Brian Spring is a tutor for Portobello Institute’s sports department, working across a number of different modules including Human Physiology and Applied Principles of Strength and Conditioning.
Brian grew up in Co. Mayo, developing a strong love for sport and fitness through his playing of soccer and Brazilian jiu jitsu. He carried that love of sport right through his youth and into university.
“I decided to do Sport and Exercise Science in UL. Did my undergrad degree there for four years and loved every second of it. Ended up graduating top of my class.
“Then I went on and did a master’s in Sports Performance in UL also,” he said.
During his time doing his undergraduate, Brian was able to avail of some valuable practical experience many miles from his Mayo home.
“I worked with the West Coast Eagles in Australia for a year during my undergraduate degree.
“During their 2018 Grand Final winning season, I helped out with them on the sports science. Things like GPS, questionnaires, RPE monitoring and also their strength and conditioning side of things. In the gym with the lads every day, helping them with their gym programmes,” Brian said.
Brian’s disciplines cover a wide area of professional sports, but he says there isn’t one specific area he prefers working in.
“I enjoy everything because it all works together in terms of nutrition, psychology, physiology.
“Nothing works by itself; they all complement each other. I like looking at sport in a broader sense, trying to make the puzzle work and make everything fit together,” he says.
While on the field success was always the end goal for him and the team, Brian says there’s much more to enjoy from a backroom perspective than winning on matchday.
“Obviously seeing the team win on game day is great.
“But I also like seeing players return or if they are coming off a bad patch of performance and you’ve helped them do a bit of extra work in the gym. Whether it’s a bad patch of performance or coming back from injury, seeing them have a good game on the day is quite satisfying as well,” Brian said.
Upon returning from Down Under, and completing of his second degree with the university, Brian was offered a role as a teaching assistant with UL, discovering a passion for teaching along the way.
“After my master’s I worked as a teaching assistant in UL for a year. I taught labs and tutorials on nutrition, physiology, biomechanics, strength and conditioning, a bit of everything really, from undergraduate to postgraduate degree.
“I really enjoy seeing the students reach their goals for learning.
“From week one, their knowledge on physiology isn’t that wide and you get them to week 12 and you can have a proper discussion about exercise physiology and strength and conditioning, and they can start critically analysing what I’m saying to them and ask questions. Knowing that they can bring that information into a practical setting is quite rewarding too,” he said.
Like many practitioners who teach alongside their practical work, he likes how one can inform the other, and vice versa.
“The better understanding you have of the physiology and the strength and conditioning and all the theoretical things, the better you are able to explain these things to the athletes. That increases their buy-in, it makes them more likely to engage in the programme and what you’re telling them to do.
“And vice versa, obviously having a better understanding of how to communicate with athletes, how the theoretical knowledge is used in a practical sense, you can take that information to the students. There are times when there’s a bit of a disconnect between people who are lecturers, and who aren’t practitioners. It’s good to do both,” Brian said.
Brian now works with Portobello Institute across multiple degree programmes. While the UL position was something offered to him, he says that his current role with Portobello that he actually went looking for.
“In UL, it was something that I was approached for. But the Portobello gig is something I sought out and got in contact with Susan about. I love the teaching so it’s definitely something I want to keep on doing going forward.
“Now I’m in Portobello, lecturing on physiology, exercise physiology and strength and conditioning modules.
“I’m loving it so far. As I mentioned, I love working with people and helping them reach their goals. But I think the part I’m enjoying the most, so far, is seeing people’s knowledge grow.
“Having them a bit confused on week one until they’re asking some really great questions come week 12. We’re able to have conversations as a class and have a debate in class on certain topics. Just seeing their understanding and confidence grow is probably my favourite bit,” he said.
While he is exploring his passion for teaching with Portobello, Brian does not rule out a future focus on a return to more practitioner work.
“I definitely would like to keep working in sport in some respect.
“I think before, I always wanted to work at the highest level of sport. I now like the idea of working at the academy levels or with youth athletes a bit more because I feel like their development is nearly more important than the elite athletes’ development, which has nearly peaked.
“You’re maintaining their levels of fitness or skill whereas in a developing age, you can see the growth a lot more.”