Name: John Limna
Company: Singapore Sports School
Position: Deputy Director of Sport
Bsc Liverpool University; (England)
Post graduate Diploma in Performance Psychology, University of Edinburgh (Scotland)
Doctoral student, Elite Sport Development Systems, University of Central Lancashire (England)
Current home town: Singapore
Q. Who/what inspired you to make the move into the sports industry?
A. Three people significantly influenced my move into the sports industry:
My father helped me appreciate that it was possible to have a career working in sport, he worked for the London metropolitain authority (Greater London Council) where sport was part of his portfolio. He was involved with sports centres, including the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, Lea Valley Regional Park and a feasibility study to explore whether London should bid for the 1988 Olympic Games.
Ann Hogbin gave me a summer holiday job in 1988 at the British Olympic Association (BOA), where I distributed the team uniform and kit to the Great Britain 1988 Olympic Team (Seoul). This introduced me to the world of elite sports performance.
Kevin Hickey, BOA Technical Director, originally employed me for 6 weeks to evaluate some questionnaires, I ended up working with him for over 6 years. Thanks to Kevin I served a fantastic apprenticeship in elite sport just as the UK system was starting to develop, working with some of the worlds leading athletes, coaches and scientists.
Dad and Ann helped open my eyes to a career in sport and eilte sport, Kevin helped me realise the level of excellence, dedication and hard work required to work at the highest level.
Q. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
A. As Senior Advisor Athlete Services (NZ Academy of Sport), with Sport & Recreation NZ I was tasked with developing a framework for the provision of support services to New Zealands top athletes and the development of the support staff. This involved reorgainsing the operational structure and introducing new initiatives. Two years after I’d left this role, to work in Singapore, we hosted a workshop with a biomechanist from the NZ Academy of Sport (NZAS). In this workshop he described the NZAS environment and how it helps him provide a better support service to the coaches and athletes. It was a real highlight to hear him talk positively about the changes made and how the new initiatives were enabling him to support the coaches and athletes to the best of his ability.
Q. What does your typical day at Singapore Sports School involve?
A. I’m at work shortly after 8am and we have a school assembly at 08.40. My morning is usually spent doing admin, or in various meetings with coaches, the school management or my team. After lunch I will drop in on one or two training sessions to observe. I like to spend time in the training venues, gym or physio area to see how we might improve our efficiency and effectiveness.
Q. What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
A. Maintaining the balance between the academic and sporting demands on the student-athletes, while delivering our sport educational and support programmes (sport science, career/education etc). Our support programmes need to be fit into the ‘teachable moments and opportunities’ of the busy day. We have to look at the reality of life in the sports school and tailor our educational and support programmes accordingly. While challenging this is also an exciting opportunity as we are explore how to get the student-athletes fully engaged and maximise the use of technology.
Q. What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
A. Being able to walk out of my office straight into a training environment, so being close to the action. In my role its easy to become removed from the reality of the training environment so I regularly walk around to watch training and spend some time with the coaches and the support team. I like to see first-hand how effective our programmes are and where we can improve.
Q. What tips would you give to students wanting to break into the sports industry?
A. Get involved early by competing, obtaining coaching qualifications and volunteering your time. The more involved you can be, the more you can appreciate the views of coaches, athletes, volunteers, administrators, support personnel etc.
Q. What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making?
A. Fresh graduates believing their qualification has taught them all they need to know! I’ve seen many fresh candidates tell coaches what they are doing wrong and how sport science will solve all their problems. We have to appreciate the role of the coach and work with them. Coaches, at all levels, are the key to our work and our role is to support them.
Q. How has elite sport changed since you first entered the industry?
A. When I started out the industry in the UK just making a big leap forward. I started at the BOA in 1990, in 1996 the National Lottery introduced revenue funding programmes for sport and by the Sydney Olympics the whole system had become more sophisticated. Eleven years on from Sydney there are more people with good qualifications available and more athletes looking to move into sports coaching and administration. The career prospects have improved dramatically.
I’ve been fortunate to work at various UK levels (BOA UKSport, England & Scotland), as well as in New Zealand and now Singapore. The Singapore Sports School team includes Singaporeans, Australians, Chinese, British, Indonesians, New Zealanders, Russians and South Africans, it’s now a truly global industry.
Q. Favourite sports to participate in:
A. In my younger days it was rugby, but if I played today I’d be writing cheques my body couldn’t cash. I cycle now more for relaxation and enjoy the occasional game of football.
Q. Favourite sports to watch:
A. Football, rugby, F1, basketball and pretty much any sport.
Q. What in your opinion has been the sporting highlight of the past 12 months?
A. Ryder Cup 2011, was fantastic, high drama and tension with true sportsmanship. I was glued to watching the final day on TV, and stayed up to watch the celebrations.
Q. What will be the sporting highlight of the next 12 months?
A. London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, it doesn’t come bigger. Fortunately I’ll be there as a volunteer Venue Medical Manager. I can’t wait.
Q. Non-sport hobbies:
A. Travel and photography, I like to go to places off the beaten track.
Q. Where did you go for your last holiday?
A. Cebu, in the Phillipines, great place, fantastic food, friendly people.
Q. What piece of technology would you be lost without?
A. It has to be my iPhone with all its Apps, which not only helps me organise myself but has become my portable entertainment centre. From text messaging to Linkedin, Angry Birds to Jamie Oliver Recipes it’s got it all. I was recently on the MRT in Singapore watching England v Argentina live from the Rugby World Cup on my iPhone! That’s the sort of technology I’d be lost without. Oh and I occasionally use it as a phone.