Sports students head to Canada

In June 2019, some of our second-year students from the Department of Sport and Exercise had the opportunity to travel to Canada for two weeks to take part in some amazing work experience. BSc Sports Therapy student, Greg Downes, jumped at the chance to find out about international coaching and research, as well as explore another country. Here, he talks about his experiences, and how the trip has supported his learning and understanding of his subject.

“The Department of Sport and Exercise advertised for the opportunity for a group of students to travel to Canada for two weeks. I was fortunate, along with 13 other students from across the Department of Sport and Exercise to be given this fantastic experience. I decided to apply because I wanted to experience university life and coaching internationally and use the experience to possibly tailor my future practice, both within the fields of Sports Therapy and Sport and Exercise Science.

Our first week was based at the iconic Queen’s University. This world-leading university is the hub of the beautiful city of Kingston on the shores of Lake Ontario. The lecturers and post-graduate students from the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies made us feel very welcome throughout the duration of our stay. Prior to leaving England, we had to take something that represents us as a person and present it to our new Canadian friends. As I’m Australian, I took some Minties (Australian soft mints) and a Boomerang. The very first session we had went very well as we greeted and exchanged our gifts. As most of the gifts were edible, they went down very well.

Throughout the week we attended workshops on Transformational Coaching led by the students and staff, including from leading researchers Dr. Jean Cote and Dr. Jennifer Turnnidge. These academic sessions were fantastic for every student as what we learnt can be applied to any field in sport and exercise. We also had plenty of opportunity to keep active with a variety of activities planned from both Queen’s University and BCU students. One of my favourite activities we did was on our first day where we were set a Scavenger Hunt where we had to find and have a selfie with 16 of the iconic sights in Kingston. This was a fantastic “self-tour” of Kingston and a fantastic icebreaker for our group. The winning team with the funniest and most improvised photos won a prize of local Canadian treats at the end of the week. On the evening of our first day, we were asked to fill in for a few of the Queen’s students for their football match. This was an opportunity that we never thought we would have as we played on the University’s football stadium pitch all evening.

On our day off we travelled to Montreal for the day where we visited McGill University and exchanged our ideas for our third-year projects to McGill students and staff. We were very fortunate to have a brief walking tour of the city before departing back to Kingston. At the end of the week, we had to present our third-year project proposal, which we submitted in the second semester of our second year, in a 3-minute presentation. This included an introduction of our proposal, the method, the estimated outcome and who it may impact. We presented to the well renowned researchers and post-graduate students. The feedback we all received for our individual project was very important as it came from another perspective of academics, and I’m sure it will only help us all to add improvements to our projects. The weekend consisted of exploring more of beautiful Kingston, stand up paddle boarding and visiting the quiet Wolfe Island before we travelled down to Toronto for our second week.

The second week enabled us to have more downtime to explore the Toronto in between the coaching sessions. At the beginning of the week, our group split and went off to coach various age groups from Toronto High Park Football Club. This was a great experience to see how football is coached in a country where it isn’t the country’s main sport. Some of our students gained further experience by coaching at Kleinburg Nobleton Soccer Club later in the week.

The highlight for the week, and even the trip (for me anyway) was our day trip to Niagara Falls. The early morning and late return was well worth the sight of such an iconic attraction. We went on “The Hornblower” (the Canadian ferry) which sailed right up to the falls so we could take a closer look. Although we went closer to the falls, our view was somewhat obstructed by the high winds and horizontal spray coming off the falls. We did stay dry (to some extent) by the ponchos we were given but dried out in the beaming sunshine at the edge of the falls. What an amazing experience we all had! But it didn’t stop there. We arrived back to Toronto and rushed to BMO Field where we watched Toronto FC defeat Atlanta United FC in the Major League Soccer. The last few days consisted of visiting Canada’s Wonderland theme park, Centre Island and supporting the Toronto Blue Jays in their Major League Baseball game against Kansas City Royals. It wouldn’t be a North American trip without seeing a baseball game.

The experience I gained from this trip was making new friendships with fellow students and staff in the academic world. I found it helpful and valuable to get their perspective on my own third-year project because they have been through the process that I, and the rest of our group, are about to embark upon. Not only did we create friendships with each other but also with the staff that travelled with us. The staff that came with us are not only excellent in their chosen disciplines but also very lovely people and I’m sure I can speak for the rest of my peers that we felt very safe in unfamiliar surroundings in their company.

If you can apply for this trip in the future, I would seriously encourage you to. Not only do you experience coaching and research internationally, but you also get to see some of Canada’s iconic sights. It’s more than an academic study trip, you learn about yourself and others whilst you travel. I would certainly love to go again.”

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