Liam O’Reilly graduated with a Sports Psychology degree from Roehampton in 2012. Today he counts Twickenham stadium - the home of England Rugby - as his office.
Posted: 19 November 2013
We sat down with Liam in an executive box overlooking the hallowed turf to have a chat.
In 2009, as an elite wheelchair tennis player, Liam trained regularly at the National Tennis Centre near the University. “I started playing tennis around 2006. I was terrible when I started, but that got me more determined to train harder and over the next few years I made some big improvements. In 2009 I decided I wanted to combine my love of sport with study so I approached Ian Pickup who was the Director of Sport and Wellbeing at the University at the time and he was able to assist me in gaining a place to study at Roehampton. Having the University right next to the tennis centre really was great.”
Upon entering the University, Liam was awarded a bursary of £1500 from the Whiteland’s College Guild. The Guild was established in 1881 by the College to promote on-going allegiance among former students, staff and the College. The Guild, a registered charity, still promotes alumni relations but also provides financial assistance, in the form of grants, to assist current and former students and staff of Whiteland’s College.
Speaking about the course that he studied, Liam highlighted several elements that stood out for him. “I really enjoyed my course and it became more interesting over time. I was really interested in learning about self-confidence and mental toughness“. Liam credits Roehampton Sport Performance Manager, Bridget Swales, with helping him climb the world rankings to rank as one of the top 20 wheelchair tennis players in the world. “Bridget put a lot of work in with me. She is probably the best coach I have ever had.” In 2010 Liam started representing Great Britain and at one point he was on track to represent Team GB in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
But Liam’s time at Roehampton wasn’t all about tennis, like so many of our alumni that we speak to; Liam recalls the social side of Roehampton. He spoke about making some great friends in the University and recalled how he darkened the door at ‘The Bop’ on more than a few occasions, describing his time at Roehampton as ‘an awesome few years.’
After graduating in 2012 Liam decided to suspend his tennis career and focus on his professional career. His first job, on graduating, was as an administrator at Twickenham Stadium with the RFU Injured Players Foundation (IPF); the official charity of England Rugby which focuses on helping people who have suffered catastrophic injury as a result of playing rugby. It wasn’t long before Liam began to move up the ranks and into the fundraising side of the Charity. “My main role now is to organise events to promote the IPF. I visit a lot of clubs to raise awareness of what we do.” At the time that we spoke to him, Liam was in the middle of organising a series of events to mark the 10th anniversary of England winning the 2003 World Cup. “We are organising a gala dinner and holding an England vs. Australia legends match which will be made up of players from that final. I’m also organising a lot of smaller events leading up to this. It’s all to try and promote the charity and to bring money in.”
So what are his plans for the future? For the moment with the 2015 World Cup due to be centred around Twickenham, Liam is happy to stay where he is, but beyond that he intends to push forward in his professional career and is waiting to see what opportunities open up.
Before wrapping up the interview we asked Liam what advice he would give to those looking for a career in sport. “Get as much experience as you can. When you are at university you have a lot of free time, so you should make the most of it. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do anything sport related. Getting involved in teams or with players, it all pays off in interviews as you have that experience to talk about. A lot of people come out with degrees now, but if you haven’t got the experience you will struggle.”
For more information on the RFU Injured Players Foundation visit their website.
Information on the Whiteland’s College Guild can be found here.
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