Name: Eilish Ward

Club: St. Nauls

County: Donegal

Studied / Qualifications: BA in Sociological & Political Studies with English
MSc in Sports Development & Coaching

Occupation: Business Support Partner with British Gymnastics

Why did you take part in the Jim Madden Leadership Programme?

Initially, I’d been chatting to a few friends who completed the programme in the Year 1 & 2 and they were huge advocates of the whole Madden experience. I was at a stage within my career that I was looking to develop myself & accelerate my progress professionally and needed a CPD opportunity that would give me the chance to do this and the Madden programme was the ideal fit.

What were the key learnings for you from the course?

There were so many learnings from the course that it’s really difficult to pick one key point but for me, the key benefit & change I gained as a result of the programme was challenging my previous thinking and perspective. Having the exposure to top leaders across various industries, the development centre, personal coaching and a peer network of like-minded individuals, really challenges you to look at things from a different perspective and become more open minded.

The programme is designed to help you identify your areas of strengths and weakness and work on developing these. As a result, over the past year, I’ve worked heavily on areas such as emotional intelligence, time management and decision making and have felt a huge benefit both professionally and personally. Also, in terms of my own personal development, it exposed me to learning & development and I’ve recently moved into this field within my job role so it’s helped me identify a career path also.

What were your favourite & most challenging parts of the programme?

My favourite part of the programme was undoubtedly the personal coaching. From completing the Development Centre (another favourite), you gain a personal report which through the year, you work with your personal coach to develop both your strengths and work on areas of weakness. Through my conversations and work with my coach, it helped clarified my thought process, re-structure and re-evaluate my life so I could maximise opportunities both on and off the field and changed my whole perspective in general. Having that one-to-one relationship with your coach was definitely my favourite aspect of the programme as I’ve made a genuine friend for life.

Ironically, the development centre was, while a favourite aspect, also one of the most challenging areas of the programme. Spending a day being assessed on how you cope within situations and having a personalised 28 page report that details your areas to develop is definitely challenging as it reveals information you don’t even know about yourself. Within the development centre itself, the conflict management role play was probably the most challenging 15 minutes of 2017 for me. Trying to empathise with John did not come naturally to me!

Tell us about delivering the Realta course and your community project?

The Realta course offers an opportunity to support the delivery of an 8 week leadership programme to 5th & 6th class within a school of your choice. For me, I had the chance to go back to my old school and help teach them the importance of being leaders within our local community. It’s a hugely rewarding experience giving something back on a local level but also seeing the kids learn about communication and teamwork.

Our Community Project looked at establishing a befriending service for elderly people within the local community using the GAA club as a hub. We aimed to use the GAA club as a source of volunteers and pair 10 volunteers with 10 elderly people in rural and urban communities across Ireland to reduce isolation and loneliness within the target age group. The programme ran over 4 weeks with 3 one-to-one visits and then a coffee morning on the final day. Again, it was fantastic to show our clubs in a different light locally and also give something back.

How will the course help you in your professional career?

It’s hard to quantify how beneficial the course has already been within my professional career. From developing skills within communication, time management and developing planning, exposure to further opportunities and exposing me personally to the world of learning and development and discovering my passion for this, it’s been amazing already. While on the programme, I gained a promotion within work and have completed various outside projects and the knowledge gained & experience of the Madden Programme was a key factor in this and I’m sure I’ll continue to feel the benefit moving forward.

Has the programme enhanced your existing leadership skills?

I’d like to think I’m a natural leader within my teams however the programme has definitely helped me to develop and enhance various skills such as my decision making, ability to lead within various situations, empathy and performance management. These are things that have been useful both on and off the field. I think the skills learned have also helped me realise the wider role of the WGPA, GPA and respective NGB’s within our local communities and have helped me to take on more roles that help develop the place of our games within Irish society so hopefully there’s a wider positive effect also.

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