Joe Walsh – Taking Rugby Coaching to New Levels with MSc in Sports Performance Analysis
MSc Sports Performance Analysis
Joe Walsh has been working as a rugby coach and performance analyst since 2015. Using self-taught analysis techniques so far in his career, he decided it was time to add an MSc in Sports Performance Analysis to his qualifications.
Currently wearing three hats as an SCT (1st XV) Head Coach at The Kings Hospital School, MU Barnhall U20s Assistant Head Coach & Lead Forwards Coach and Head of Performance Analysis at Rugby Academy Ireland, Joe is balancing his workload and study with the flexible blended learning delivery at Portobello Institute.
“The workload is manageable but also challenging and learning additional skills of time management while coaching in three places and completing a blended master’s degree simultaneously has brought out the best in me, especially over the last few months,” Joe said.
“The blended learning approach appealed to me massively as it would afford me the opportunity to attain a level 9 degree while also coaching almost every day of the week.
“I am really enjoying not only the content of the course but also the schedule and flexibility of the layout.
“The course runs every second weekend with two lectures on a Saturday in the morning and afternoon and one lecture on Sunday mornings.
“Considering that we play at under 20s level on a Sunday, the timing has worked out really well in that I haven’t had to skip any of my work commitments to complete this course
“Similarly, the one-year nature of the degree having three back-to-back semesters appealed to me given that I could attain the qualification within 12 months of starting as opposed to several other two-year master’s degrees.
“The content is incredibly relevant to the industry in my opinion based on my experience to date. The workload has been really manageable and lectures have been incredibly helpful in providing feedback and guidance on their completion and how to achieve the best marks.
“The real-world experience of the lecturers makes the information particularly relevant as they can back this up with examples of how they have carried out successfully or unsuccessfully themselves in the past. You do feel like you are in safe hands with the lecturers but also that you can connect with them on an interpersonal level as well as simply receive information from them.
“The access to academic writing and research from the college library has also given the huge resources to upscale in both my areas of expertise and also the areas in which I am less skilled.
“Connecting with the lecturers and other students has also grown my network and introduced me to new people that I definitely would not have come across on my own,” he said.
Joe holds an undergraduate degree in business and completed several rugby-specific qualifications including his IRFU performance coach award in 2021 and the World Rugby Educators’ course in 2022 before embarking on his master’s.
Throughout his career, Joe has been using performance analysis techniques which he has found beneficial as a coach but he wanted to gain a deeper understanding while opening new career opportunities.
“A lot of my understanding and expertise in performance analysis was self-taught over the years. I taught myself how to use all the various software and developed my own analysis systems and processes through trial and error with little guidance other than the system’s success or failure.
“I have always used some element of performance analysis in my coaching, and I found it a massive aid to the coaching and teaching process.
“I saw this as an opportunity to further understand the academic element of performance analysis and try to develop my understanding, skills and knowledge in the area.
“I have also considered pursuing a career as a performance analyst professionally and considered that this course might be an opportunity for me to build my CV and add an academic element to my performance analysis experience,” he said.
Joe lost his spark for playing rugby while he was in school however at that time his interest in the nuances of rugby was growing. He followed his passion for helping others to fulfil their potential.
“I stumbled across the field of performance analysis after seeing it on TV while watching an international rugby match.
“I began to teach myself how to do performance analysis starting with just pen and paper and excel sheets and moving on to more advanced software and processes.
“I have loved every experience that I’ve had in rugby so far and a combination of coaching and performance analysis has been incredibly rewarding to date.
“I have a huge passion for helping to make players and people become better versions of themselves and to play to their potential which they may not have seen to date.
“It’s a privilege to work in sport and to be able to play a part in the development of young athletes and give them not only a love for the game but also to help improve their skills, game understanding, and general sporting abilities which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Joe recommends this MSc in Sports Performance Analysis to those in the industry who developed their skills themselves and would like to gain more academic and professional insight into their work.
“I would certainly recommend this qualification to anyone involved in any sporting discipline. It not only gives you a greater insight into the processes and core components of performance analysis but also deals with the interpersonal element and the provision of feedback and data to the athletes and cultures.
“For those similar to me who have developed their coaching and management skills through real-world experience only, completing a qualification like this has definitely added to my understanding of the industry and given me new concepts to think about.
“Being asked to quantify or commit to paper all of the concepts and processes that you have been carrying out in the real world for such a long time really challenges you to critique your own understanding and recall experiences that you may not have fully assessed at the time.
“One thing that stood out to me massively as I got stuck into the course was that I could learn so much more about the experiences I was having by thinking about them differently and trying to identify learning points from them,” he said.
While really enjoying his current roles, the future looks bright for Joe with multiple possibilities and opportunities to advance his career in coaching and performance.
“Life currently consists of my three rugby jobs and this master’s qualification. I‘m absolutely loving it and definitely believe that based on my experience in this course I will consider even further education in the sporting industry while continuing my coaching.
“I’m hoping that being able to say that you have a master’s level qualification on your CV in sport will get me in the door for interviews with the teams and organisations that I have real ambition to work for in the future.
“All of my current roles are combined coach and analyst roles, and pursuing one in isolation as opposed to both may be on the cards.
“Regardless of how this qualification will affect my CV on paper, it has definitely developed me as an individual and I feel that I know significantly more about the industry now after my practical experience to date,” he said.
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