SIDO Profile – Brian O’Donnell

Brian O'DonnellAnother Sport Inclusion Disability Officer we would like to introduce you to is Brian O’Donnell from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Sports Partnership.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m originally from Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim and have been working and living in Dublin for the past 7 years. I love all sports and played all sports available to me growing up, not all successfully. I still play soccer and basketball at a social level and senior football for my GAA club at home although at 34 my days are numbered as a senior player. Apart from sport I really enjoy traveling to new places and meeting people with different cultures and views on the world.

 What motivated you to follow this career path? Was it always an area that you could see yourself being involved in professionally?

I grew up in a sports mad family and from playing many different sports in my youth it had a massively positive effect on my life. From this I think I was always going to end up working in a role that helped people experience the same positive aspects that sport and activity has given me. I completed a work placement in 2012 in Stewarts care in Palmerstown as an Adapted Physical Activity Officer where I worked for an extremely motivated person and she made me realise the difference sport can make to the life of people with a disability and from then on it was the path I was going to take.

 What areas have you studied as part of your career development? (i.e. what did you study in college and what further training/upskilling have you undertaken since?)

I completed a BA honours in Community Sports Leadership in Dundalk Institute of technology and once I became more interested in the area of sport for people with a disability I completed numerous other courses/training to up skill myself through Cara, Sport Ireland ,the HSE , National Disability Authority and various others.

 What areas are you responsible for in your role as a Sport Inclusion Disability Officer & how long have you been in post?

I have been In the post for 2 and a half years and as well as helping out with general Sports Partnership events, activities and administration my specific role is the promotion and administration of the Sports Inclusion Disability Programme.

This includes:

·         Increasing participation opportunities for people with a disability in sport and active recreation.

·         Training, educating and up skilling sports club coaches and schools/colleges in inclusive sport.

·         Maintaining and developing links with local and national agencies, both disability agencies and sports bodies.

·         Programme design and facilitating of targeted local programme rollout.

·         Presenting and tutoring about the SID programme to third level sports/ leisure courses and national conferences.

 What does a typical day look like for you in your role?

The great thing about this job is no two days are the same.

Yes, my typical day would have your office based admin of replying to emails, phone calls, social media questions, planning/evaluating and general promotion of the activities on the SID programme. It also could entail anything from meeting new groups /schools/clubs to create new links, checking on the existing programmes to keep them sustainable, meeting people 1 on 1 to introduce them to a new club/activity or establishing links with NGB’s to facilitate programmes now and in the future.

 How do you link with Cara as part of your role as a Sport Inclusion Officer?

When I started in the role I got great support from CARA to help in my own up skilling, building relationships and guidance in programme role out. I still link in with them for advice on programme development, promotion, useful tools/resources and on-going up skilling and professional development.

CARA also provides the majority of training to help up skill volunteers for the Sports Inclusion Disability Programme that we roll out.

 How can Cara support you more in your role as Sport Inclusion Disability Officer?

CARA can continue to create useful resources, advocate to Sport Ireland on behalf of people with a disability and produce different types of training needs in an ever changing sporting world. CARA could also look at creating a SIDO section on their website to promote the SIDO network.

 What do you feel is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of your job?

Seeing the massive impact sport and activity has on a person from confidence building to socially engaging in their local area. It also gives people the opportunity and outlet to progress in their chosen sport whether in small steps of skill development or competing against their peers at local, provincial, national or international level which I think everyone deserves the chance to do.

 Is there one particular initiative/event that you have been involved in through your role that you look on with great pride and satisfaction?

The Outdoor SportsAbility Camp we devised last year targeted children aged 13-16 on the autism spectrum. The age group was picked as they were at a transition period in their lives and had no other outlet to be amongst their peers, try new activities, have fun and make new friends in a non-judgemental sporting atmosphere.

 How would you like to see yourself progressing within the job over the next five years?

Continue to learn , progress and advocate for people with a disability by on-going professional development and taking any opportunities available to have a greater impact on bringing disability sport to the fore front.

 Have you any ideas/initiatives that you would like to see developed over that time?

At a Governmental and Sport Ireland legislative level I think CARA, the LSP’s and the SIDO network can really advocate for a few small adjustments that can make a real impact and would translate to positive effects at the grassroots of all sports and activities.

These include:

·         Integrating an inclusive practical and theory element into all NBG’s foundation/level1 coaching badges.

·         Increase weighting of inclusion elements to the awarding of sports capital grants and NGB programme funding.

·         Increased the number of inclusive advocates on governmental and NGB boards/committee’s to keep inclusion and disability sport as a constant.