Funded PhD Opportunity Skill proficiency and well-being in age-group swimmers

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism


Background: Competitive swimming has been synonymous with high volumes of training that require swimmers to participate in multiple daily sessions lasting several hours at a time, typically during ‘unsociable’ hours. Regardless of the swimmer’s race event, coaches have traditionally programmed their sessions based on total ‘yardage’ completed. Whereas there have been some recent movements away from this traditional approach, it is still accepted to assess swimmers’ efforts and quality of training as the “number of hours spent in the pool” and/or the “total yardage completed at the end of a weekly cycle”. It should be stated that these trends are evident across all skill-levels in competitive swimming.

As a result, it has been suggested that these long gruelling sessions tend to elicit three key negative factors: 1.They have neglected the advancement of technical proficiency across a range of skills. 2.Due to the nature of swim training, there is evidence to suggest that swimmers experience bouts of loneliness, mood swings, lack of self-worth and low levels of motivation. All of which can have an increasingly negative affect on athlete mental well-being. 3.As a consequence of the high training volumes, swimmers have been reported as burning out and permanently withdrawing from swimming. It is essential that overtraining and burnout in age group swimmers is avoided to assist long term athlete engagement in swimming and the positive physical and psychological outcomes that sport engagement encourages.

Aims of the project:

1.Numerous studies have assessed various aquatic skills across age-group swimmers from a global context. This study will be the first of its kind as it will examine the technical proficiencies of Irish age-group swimmers.

2.This study will investigate whether the coach created motivational climate influences swimmer’s well-being, motivation and levels of burnout.

3.To clarify whether the volume of training and swimmer’s well-being is associated with the swimmer’s skill proficiency.

Methods to be used: 1.The successful applicant will have to perform a systematic review of the literature to establish an appropriate range of aquatic skill-based tests. 2.Create an appropriate mixed methods research design to explore athlete well-being, motivation, burnout, and coach created motivational climate. 3.Correlate the magnitude of aquatic skill proficiency with psychological constructs.

Skills required of the participant: The successful applicant should have a good knowledge of biomechanics and experimental issues. Knowledge or experience within aquatics is desirable. Previous experience in undertaking biomechanical/ performance analysis based assessments is important, as is the experience of both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively through oral and written means is also a desirable quality.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

Watch Video

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Dr Carla McCabe

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #237350 when applying for this PhD opportunity