Cyril Brennan, BPE (co-op), B.Ed. (Intermediate/Secondary)
Sports, fitness and physical exercise specialist with the Canadian Forces
Hometown: Clarenville, NL
My experience with the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation
I started my program in the fall of 2000 and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can still remember the nervous anticipation of starting down the road to my new career. From my very first class to the very final test I felt a sense of professionalism in the faculty and it radiated down to the students. The professors were knowledgeable about the subjects they instructed and all were highly accredited individuals. I learned so much from the people in that faculty and never once felt like I was just another student. The classes were full of people who wanted to be there and each day brought exciting new challenges. People respected you and treated you more like a contributing member of something much bigger than just a school. Our class had students from all over the country. From as far away as BC to as close to home as St. John’s, each brought their own experiences and stories to tell. I don’t know if it was the creative dance activity course or all the outdoor survival components but we became such a tight knit group. Many of those people I still speak with on a regular basis and still collaborate with to this day.
My work terms
My original plan to become a physical education teacher was something that I held true and dear. When I looked back over my childhood, those teachers/coaches were people who made a difference in my life and shaped me to be what I am today. The co-op program helped me to realize this dream and showed me a whole new world of possibility.
My first work term was as a camp counsellor at Camp Winadu, in Pittsfield Massachusetts. I spent 13 weeks living and working in close quarters with 12 staff and 30 children under the age of 10. This is where I learned patience. We were responsible for the movement of the children through their rigorous summer program schedule. At times it was challenging but the real reward was the appreciation of the kids and knowing in some way you were helping to shape their minds. I looked at this role as a stepping stone to the career I wanted as a teacher.
My second work term saw me assume the role of intramural coordinator for Memorial University. I was drawn to this position when I saw it first advertised because I knew I would experience first hand the organization and administration side of recreation. I was planning large scale sporting events and ran them successfully. It’s one thing to compete in a sport but it’s another to understand all the necessary planning and protocol that must be met to offer an event. Although it was on a much larger scale, I believe this job really helped to prepare me for my job with the Labrador Winter Games Association.
My third and final work term was one of my favourite experiences during my co-op program. I was the administrative assistant for Sport Newfoundland and Labrador. I spent the entire term learning the business of sport. I met the executives for most of the sport governing bodies for the province and made a number of valuable connections. The members of each sport brought a great deal of passion to their areas and worked hard to maintain the highest levels of professionalism. I helped to organize the Sport Newfoundland and Labrador sports hall of fame banquet and sat in on a number of conflict resolution meetings. I was able to utilize a number of the contacts from this work term during my time as a physical education teacher, connections I may have never otherwise gained.
My experience with the co-op office
The co-op staff made my life easy when it came to coordinating my work terms. They delivered quality advice and ensured I had the support I needed to complete my objectives. The fact that these individuals can find all the necessary placements for all of the co-op students speaks volumes to their organization and commitment. Students must realize the way that this opportunity can benefit them in the future. Sitting in a classroom and listening to instruction is good. Planning a sporting event for hundreds of people and watching it happen because you made it happen is priceless. This program offers you that practical experience. The connections I made all across the province opened doors for me that I would have never imagined possible. I owe much of my success to the work placements they offered.
Upon the completion of my BPE program I continued my learning in the Faculty of Education at Memorial. This seemed like a natural fit as I had always aspired to become a physical education teacher. The courses were difficult but again I found that the group of Physical Education students I had spent the last four years with had a stronger bond than anyone else in the faculty and in more ways than one were much more prepared for the field of education.
Although it was a considerable amount of work, the degree landed me my first professional teaching position in Makkovik, Labrador. I gladly accepted the position and moved to Makkovik just after I had completed my last exams of the education degree. Leaving the big city for a small town of less than 400 was a culture shock at first but I had learned from previous experience that life is what you make it. The community was every physical education teacher’s dream. I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I organized countless intramural activities for the students and incorporated the connections I had made through sport Newfoundland and Labrador to acquire equipment and information.
I continued to teach for two years in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay region when an amazing opportunity came knocking at my door. I became the executive director of the 2010 Labrador Winter Games. This job was the greatest experience of my life. I was given a chance to run an event that brought together all the people of Labrador in a celebration of culture and athleticism. It also encompassed everything I had learned in school and more importantly what I had accomplished in my work terms. I became the youngest executive director since the inception of the games at 28 years old. I had gone from a budget of $1000.00 teaching in a school to a million dollars. This job saw the organization of over 700 volunteers, 400 athletes from 27 communities in Labrador, 50 committee chairs, 12 Board of Directors, 10 staff and myself. The challenges were enormous and the work was difficult at times. In the end our team successfully completed the games and left the association in fine form for the future 2013 games.
My path only widened once I finished that job as I took a position with the Canadian Forces as the sports, fitness and physical exercise specialist. I know that this position is something that will bring great satisfaction. When you wake up in the morning and you look forward to the drive to work you know you have done something right. I owe so much of my success to the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. I hope that future students continue to stand out as professionals in our field and strive for their own chance to succeed.