Sport Ireland resetting plans with new Olympic schedule in mind

Almost 50% increase in visits to Sport Ireland’s Institute during 2019

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

One of the top priorities of six set out by Sport Ireland’s statement of strategy for 2020-24 is to focus on having greater impact on performance outcomes in major championships. That means more success and more medals.

The priorities were set out in Sport Ireland Institute’s 2019 Annual Review, which has just been published and outlines the work carried out by the Institute with Ireland’s high-performance sports.

Another of the Institute’s priorities is to transition from a service provider, which it is at the moment, to an essential performance support partner.

With the Olympic Games pushed out to the summer of 2021, the Institute now faces a number of challenges to have athletes prepared for qualification competitions over the coming months when sport again opens up.

It will then immediately turn around and prepare the successful athletes to peak again in a matter of months for the games themselves.

“Our team of service providers were ready for Tokyo with detailed plans in place for before, during and after the games,” said Institute director Liam Harbison.

“We are currently resetting those plans with the performance directors and will reconfigure our support plans for all athletes accordingly as we emerge from the current crisis.”

A subsequent knock-on effect will be a three-year gap between Olympic Games for the first time in history with the Paris games still scheduled to take place in 2024. The Olympic Games were cancelled due to the wars in 1916, 1940 and 1944 but never before have they been held in an odd numbered year.

The Sport Ireland campus in Abbotstown is, like all other sporting facilities, currently closed with athletes working remotely. One of the primary aims of the Institute, which is at the heart of the sprawling network of facilities, is to be the hub for high-performance athletes and coaches.

The level of usage of the Institute across all groups has increased significantly with the headline figure of total number of visits growing to 13,963 in 2019. This represents a 47.3 per cent increase from the 9,479 visits in 2018.

However, that significant growth rate arrives with a note of caution with the report insisting that it must continue to be carefully monitored to ensure the quality of support services provided remains at the set standard.

Despite the large increase in users, the athlete sentiment survey identifies a minor drop in satisfaction levels across a number of disciplines indicating that “the Institute is now at a usage level that if breached could significantly diminish the quality of our service offering.”

The satisfaction rating of 4.42 out of 5 (88.4 per cent) from carded athletes, while satisfactory, represents a decrease from the 93.4 per cent score in 2018.

“We continue to track athlete sentiment with the results of our annual survey of athletes presented,” said Harbison. “Our target is to maintain a satisfaction level with the quality of all support services above 80 per cent year on year. I’m pleased that all disciplines led by our heads of service group have achieved that target in 2019.”

Hockey and athletics were the two sports that used the Institute for the most amount of time, with hockey accounting for 11.58 per cent of the total and athletics 11.28 per cent. Amateur boxing was the next largest user with 244.75 days or 10.78 per cent. Rugby was not listed for the time period as the IRFU moved to the Sports Campus this year for the first time.

But the use of all the facilities in the institute from medical, physiotherapy and nutrition services to strength and conditioning and performance psychology has steadily gone up from 154 high-performance athletes using it in 2014 to a record high of 380, who used the Institute last year.

For 2019 the total income for the Institute was €2,670,958 for which €2,313,300 came from a Sport Ireland allocation, €30,000 from a Women in Sport grant with the Institute itself generating €327,658. The total expenditure for 2019 was €2,641,401.

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