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An interview with Samuel López, our visiting PhD scholar from Spain

Yiannis (Y): Tell us a few things about yourself.

(SL): My name is Samuel López and I am a PhD student at the University f Valencia in Spain, in which I do some teaching as well. Through my PhD studies I am exploring ways to introducing social media in sport curricula; this, with the purpose of enhancing learning experience amongst students pursuing degrees in physical activity and sport sciences more generally.

Y: What brings you to UCLan Cyprus?

SL: The trigger of my visit has been Dr Christos Anagnostopoulos. I have been following his academic work, which is one of the most influential in the field of social media and with respect to sport, broadly speaking. It was last year, therefore, when I decided to contact him directly and ask if there was an opportunity for me to work alongside him for a period of three months thanks to a grant I had from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities. Both Christos and the Head of School of Business and Management Dr Loukas Glyptis have been super positive and extremely helpful all along. The luxury accommodation and the state-of-the-art facilities at the campus added value to my experience a great deal. I am now looking for ways to come back soon…

Y: You have come from Spain to Cyprus, what are the main differences you have noticed between the sport systems?

SL: The curricula are different. In Spain, there is a higher volume of practical subjects linked to sports such as basketball, soccer, handball, swimming, etc. From what I have seen here, more theoretical content is the case which leans towards training, health, or performance or sports psychology.

Y: As far as I understand, you have had the opportunity to share part of your work with UCLan Cyprus Sports Sciences students. What have you taught them?

SL: That’s right. I have been very fortunate to be given this opportunity. Dr Christos Anagnostopoulos introduced me Dr Koulla Parpa and Dr Efstathios Christodoulides, making it possible to hold a seminar on LinkedIn. In that seminar, I tried to teach the UCLan Cyprus students the great potential that social media, and in particular LinkedIn, have in the sports industry, and how they can use these types of channels to develop their personal brand and try to create a professional profile that would give them job opportunities upon graduation. I think the experience has been positive, as it has also allowed me to learn from a student group which comes from a different background to the one I have in Valencia. Moreover, it was my first teaching experience in English! Once again, I want to thank Christos, Koulla and Efstathios for allowing me to interact with a bunch of very engaging group of students.

Y: Building from your research, what would you recommend the next generation of sport scientists and/or sport administrators should do?

SL: From my point of view, it is very important for sport programmes to start introducing and/or integrating social media in their pedagogical methods. Social media is playing an increasingly important role in the sports industry. Athletes, coaches, leagues, federations, fans, everyone uses social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram) on a daily basis in order to consume sport. Normally, students learn to use social media on their own or through friends, but in general, at university we do not educate them how to use them in a professional way. The European Commission recently pointed out that European citizens have a significant lack of digital skills, which precisely are highly demanded by employers in the sports industry. There is therefore a need for a greater commitment to something that is also attractive in itself for students, as they use these platforms anyway, yet for different purposes and not for the strategic build-up of their professional profile.

Y: How do you value your stay here and what is next?

SL: It has been a very positive experience. First, I have been able to meet Dr Christos Anagnostopoulos in person. Christos is a well renowned sport management scholar whom work I have been following since I embarked to my PhD. Sharing an office with him was an invaluable experience; setting weekly targets and delivering drafts upon which you hold constructive discussions was the best thing I learnt through the interaction with him. Christos has been very helpful in correcting some of the aspects that I need to improve on, such as being more concrete and direct when I write, as well as helping me with aspects related to my thesis. In addition, we have been able to work on and finally submit two academic articles in two very prestigious academic outlets. The goal now is to maintain this relationship by not only formally inviting Christos to join my PhD supervisory team, but also to establishing an Erasmus agreement between our institutions so more such visits can be the case. Allow me, though, to also thank the rest of the faculty, administration and staff at UCLan Cyprus for their excellent hospitality in all fronts. I look forward to return all this to whoever comes to Valencia.