The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress. A theme which made me reflect on how competing in the sport of athletics from a young age prepared me for the business world and for starting my own business and enabled me to progress throughout my career. I hope every young girl who wants to be competitive in sport is given the opportunity. There are plenty of lessons along the way, but they will stand to you and here’s a few of mine!
Lesson 1: Pushing yourself is a good thing but know when to hold some back in reserve!
My first experience of sport was racing in the community games in a field on the way into my home town of Celbridge. I was 9, it was a sprint race and the finish line had ribbons hanging from it, so we knew where to go, I remember wanting to win so much and to my delight I did! The local athletics club approached my dad and asked me to join. On my first training session I treated every run like it was a race…and on the way home I got sick all over my dad’s car from the effort. Dad decided it best to leave training until I was a little older (& wiser!).
Lesson 2: Girls can run faster than boys but that’s not the point!
When I did join the club again at about 12 years, boys, and girls all trained together, we competed at the same races on the same day, we were friends, clubmates and I loved it. We respected each other for the hard work, talent, and achievements regardless of whether it was a boy or girl. It was perfectly acceptable for me to be competitive and what to beat everyone in my age group in training including the boys (which I sometimes did). That mentality I believe was deeply engrained in me then (maybe naively), I felt I could excel if I was dedicated and I would be judged on my ability and work ethic, gender would never be a factor.
Lesson 3: Channelling frustrations positively
There were some bumps in the equality road. … my male geography teacher in my Leaving Cert year stated in front of my whole class: ‘I presume you are giving up that running lark, you won’t be able to that and study? I was mad, and I thought this wouldn’t happen in a boy’s school! I informed him I would be very much be continuing to train and race. I had always loved Geography, but I gave the subject even more focus that year determined to make a point by getting a good result. I got the A and bagged a few schools All-Ireland medals. It was a quiet victory and one which he knew nothing about!
Lesson 4: A sporting approach to education can deliver results
Breaking News! I never made it to the Olympics, I never even got close. Yes, I am proud to say as a youth athlete I won national titles and represented Ireland but when the tricky transition to a junior rolled round and I was then in college studying Marketing in DIT it all became very challenging and less fun. And even more so in third year when an Achilles injury put to bed any hope of running again in form.
So, in my final and fourth year in college for the first time ever I concentrated solely on my education. It was an intense year, the DIT approach to learning was through real world case studies tackled in groups and presenting your strategy back to your peers for critique. Cue the return of the competitive Sinead (my college girls still to this day slag me about it!), I loved it. It gave me a real buzz like racing did and all those skills of setting goals, time management, staying calm under pressure all stood to me in my final year.
Lesson 5: The sprinter strut
And so, my marketing career began, there was brand management for 7 years. Then I became a senior member of the management team at Athletics Ireland, as their first ever Marketing Manager. From there, I joined leading PR agency Wilson Hartnell (WHPR) as Account Director, handling a wide range of award winning projects.
And then the moment came to go it alone with 14 years’ experience under by belt. In 2016 I founded Galvin Sports Management, a communication and sponsorship consultancy. Why? Because I believe I can empower sports to connect with opportunities that they haven’t yet begun to tap into.
I also believe that the industry is ready for a more diverse range of sports ambassadors which is more reflective of the world we live in, that can drive consumer engagement for brands. I am so proud and honoured to work with Olympians, Paralympians and Women in Sport daily and to help them build their personal brand.
But building a business is tough and challenging and a juggle with family and creating time to be active again (no more sprinting for me but I enjoy the odd 5k race). At times I question myself, doubt myself but what drives me on is the same drive that I had as a kid on the track. So, I tap into that young Sinead who stood on the track believing she was going to win, I remember my sprinter swagger and say to myself ‘Bring it on!’