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LIT Thurles to become centre of excellence in strength and conditioning as high tech €3.7million Sportslab

Thurles is set to become an international centre of excellence in sports strength and conditioning following the launch today by Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government Alan Kelly of LIT’s €3.7million Sportslab in the town.

Through a combination of high-tech equipment and lecture staff expertise, the facility is the most unique centre in Europe for sports strength and conditioning, catering for 500 under and post graduate students each year.

The facilities and the expertise in the Sportslab will also be used by domestic and international athletes from all sports to help achieve optimum levels of strength and condition and ensure maximum performance. One of the key benefits arising from the programmes will be injury minimisation and recovery.

In addition to LIT’s 14 elite strength and conditioning lecturers, Setanta College - an international specialist in delivering coaching courses and founded by one of the world’s leading authorities in strength and conditioning, Liam Hennessy - is an LIT partner at the centre. Students have the option of the four-year, Level 8 Bachelor of Science in Sports Strength and Conditioning course, while there is also a Level 9 Masters progamme and an online Level 9 Masters for international students. The first batch of students, 22 in all, will graduate with their Level 8 degree in the autumn, with the growth in popularity of the course reflected in the numbers set to begin their degree in September when 100 students will join the campus. 

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The Masters programmes are also proving hugely successful, with 45 students currently undertaking the two-year course, among them an English Premier League club strength and conditioning coach, former rugby international Marcus Horan and others from as far afield as Canada. Each of the international students are required to spend one-week on campus, with 22 due to arrive for their practical element in June. 

According to Setanta College Ambassador Padraig Harrington, the facility is one of the finest in the world. “This is exactly what I would have been looking for when I was 18 years of age and I have not seen anything like it, anywhere in the world. This centre is going to get a world-class reputation. Having that you trained here on your CV will really stand for something. It will enable employers to say, yes, we can put them in charge of our professional sports stars. 

“The Sportslab is not alone going to turn out expert strength and conditioning coaches but also become a destination for athletes and teams from across Ireland and the world as they seek an edge in preparation and, ultimately, performance. It will certainly not stop with elite athletes, however, but will trickle down to all levels and today could be, in time, marked as the day that changed the physical wellbeing of children in Ireland. Coaches will emerge from here and spread across country, introducing motion change in children that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

Among the facilities in the 2,000 sq metre Sportslab are a unique 3D Organic Motion Capture Systems for motion analysis; a 45m, six lane sprint track especially designed to improve speed; a paralympic area; cable machines; a range of sport technology systems, including micro electro mechanical systems and GPS systems; Olympic lifting platforms; five functional screening kits; weights and the full range of exercise machines.
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The 3D ‘marker-less’ Motion Capture System is a key component of the facility as it is the only unit of its kind in Europe and among the most advanced in the world. The unit tracks athlete’s motion to pin point technique issues and identify also injury risks. It also has applications for non-sport movement analysis.

Launching the facility, Minister Kelly said,

“In the strictest sense, sport really is big business today and strength and conditioning has become hugely important in terms of preparation and injury risk assessment and recovery. It is opening up a range of new employment opportunities and the standard of training/education here, not least arising from the expertise of the lecturers, will see 100 plus students each year emerging from these courses with real employment prospects here in Ireland and internationally. Another key plus here is the ‘sport tourism’ potential of the facility, with domestic and international teams coming to the town to take advantage of the high tech facilities here.

“LIT has shown great foresight and vision in developing this facility over the past four years. Thurles is Ireland’s most historic sporting town given that the GAA was founded here and to a large degree we have probably failed to really capitalise on that here in Tipperary. However, today, over 130 years since the GAA was founded in nearby Hayes’ Hotel, LIT is leading the charge again for Thurles by creating this international standard facility.” Said LIT President Dr Maria Hinfelaar, “This is another exciting day for us at LIT and in keeping with our ongoing programme of expansion and investment across all our campus. The Sportslab is also in keeping with the proud sporting history of Thurles and that was very much part of the inspiration of this when we started out. Our team here looked at what opportunity we had to capture the essence and tradition of sport in Thurles and develop a career opportunity out of that for students. This is the outcome and I have every confidence it is going to make a huge contribution to sport in Ireland.

“When we came on board here in 2011 there were 250 students on campus and this will bring total numbers here to 900, which will contribute handsomely to the economy of Thurles. That’s a significant achievement and at a time when we really need to put a major focus on education across the country. We have had many people who helped us along the way with this cutting edge facility, including Minister Kelly for his assistance with a capital grant for equipment last year. We look forward to growing the reputation of this facility and attracting students from across the country and internationally in the years ahead.”

Said Dr Liam Hennessy, Director of Setanta College:

“Strength and conditioning is not only for elite athletes as they are at the top of the pyramid. Students coming through this programme will have the skill sets and technology to engage outside of elite sport, right through to all different sectors of the community, from child programmes through to the elderly and special populations.”

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