James Madison University

Athletic Training Students Travel to Ireland

By Dina Manco
Posted October 2, 2014

PHOTO: IrelandIn May, a combined group of athletic training and sport and recreation management students ventured to the Emerald Isle. Irish music and dance, playing Gaelic games, touring churches and landscapes - these were just some of the experiences the students on the Office of International Programs’ Ireland trip had this summer. JMU faculty and trip directors Dr. Connie Peterson and Dr. Neil Marrin accompanied the students on the Sport Management, Medicine and Culture program. This was the first year it was taught in Ireland; in the past, the program traveled to Australia. In Peterson’s opinion, Ireland offers even more opportunities for learning experiences in the athletic training and sports management fields.

Ireland is working to expand its on-site medical care for athletes. The professional level sports have excellent care, much like the in the US, however, there is a lack of care for athletes at the club and school level.  Peterson states, “Because of their sport structure (more private club based), the access to care is limited. The students had the opportunity to learn that the skills and protocols used are similar, but the delivery is challenging.”

One student, Danielle Gemignani, comments, “Ireland currently only has physiotherapists, and not athletic trainers, which is what I am studying to become. Most of our lecturers were physiotherapists who spoke to the rehabilitation aspect of injuries, and some emergency care, but nothing in between. For me, it really showed how lucky I am to be a part of an amazing athletic training program, but also how advanced the U.S. is in the field of sports medicine.”

The students also learned the differences between the U.S. and Ireland’s available healthcare plans– or as the Irish call them, schemes. Peterson comments that Ireland has a mixture of public and private health care: “It is difficult to understand fully…they have a two-tiered policy with minimum care, but if [citizens] want to purchase more on top of it, it’s private. If not, they still seek private care but they are paying all out of pocket.”

Students learned in a variety of settings, mainly in Dublin, for the first ten days. Between presentations by professors at Dublin City University and University City Dublin, physiotherapists and physicians affiliated with a professional rugby club, and Gaelic Games lessons by athletes themselves, the students were kept busy. The remaining four days of the program were spent on a bus tour of Ireland. “We had an amazing tour guide who drove us around these narrow back roads of the countryside, where everywhere you looked it was green. It was exactly what I pictured when I thought of Ireland…the sights we stopped off to see on that excursion were absolutely breathtaking,” Gemignani enthuses. Overall, the students completed twenty hours of structured learning and twenty-four participatory hours where they embarked on tours and learned outside the classroom environment.

PHOTO: Ireland“They were learning constantly by being exposed to these stories, churches and abbeys… A lot of history learning when they didn’t even realize they were learning,” Peterson says. “Anytime you take students on a study abroad trip, twenty percent is content, the other eighty percent is life, culture and living in a different country.”

Among the many beautiful sights of Ireland, the Peace Wall was a powerful moment for Peterson. As she says, it was a conflict that occurred in her lifetime, but she was too young to fully understand it at the time.  Another favorite memory of Peterson’s was learning how to play Gaelic games. “It created a really good bond amongst the students and they learned to appreciate each other. The way the students got along and watching them branch out is what got to me the most,” Peterson remarks. 

After fourteen days in a foreign country, the students “took away a broader understanding of another culture, an appreciation for the challenges of traveling, transportation and all of the things that go along with being in a group… [In regard to sports care and management,] they got a sense of ‘I am learning a lot and ahead of the curve in the global picture,’” Peterson comments.

Gemignani says, “I will definitely remember everything I learned about rehab and implement that into the rehab I will get to do with JMU athletes, but ultimately, it was very interesting to see how the focus of sports medicine differs between the two countries.“

Not only did the students benefit from the abroad experience, but the university did as well; meeting important people in the field in another country was a great opportunity for JMU’s name to get global exposure, as Peterson says.

The Ireland: Sport Management, Medicine and Culture program will run every other summer through the Office of International Programs. Peterson encourages, “Studying abroad is one of the best ways to broaden horizons and get out there – to go do stuff, see things. Appreciation for cultures and countries is extremely valuable…A lot of the care they provide is very similar and it makes you question why we think our way is any better.”



  • 12/12/17: The department has been divided into the Department of Health Sciences and the Department of Health Professions
  • How to declare a Health Sciences Major
  • JMU Summer Hours
    Business hours from May 6 - August 16, 2013 will be Monday - Thursday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and Friday, 8:00 a.m. - noon.