19 August, 2021 | Posted by Cian Fahey

How a Degree in Sports Can Ignite a Passion for Education and Learning

Sports Degrees inspire

Portobello Institute's BA (Hons) Physical Education degree is a brand new course option for students this year. It is awarded by one of the best sports science universities in the world, Liverpool John Moores University.

While this specific degree is new to Portobello and to Ireland, it is an upgrade on a previous degree option at Portobello.

Past students have come through the BSc (Hons) Physical Education and Coaching degree to go on to become professional coaches at elite levels in different sports and PE teachers both in Ireland and internationally.

One of those international students is Matthew Bursey.

Matthew went to Portobello alongside his best friend David Poff. Both were Leinster Rugby Academy graduates who failed to attain a full-time contract with Leinster so chose Portobello as a route that would allow them to continue their careers in sport.

Portobello's flexible scheduling allowed Matthew and David to continue training so they could pursue their rugby playing careers while building their adjacent careers in sports through education.

Matthew is now working as a full-time PE teacher in England. He graduated from Portobello and went on to study a master's degree at Exeter University, where he also got the opportunity to play rugby at a high level once again.

He credits the lecturers he met at Portobello for giving him the direction he needed to find happiness:

“I always struggled throughout my schooling with trying to stay focused and engaged. I never really had much interest in schoolwork.

Dr. Susan Giblin was one of the first mentors and lecturers that really had me engaged in my learning. We often spent a lot of our lessons in discussions and debates that were interesting and exciting, rather than taking notes and sitting in silence.

She managed to draw the entire class in. Myself being a teacher now, I know how difficult it can be to keep everyone on topic.”

David changed his mind during his course. He didn't pursue PE teaching like Matthew like he had planned.

But that wasn't a bad thing.

Instead, he discovered a passion for health science and physical training. Dr. Giblin was once again integral in helping him towards where he wanted to be:

“I definitely still have the teaching in the back of my mind but I’m a year down the road and I’ve a three year contract. The amount of stuff we did with Susan in terms of reading literature to dispel the myths, the stuff that isn’t true in sports science and health and fitness, it gives you a huge base to work with.

Through all the practicals and stuff like that, I never saw myself as a person who’d be sitting at a desk all day. I always wanted an active job. We did a lot of practicals. We got some unbelievable opportunities.

It was the perfect balance for me anyway.”

For many, a career in sports is simply a way of staying attached to the one thing you're passionate about. Sports are an escape from the classroom for a lot of teenagers coming through secondary school.

Getting a degree in sports is not just about continuing to avoid the classroom or avoid the office, it's about helping students to develop that passion for education.

So many of our students and even our lecturers will attest to the fact that they hated school and were bad in every class when they were young. But once the subject matter changed towards sports, they suddenly developed a passion and discipline for learning that propelled them to the top of education.

Alan Whelan is one of those tutors:

“The big thing for me is I put off going back to full-time education. I sat in a job for six years, six out of 10 years that I knew I didn’t like it…I put off for years making that jump. And that’s always something I say to a lot of people, just go and chase what you want to do.

Even if it’s a mistake you won’t regret it.”


Portobello Institute values the one in everyone and understands that education is only a part of your life. We don’t want to take up all of your time and create stress for you. You should go to college to improve your life outside of college and after college.

We are training the sports professionals of the future. If you would like to work in sport in a professional capacity, you can find a course that will provide you with the requisite education to do so.

Our sports courses are listed here.

To read more articles like this one, you can visit the Sports section of the Knowledge Zone.

If you would prefer to have a direct conversation with Johanna, you can contact her on 01-892-0024 or you can email her at jo.shaw@portobelloinstitute.com. Meetings with Johanna can be booked through this link.


Featured in this article:
Johanna Shaw has a 2:1 in BSc (Hons) in Sports and Exercise Science from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. She completed an MPhil Studentship in Physical Activity for Health alongside an Exercise Development role. She then went onto a Tackling Inactivity in Students role funded by Sport England within a Further Education College in London before moving back to Dublin to Portobello Institute.

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