The Irish Institute of Sport has helped in no small measure to ensure that the Irish Olympian team has been well prepared and had available the best available facilities in their preparation for London 2012. There has been a massive improvement since former IABA boxing High Performance Unit supremo Gary Keegan joined the Institute as Director. It is an organisation which works quietly in the background and indeed many, probably the majority, of Irish sports fans know little about the Institute and what it does. So let us look at 2011 and what they aimed to do and what they did achieve.
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Athlete Mark Kennelly, boxer Darren O’Neill and Paracyclist Enda Smyth set out the practical value of the Institute’s services to Ireland’s high performance athletes. Gary Keegan, Director at the Institute, demonstrated the multi-disciplinary approach which supports high performance athletes and the benefits of a single service entity supporting the National Governing Body of sports.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: “The Institute is a great facility which provides vital support to some of our top athletes, by helping them to compete at the highest level of international sport. It’s also a key part of the National Sports Campus, and I’m pleased to see that athletes are already using the facilities available at Abbotstown, as well as equipment provided under the Sports Capital Programme. With the London Olympics just a few weeks away, the Institute of Sport is a good example of how we can support our athletes, even in these difficult times.”
In addition Institute staff are embedded in the support teams of 9 sports which resulted in the delivery of 1,100 hours of support services to athletes and coaches in 2011.
John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council, highlighted the medicine and other services delivered on site; “The clinics have proven to be ahuge success, athletes are utilising the services, expertise and facilities at the Institute. It is one of the many Institute initiatives that are making a practical difference to the athletes training and performance”.
The Athlete Transition Programme is a very important project undertaken by the Institute which aims both to improve the current regime for athletes and to assist them when their sporting careers are over. It has profiled more than 200 potential Olympic and Paralympic athletes and this has identified the additional service requirements that are required. Crucially the Programme identifies the needs of an athlete after a major games; a gap in the system which had been identified by athletes over the years.
Gary Keegan, Director of the Institute spoke about the importance of the Athlete Transition Programme: “The Institute is putting in place supports for athletes for every phase of their careers. It is important to highlight the work of The Athletes Lifeskills Team which has delivered career, education and individual performance management skills to over 100 athletes”.
All high performance sports can refer injured athletes through the Institute. In 2011, 55 cases were referred for assessment in medicine, clinical psychology, meteorology and haematology. This included 29 cases referred to the National Orthopaedic Hospital at Cappagh through the new fast referral service initiative with Cappagh.
A critical project undertaken by the Institute was to established service provider panels of 75 experts across 13 disciplines in science, medicine and life-skills support services. The streamlined panels provide athletes with access to accredited professionals within a managed system.
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