Confidence is like obscenity: hard to define, but you know it when you see it. One thing that isn’t difficult to pin down is where this confidence arises from. Sport has played a big part in the life of Róisín Harbison. From a young age, her mother, an interprovincial squash player, and her father, an Irish international rugby player at every level, instilled in her a sporting pedigree and an attitude to complement it.
“Sports was quite a big thing in our family. I did a lot of competitive swimming and played schools and club hockey when I was younger”. Determined not to fall into the same pattern as too many female athletes, the Human Health and Disease student from Limerick launched herself head first into sport at Trinity. “When I was doing my leaving cert, I gave up swimming. It is one of the most time consuming sports. I trained every single day except Tuesdays and Sundays and I was playing hockey on those days. After school I stopped playing hockey but went back to it in second year and took up fencing for a time too. Sailing too, is on a Saturday afternoon so it’s not that time consuming.”
“It’s an interesting experience being part of a committee. I enjoy knowing what’s going on and having a say in things if I can, it’s really good experience”.
“When I was in first year, there was some guys in second and third year trying to get the Windsurfing Club started again. They were looking for people to get involved in the committee. I remember having a conversation with another committee member about how cool it would be to have a watersports club in Trinity”. This conversation was to be the genesis of a new sports club on campus: Wind and Wake.
The road map for those who might feel that their sporting ability determines their involvement at committee level is laid out by Harbison. “I had done some wakeboarding before I came to college but I had never done kitesurfing or windsurfing, so I got involved more so with administration”. Having felt her way through the first year of her committee experience, she felt she could add more to the fledgling club. “I ran for a higher position. It’s an interesting experience being part of a committee. I enjoy knowing what’s going on and having a say in things if I can, it’s really good experience”.
The resurrection of the club presented challenges that those involved couldn’t have envisioned. “The constitution is so old that the prices are still in pounds. It’s two pounds for a windsurfing session and you have to pay 50p for petrol; and we’re officially still the Windsurfing Club so we have to change it so it can encompass the three sports.”
Running any small club in a university is a challenge, let alone a small club that encompasses three different sports. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a young club, it has three sports which are quite specialised. Windsurfing, wakeboarding and kitesurfing, they’re expensive sports to be involved in.”
What the club does offer students is the ability to take up sports they might otherwise not. By Harbison’s own admission, the sports that Wind and Wake represent are expensive, but the club ensures students are put first and everything is made more affordable. “All the money we can in our budget we put to the three sports. Usually a three-hour kitesurfing lesson would be €110 but with us you get it for €40, that’s a massive discount”.
“I think when you’re in college you should grasp the opportunities that are presented to you when you can. You’re in a safe environment where you can test your voice among a group of people.”
As a sports club captain, Harbison sat on the DUCAC Captains Committee. Being elected to the position of Honorary Secretary of the Captains Committee was not something she had expected. “There’s always a representative from the Captains Committee on the DUCAC executive. I thought someone from a club with more prominent standing would have sit on the executive. ” Her decision to run may have seemed like a spur of the moment decision, but it could well be put down to the confidence she has built through a lifetime of sport. “I think when you’re in college you should grasp the opportunities that are presented to you when you can. You’re in a safe environment where you can test your voice among a group of people.”
“I sit in on DUCAC executive meetings and I am a representative of the captains of all clubs. If there’s ever any issue from the captains, I can bring it to them [DUCAC] and if there’s ever anything of particular importance going on in committee that has to be said to captains, I say that back to them.” Harbison mentioned the planned acquisition of the Iveagh Sports Grounds as one of the topics of discussion that she had been involved in. “It would be a massive step forward for DUCAC. It would make a nice triangle between here [campus], Islandbridge and Santry.”
Asked whether she felt student oversight in DUCAC was valued, Harbison was unequivocal. “DUCAC massively value the student input. Once you settle into the committee, they want to what we have to say. The club reps bring news from different clubs to DUCAC. Whenever there is an issue, they want to know what we think about it. They are working for students. Everything they do is for sport in Trinity which is for the students.”
The advice Harbison gives those already on committees is to share the load. “One of the biggest things I had to learn this year as captain was how to delegate.” Finding it difficult to ask for help or relinquish control is a familiar pattern for competitive swimmers. “I might ask someone could you do this job and a few days later when it’s still not done I might just do it myself, but you’re committee is there for a reason, there to help you.”
Sport is something that would have been hard for Harbison to escape from. Aside from Michael Phelps, a standard obsession for any swimmer who grew up in the 2000s, she lists her parents as her sporting heroes. When talking to Harbison, one could not help but get the impression that sport will always be a part of her life. “My mum played interprovincial squash until she was into her forties, she had four children and she was still playing squash for Munster. I definitely hope I’m still playing squash at that age. I don’t want to rest on my laurels.”