"We engage in sport and physical activity very differently compared to 20 years ago."
Katie Rowe has been passionate about sport and physical activity for as long as she can remember. That a childhood hobby would lead her to studying in the same field, completing her PhD and starting an academic career at Deakin University took even her by surprise.
We spoke to Katie about how she turned her passion into a career, her time as a student, her transition to lecturing at Deakin University and major developments in the sport management sector.
How did you discover your passion for sport and how did it lead you to your current role?
‘When I left school, I knew I loved sport but didn’t really know where that could lead me. I eventually decided to study a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sport Science) at Deakin and along the way, I became interested in marketing and health promotion - in particular pertaining to how people can be encouraged to lead healthy, active lives. I completed my sport science degree with a major in marketing and was offered a place in the Deakin Bachelor of Commerce Honours program, where I studied junior sport participation from a marketing perspective and grew more and more interested in the area.
‘Since then I have held different roles in the areas of sport and health, including working in fitness centres, refereeing basketball games and managing national corporate health programs. But it is in the research environment that I find I have the greatest opportunity to realise my passion for exploring ways that encourage people to participate in sport, recreation and physical activity to realise associated health and wellbeing outcomes. In my current role I get to work with wonderful industry partners and other researchers from different parts of the world with extensive knowledge related to sport participation and development. Working with great mentors who challenge me every day is one of the greatest aspects of my role.’
What would you say about your time as a student at Deakin?
‘As an undergraduate student, I must admit it took me a while to settle in. Eventually, I started to establish a group of friends and find my way around the campus. I generally enjoyed my classes and I particularly appreciated the option I had to choose electives in order to shape my interest in sport, marketing and health promotion. Years later when I returned as a PhD student, it was a completely different story. I quickly settled in as I had built some great friendships and networks through my time as a casual staff member and I felt completely supported in the sport management team. I was able to rely on my fellow PhD students for advice and assistance and many of these students remain close friends today. While completing a PhD was a major challenge for me, the people I met and became friends with through my Deakin PhD studies made the journey so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.’
How did you find the transition from student to lecturer at the same university?
‘The transition was quite seamless really. I was extremely fortunate in transitioning quickly from completing my PhD studies in late 2013 to a full-time lecturing role at Deakin at the start of 2014. I had been teaching as a sessional staff member in a number of sport management units throughout my PhD studies, so it really was a matter of maintaining my existing teaching responsibilities and being able to weave in new research and teaching opportunities. My colleagues have been absolutely wonderful in welcoming me as a full-time staff member. The only challenge I have had to face relates to building my own confidence and starting to think of myself as a lecturer rather than a student.’
Working in sport and management, what are the major growth areas in your opinion and what are the most exciting developments?
‘The good news for me is that my areas of research interest are all areas of major growth and development. The sport participation landscape is changing as people are engaging in sport and physical activity in very different ways today than they did 20 plus years ago. Sport participation is a very hot topic currently and I am excited to be involved in researching issues related to this. My other areas of research interest which relate to sport for development, or how sport can be used as a vehicle to achieve non-sport objectives such as community development and population health, is also increasingly being recognised as a key sport management issue. This makes for a fascinating research workload that explores issues of current relevance and interest to practitioners and scholars.
More broadly speaking, some other growth areas clearly relate to ethics and integrity in sport which has been fuelled by recent events related to drugs in sport and corruption. These issues have been brewing for a number of years and have resulted in the field of sport management increasingly focusing on sport leadership, governance, integrity and ethics. While these are not key research areas of mine, I enjoy exploring these issues with students in the classroom.’