Ireland at the forefront of sport, health and fitness

Courses within the sport and fitness sector are growing in popularity worldwide and Ireland is no exception. This article explores the courses on offer in this industry and the graduate careers that follow.

Ireland is a country with a rich and proud sporting tradition. The successes which have been attained by Irish competitors nationally and internationally have often belied the small size of the country. The Irish population are sports mad and have an avid interest in the performances of our top sports performers. Additionally there is an increasing awareness and recognition of the pivotal role which participation in sport and physical activity can play in promoting the health and well-being of Irish society. In acknowledgement of this, in recent years, a number of specialised sports science and health related undergraduate and postgraduate courses have been established in Irish Third Level Institutions.

Swimmer

“There are growing opportunities for graduates to gain employment as sport coaches”

The study of sports science and health focuses on an integrated approach to theoretical and practical aspects of a number of disciplines and topics including: anatomy, biomechanics, nutrition, physiology, psychology, sociology and health promotion. Sport and exercise scientists study, research and advise on the scientific factors influencing sport and exercise. From this detailed knowledge they can give specialist advice (based on research) on improving individual or team performance. They also design and administer appropriate methods of assessment, thus creating exercise or training programmes.

These programmes could be of a therapeutic, technical, physiological or psychological nature, and cover areas like exercise rehabilitation, psychological preparation for competition, movement analysis, dietary considerations and strength training.

A number programmes like the sports science and health course at DCU provides six months of paid, relevant work experience to students. This provides invaluable employment skills as a genuine competitive edge with employers upon graduation. Courses of this nature provide a broad foundation of knowledge, skills and experience for those wishing to pursue employment in:

  • Sport (coaching, sport development, sport science support, sport industry)
  • Health (health promotion, cardiac rehabilitation, corporate health advisors)

Graduates are typically employed as sports development officers at local, regional and national levels. They are involved in a variety of roles including: development and implementation of programmes and strategies linked to increasing participation, improving skills, coaching development and improving standards of coaching practice. There are growing opportunities for graduates to gain employment as sport coaches. Coaches are required to have the capacity to improve and develop individual and team performances. Graduates who are employed in coaching have a broad understanding of all aspects of sports performance in a particular sport and in addition to their degree qualifications will normally hold coaching qualifications in that sport.

Graduates of sports science and health programmes also work as exercise consultants on specialist programmes in gymnasium, sports or fitness clubs, in order to help their clients to meet their goals they design and administer appropriate methods of assessment. After compiling and interpreting results of this assessment, they design a suitable exercise or training programme. This could be of a technical, physiological or psychological nature. The course will also provide opportunities for further study and research in a wide variety of related specialist areas including: physiotherapy, nutrition, clinical exercise, strength and conditioning, coaching and education.

Written by Dr Giles Warrington PhD, FACSM
Sport and Exercise Physiologist
Dublin City University

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