark – Mental Health in Sport, The Open University, Milton Keynes, 21st March 2018

On Wednesday 21st March 2018 the Open University Sport and Fitness Team will be hosting their 3rd annual conference. This year’s conference will be exploring the contemporary issue of mental health in sport.

While top level athletes are often idolised and portrayed as figures of supreme physical and mental strength, more and more are speaking out about the mental health challenges they have faced. This conference seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues in sport and explore contemporary research in the field and strategies to support athletes.

Confirmed speakers

  • Olympic Gold Medallist (hockey) Helen Richardson-Walsh
  • Kitrina Douglas and David Carless (Leeds Beckett University)
  • Richard Bryan (Rugby Players’ Association)
  • Jessie Barr (University of Limerick)

Click here to view the conference booklet and programme

Registration

** Registration for the conference is now closed, but we are hoping to provide a live stream of keynote speakers for OU staff and students on the day here and we will share some videos from the conference on this blog after the event **

To register for the conference please complete the online registration form on the link below. Details on how to pay for the conference can be found here.

Online Registration Form

The delegate fees are listed below:

  • Standard = £110
  • Early bird = £100 (available up to Friday 12th January 2018)
  • Student = £50
  • OU Student = £20

(fee includes lunch and refreshments)

Oral and poster presentations

Academics, researchers, students and professionals are invited to submit abstracts for oral or poster presentations that relate to mental health in sport. We are particularly interested in submissions that relate to the negative impact of sport on mental health, rather than those that focus on sport and exercise as a strategy to improve mental health.

Please submit your abstract (maximum of 250 words) on the form below to:
WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk

Competing in the Dark Conference – Abstract Submission Form

  • Deadline for oral presentation abstracts = Friday 5th January 2018
  • Deadline for poster presentation abstracts = Sunday 4th February 2018

 

There is a prize worth £100 for the best poster presentation (sponsored by Switch the Play)

Advertising opportunities

Opportunities are available to advertise in the conference programme and abstracts booklet, which will be provided to all delegates. For more information on this please contact WELS-Sports@open.ac.uk

Conference updates

 

To keep up to date on conference developments please follow us on Twitter @OU_SportConf

Sport and Fitness Student Induction: Student Hub Live

On Tuesday 26th September 2017, as part of our induction for sport and fitness students studying at the Open University, we held a live induction event through our Student Hub Live platform. If you missed the session you can watch the full video here on the link below or you can watch the individual videos of each session below.

Session 1: Sport and Fitness Qualification Overview (Caroline Heaney and Ben Oakley)

Session 2: Sport and Fitness Blog and Social Media (Helen Owton and Karen Howells)

Session 3: The Role of the Tutor (Helen Owton and Ola Fadoju)

Session 4: E117 App Demonstration (Ben Langdown and Caroline Heaney)

Session 5: The Student Journey (Jess Pinchbeck and Caroline Heaney)