Workshop: Athlete Welfare – Belfast

Taking seriously mental health, identity development and transitions across the sport career

Venue: Malone Golf Club, 240 Upper Malone Road, Dunmurry, Belfast BT17 9LB

Hosts Keith McGarry, Professor Sue Backhouse, Dr Kitrina Douglas

This one-day symposium/workshop draws on 15 years research among professional and high performance sport people to explore mental health and well being, identity development and motivation among high performance athletes.

Drawing on research in sports as diverse as rugby, swimming, hockey, golf, track and field athletics, judo and rowing, we provide examples, case studies and life stories that illuminate how the culture of particular sports, and career pathway in that sport, interacts with the mental health, values, aspirations, identity development, expectations and life trajectories of high performance sports people in pressurised and sometimes unhealthy environments. By casting light on a previously under-researched, taboo or silenced aspect of sport we hope to provide a more comprehensive picture of the behind the scenes problems that many athletes experience in the course of their sport career. We share our research, and ‘insider’ methodology, in the hope that it resonates with the issues of governing organisations, practitioners, athletes, parents, and researchers in Northern Ireland.


10:00 Registration and coffee
10:30 Why here and why now?
10:45 What difference does it make when a professional athlete conducts research?
11:15-12:15 Why stories matter – identifying the damaging narratives in sport
12:15-12:30 Discussion, feedback & reflections from each group
12:30-1:30 Lunch and networking
1:30-2:00 ‘It’s not just about performance: a different story about doping in sport?’
2:00-3:00 Your role in supporting healthier choices, transitions, & motivations
3:00-3:15 Refreshment break
3:00-4:00 Feedback from groups and final questions

From 4pm join us for informal drinks in the bar

Standard Rate £140

Student Rate £80

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Standard Rate Student Rate

Biographies of presenters


keith_McGarry_WebKeith is a partner in the firm of Conn & Fenton Solicitors based in Lisburn, a part-time Tutor at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies and a non-executive member of the Sport Resolution Board of Directors, where he represents the Northern Ireland Sports Forum . He has a developing interest in the governance of sport and in disciplinary hearings for athletes and has provided advice to several sports governing bodies, and represented athletes in both disciplinary and anti-doping cases. He has also sat on the Disciplinary Panel of the Irish Rugby Football Union (Ulster Branch).

Alongside his legal practice Keith has had a life time interest in sport, playing rugby for Ulster & Irish Universities and retaining a very low golf handicap. Alongside playing sport he has also actively been involved in youth participation and currently coaches The Newforge Taggers, the only rugby club in Ireland exclusively established for children and young adults with learning difficulties.


backhouseSue is an active researcher, applied practitioner, teacher and leads a team of researchers committed to the development of effective anti-doping policy and practice in the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Beckett University. She was the lead author on two World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) reports on the social science of doping, and prevention of doping through education. She also served as a member of the European Commission Ad-hoc expert group on the prevention of doping in recreational sport and played a lead role in the European Commission funded Study on Doping Prevention. She is the Education representative on the UK Athletics Anti-Doping Policy and Support Team Sport and a UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) National Trainer.





Venue details

Malone Golf Club, 240 Upper Malone Road, Dunmurry, Belfast BT17 9LB