FACULTY FOCUS: Millington brothers making their mark on research at Brock

Note: Faculty Focus is a monthly series that highlights faculty whose compelling passions, innovative ideas and various areas of expertise help weave together the fabric of Brock University’s vibrant community. The full series is available on The Brock News.

A passion for sport and an interest in its role in society runs in the Millington family.

Brothers Brad and Rob Millington, Associate Professor of Sport Management and Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, respectively, have been using their areas of expertise to make their mark in Brock University’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and beyond.

Although education and sport went hand in hand growing up in the Millington household, it took the pair time to realize careers in academia were an appropriate fit.

“I don’t think either of us thought we would have ended up as professors, and certainly not at the same university,” Rob says. “But we’ve always been on a path of sport and physical education.”

Rob, Brad and older brother Scott grew up in Ottawa, where their parents both worked as high school teachers.

“Our dad was a phys-ed teacher and went on to be the co-ordinator of athletics for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, and our mom became a school board superintendent,” Rob says. “We grew up playing sports and every weekend we were on the road with various teams. We always had an interest in sport and physical activity and the broader social impacts of sport.”

Scott was the first to head off to Queen’s University to study physical education. Brad, the middle child, followed suit a few years later.

“It sort of felt preordained that I would also follow in their footsteps,” Rob, the youngest, quips.

Though their paths may have had some overlap, each of the Millingtons have made their journey their own.

Scott, who teaches at the University of Ottawa, went on to become a medical doctor and Brad, following his time at Queen’s, pursued his master’s and PhD at the University of British Columbia.

While Rob began his studies at Queen’s focused on both physical education and athletic therapy, his interest in the socio-cultural components of sport and phys-ed soon began to impact his direction.

“Once Brad was doing his master’s, I thought, ‘Oh you can really do something with this, you can keep going down this academic path,’” Rob says. “That’s when I started thinking there could be something bigger here, a bigger interest.”

Rob went on to complete both his master’s and PhD at Queen’s, realizing along the way that he had found the area he’d hoped to pursue a career in.

After two post-doctoral fellowships in Toronto, Rob accepted a job in Brock’s Department of Kinesiology in 2019. His focus at the University is on sport and social justice, which aligns with his research interests around sport’s implications in international development and climate change.

“It has been a really great fit,” he says of his time at the University.

Rob was joined by his brother at Brock in 2020.

Brad had been working at the University of Bath in England for about seven years before joining Brock’s Department of Sport Management.

“Before coming to Brock I thought, ‘This is a really interesting place. People are doing a whole range of creative things, taking sport management in different directions,’” he says. “I felt like I could fit in and since coming here, it has been great working with such excellent colleagues.”

While Brad and Rob work in different departments, the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences “does feel quite interconnected,” Rob says, “so it feels that we are very much working together.”

Working at the same university has allowed them to consider potential collaborations.

“We’ve mostly done our own things and then had some moments of crossover at times,” Brad says. “Now that we’re working in close proximity, it’s much easier to have conversations about teaching and research.”

For Rob, the biggest draw to a career in academia is that “every day is a little bit different.”

“There are always new avenues to explore in research, new things emerging that capture your interest and take your research in unexpected ways, and new opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and students,” he says.

Brad adds that, in general, a compelling element of research on sport is that people study it from so many disciplinary perspectives.

“You can take a biomechanical approach, a physiological approach, a psychological approach, a sport management, sociological or historical approach. It just goes on and on,” he says.

Brad is currently working on research related to sport and the environment and sport media and technology.

Rob is looking at sustainable development and sport, trying to better understand the role of sport as a tool of sustainable development and environmental sustainability.

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