Graduates praise access to University’s ISPAR Conference platform

Wed 18 November, 2020
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Graduates from the University of Bedfordshire have reflected on the value of having access and being able to contribute to the popular annual School of Sport & Physical Activity’s ISPAR conferences.

Hosted for the past four years by the Institute for Sport and Physical Activity Research (ISPAR), these conferences feature a variety of talks and keynote speeches discussing noteworthy and timely sport and activity news, opinions and industry updates. The latest conference took place this academic term virtually due to the impact of the pandemic and covered topics such as the state of physical activity and team sports in a post-Covid world. 

Popular themes for each ISPAR Conference to date have included health and wellbeing, physical education, pedagogy and sports performance. They are delivered via oral presentations from keynote speakers, collaborators, staff, alumni and students from all areas of ISPAR, such as exercise physiology, nutrition, health psychology, behaviour change, biomechanics, strength and conditioning, sports training and social sciences.

The ISPAR Conference 2020 was held over three days and attracted 314 registered delegates, including academics, research students, undergraduate students, representatives from public health authorities and charities, community sports partners and nutritionists.

Dr Julia Zakrzewski-FruerReflecting on the fourth annual conference, entitled ‘Getting Back on Track: Moving forward from Covid-19 with sports performance, physical activity, health and wellbeing’, Dr Julia Zakrzewski-Fruer, Senior Lecturer in Health, Nutrition and Exercise and the University’s Bedford campus, said:

The event was a tremendous success, with feedback forms indicating that the delegates were extremely satisfied with the organisation of the conference, the range of topics covered, the speakers involved, the programmes and the information booklet provided. Particular highlights noted by the delegates include the broad range of knowledge and topics covered by our speakers and learning about the impact ISPAR research is actively having on individuals.

Professor Rob ThomasRob Thomas, a Consultant Oncologist at Bedford and Addenbrooke's Hospitals a visiting Professor of Sports and Nutritional Science, took part in the conference this term. He said:


I was proud to have taken part in this successful online event. Exercise should be an important part of medicine and the University of Bedfordshire and the trained exercise professionals it qualifies are going to be the leading light in this process. To have such a motivated academic team linked to the hospital and our research team is unique and this ISPAR Conference cast this partnership admirably.

The News Team spoke to a selection of 2020 Conference contributors from the University’s School of Sport & Physical Activity to find out how they got involved and what they enjoyed most about the this year’s event…

Richard Sackey-Adoo

“I delivered a keynote presentation dedicated to sports performance. I was invited to present by Dr Iain Fletcher and Dr Andrew Mitchell who were two of my lecturers from my time as a student at Bedfordshire. My session gave an overview of how we have had to be innovative in our education delivery approach at the Tennis Integrity Unit to make sure we were providing as much accessible information to support and protect all those involved in professional tennis from the increased corruption and doping risks during the professional tennis tour suspension.

“The conference was run seamlessly on Zoom with good interactivity as attendees could easily ask speakers questions directly using the chat function. The theme was very topical and it was both interesting and inspiring learning how so many different industries and organisations have adapted to the many challenges presented by Covid-19 this year.”

Dawn Mallett

“I was asked by Dr Joanne Hill to contribute a small piece as a speaker. Over the lockdown period, we were exchanging emails regarding the new 'restorative PE curriculum' my schools were implementing at the start of this academic year in the aim to support the overall development of our children returning to school post-Covid. 

“It was an honour being asked to contribute how we as a federation of schools are adapting our curriculum to provide a restorative approach in supporting our children on their return. It was also a great opportunity to raise the profile of our PE and Physical Activity provision in our schools and it was an amazing experience to be a part of such a successful and collaborative ISPAR Conference.


“I felt the conference was a simple yet effective way of bringing a range of individuals together to discuss, collaborate and learn from one another. The theme was vital considering the impact Covid-19 has had on many people in multiple ways and by holding a conference about the realities of it in our industry and professions, it has created the sense of unity during such an unprecedented time.”

Ryan Forwood

I presented a selection of my health-based educational videos which I made during lockdown with the idea of offering an alternative to existing health videos and lessons which tend to focus on the practical side of health. Dr Joanne Hill, who was my lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire, contacted me directly to ask if I would like to present – I was humbled to be asked and honoured to feature on the speaker panel.

“Hosting the event online allowed people to reach a high amount of content in the comfort of their own homes or offices, which provided a sense on inclusivity to those who may have been impacted by travel and shielding barriers during the pandemic.

“Overall, I felt that the ISPAR Conference this year offered a good array of speakers from different backgrounds in terms of research, as well as professional and personal reflections from practitioners currently in the field.”

Rianna Price

“I was invited to speak at the ISPAR Conference about my research and present the findings which I had carried out during my Masters degree. My presentation examined the re-contextualisation of national sports policy when implemented into practice, using Sport England's This Girl Can as the key case study.

“During the conference, as an audience member I was able to hear from a variety of sports industry professionals about what they have been working on during the pandemic. I think the Covid-19 theme was really timely as it showed the importance of sports research and it’s challenged me to use my initiative more to provide solutions to some of the questions that have arisen within sport during the pandemic. 

“I was really proud of the University speakers, especially those who put together the ISPAR Conference despite everything that is going on with the pandemic, as it showed how adaptable they are. They managed to illustrate the amazing research and practical things that are being carried out now during Covid-19.”

Emma Wells

“I presented as a University of Bedfordshire graduate, giving updates on two research projects that I have worked on since graduating. I also felt that the variety and focus of the conference as a whole was relevant and was well attended with good discussion points.

“I enjoyed it being online as it allowed greater flexibility and attendance and the overall conference theme was very timely. I learnt a lot of additional information about how other studies have adapted to remote data collection/recruitment during the pandemic and how they are planning to restart to minimise the impact of the pandemic on data quality.”

Information and recorded presentations from the 2020 event can be discovered online:

The ISPAR team also hosts a number of public seminars throughout the year which can be watched via a live feed or played back at a later date:

Details of the 2021 ISPAR Conference will be released in due course – follow @ISPAR_UoB to stay up to date and find out about the latest research news and events.


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