Get to know PhD Student – Catherine Litchfield


In this month’s newsletter, we would like to introduce PhD student, Catherine Litchfield from the College of of Education, Psychology and Social Work.

Catherine’s recently submitted thesis, “Suffering in silence: Female footballers, injury and social support practices” received outstanding results from the examiners.

We asked Catherine to share what led her to a PhD and why it is important, the most enjoyable and hardest parts of a PhD journey and what the future holds.

What was the topic of your PhD and why was it important to you?

My PhD focussed on social support and injury recovery in women’s Australian Rules football. I have always had an interest in female sport, as both a female athlete and a sport fan, but my PhD topic became quite personal for me. The year before I started my PhD, I suffered from my third major knee injury that left me unable to return to sport. At the same time as I was experiencing, firsthand, the importance of social support when injured, I was watching the elite women’s football competition where there seemed to be a major injury almost every week. I saw so many people talking about how to improve player recovery, but not a lot of talk around what support players needed. With so many more females playing collision based sport, and so many more injuries, I felt it was important to explore how support is managed within sporting clubs.

What was been one of the most enjoyable parts of the journey?

Building relationships with other HDR students. I was very lucky to be a part of a large research group, my colleges HDR student committee, as well as a mentorship program. All of these experiences allowed me to grow my support network and build some pretty amazing friendships that I’m sure are going to last a lifetime.  These relationships have been so important to my mental health and I’m not sure if I would have been able to complete my PhD without their support.

How did you overcome any challenges of doing a PhD?

Whenever I faced any setback during my PhD, I had a process. First, cry and eat chocolate, then I would give myself 24 hours before actioning anything (when possible). I found often after giving myself that time to process, the setbacks never looked as bad on second inspection.

What have you been doing since you completed?

After submission I was lucky enough to get a contract at Flinders as an Associate Lecturer. I have been working as a teaching specialist building a new topic for the Bachelor of Sport and Active Recreation (BSAR) degree, and teaching both into Education and BSAR topics.

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