Appointment of Michelle Tanner as President of the European Network of Academic Sports Services (ENAS)

Saloon, Provost's House

27 February 2014

Good afternoon,

And welcome everyone to the Provost’s House for this really great occasion – a reception to mark the appointment of Michelle Tanner as President of ENAS, the European Network of Academic Sports Services.

This is a landmark event in lots of ways – it’s the first Irish appointment to this prestigious position, it’s the first Trinity appointment, and it’s the first female appointment.

It’s a wonderful endorsement of Michelle, and of Trinity’s sports programmes which Michelle, as Head of Sport and Recreation, has managed and developed so well.

The establishment of ENAS, and its growth to 105 member institutions across 21 countries, is testimony, in itself, to the increasing recognition of sport as an essential activity for universities.

Sport has been central to Trinity from early in our history – indeed our rugby club called, perhaps confusingly,  the ‘Dublin University Football Club’, is considered the world’s oldest extant football club of any code. And football in Trinity actually pre-dates the foundation of this Club – it was being played in College Park as far back as the 1780s.

So, sport in Trinity is nothing new. To be a student in this university at any time over the past few hundred years was to engage with sport. It may interest admirers of Samuel Beckett to learn that in his first few years at Trinity he wasn’t known particularly for his intellect – but for his left-handness when batting in cricket.

When I recall my own undergraduate days in the 1980s, the Karate Club looms as large as any memory of lectures or laboratories. And I know it’s the same for so many of our alumni.

But what’s happened in recent years is that the importance of sport to student development has been increasingly recognised and fore-fronted – and by employers as much as by educators. What we call ‘learning outside the classroom’ is now seen as a vital component of higher education. Employers specifically seek graduates who have ‘held leadership positions in clubs or societies’ and ‘have taken part in a team sport’.

We know that active involvement in any club or society engages students in myriad life-skills including: management, communications, event organisation, fund-raising, travel, volunteering, community values, leadership.

Of course this isn’t just a Trinity message. The establishment and growth of ENAS shows that this is a Europe-wide message, indeed a global message. The importance of sport is one of those rare things, about which all are in agreement.

But it’s one thing to get agreement, it’s another to get the message across and see results. That’s why the role of Michelle as Head of Sport and Recreation in Trinity, and her roles as honorary treasurer and secretary in the national body, Student Sport Ireland, are so vital.

Michelle has greatly enhanced the profile of university sport. She has injected such a huge sense of excitement and achievement around sporting activities. Together with her team in the Department of Sport and Recreation, she promotes exceptional students who win sports scholarships and represent Ireland at world games. And she works on behalf of all students to facilitate and improve access to sport.

Michelle has now been Head of Sport here since 2009. She brings to this challenging role a unique combination of skills and experience. As a former international Volleyball player with the Irish Senior Team, she understands everything about competing at the top level. She’s been involved with the Irish Sports and Leisure industry since graduating, and has an MBA in sports management and a higher national diploma in Business Studies, Recreation and Leisure. So she has both theoretical and practical knowledge of the management and business side of sport and recreation. And during her time with us she has continued to deliver courses as a tutor for Volleyball Ireland. In the words of one member of her staff, she is “a role model for staff and students of the College”.

Her results with the Trinity Sports Programme speak for themselves: according to the 2012 annual report, ten thousand students used the sports centre and six thousand joined sports clubs. There were 55 large-scale events and tournaments hosted for students, including the College Races, the Boat Regatta and the Med Day charity event, and there were 330 student-run sports events and fixtures. These impressive figures get across the level of Trinity engagement in sport.

And last year the Trinity Sports Department won an ENAS award for the Trinity Olympians Project. I’m sure you all remember this project – it was delivered as part of the College's 2012 Olympic Programme and it highlighted those Trinity students and graduates who participated in Olympic Games over the course of the century, from 1908 to 2008. It caught the imagination of the college community and of the wider public.  

It’s achievements like these that led to Michelle being elected President of ENAS.  It’s a vital role, and a prestigious one. We are immensely proud of Michelle. Her presence at the top table for university sport in Europe strengthens the College’s international reputation and global mission.

Michelle’s recognition by her peers in Europe – her selection from 105 member institutes - is, in itself, an evaluation and endorsement of Trinity’s sports programme, and therefore of the Trinity Education.

Michelle, I thank you for your wonderful work on behalf of sport in Trinity and in the third level sector in Ireland. I congratulate you on your new appointment - and I congratulate ENAS members for electing you. They will now reap the reward of your presidency.

Thank you.

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