Former national hockey star puts sport ‘on ice’ to join University
A former ice hockey pro who played at the national level has hung up his skates to concentrate on his other passion, with a lecturing post at the University.
Declan Ryan started last week in the University’s Faculty of Health and Society as Lecturer in Exercise (Health) Physiology. He will teach the Exercise Physiology module to first year Sport & Exercise Science students, as well as the Epidemiology (the incidence, distribution, and control of diseases) module for the Public Health MSc course.
This is Declan’s first substantive lecturing post, having previously worked at Manchester Metropolitan University as an Associate Lecturer and also completing his PhD there.
His PhD – and research interest – covered the physical behaviour of older people and its effect on their cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) health. His findings indicated that older people need to engage in more frequent low level physical activity, such as house work, if they couldn’t engage in more strenuous exercise, like going for walks, to improve their health and reduce the time they may spend sitting down.
Working at the new Waterside campus has also piqued another of Declan’s professional interests – Active Urban Design, or how exterior spaces such as streets are designed to encourage people to be more physically active: “I’ve not been to a campus like this, it’s so innovatively made with big open squares and wide pavements and access points like the pedestrian bridge – I’ve been here for three weeks and have hardly used the car. I’ve been cycling in to work and around the town every day – Waterside is quite similar to other cycle/walking friendly areas like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. It’s amazing how quickly you can get around if you don’t drive.”
In his out of work life, Declan is a keen sports fan, with ice hockey as his longest-held passion. He first wielded a ‘twig’ (the hockey stick) at the age of seven and played almost continually until two years ago.
He has played for teams including Telford Tigers and Manchester Phoenix the latter being, at their peak, one of the best Premier League outfits in the UK: “I played my last game for Manchester Storm just before I moved down to Northampton, so the new job has been a massive life-changer in more ways than one. I miss the game massively, but it’s refreshing to have my weekends back for once. For a long time my life was continual training, travel and tournaments.”
To fill the gap, Declan will be concentrating on teaching a new generation of Sport Science professionals – and he thinks his relative youth will come in handy: “I’m 26 – probably ancient to some students – but I’m only just out of studying myself, so I remember what they are going through, their day to day experiences. It’s important they get more than just academic insight, but also life advice and guidance because it can be a challenge for students, coming to a new city away from home. I think it will help that I am a lot like them, settling in to a new town and getting to know lots of new people.”