Recently, Ardscoil Rís announced a renewed and expanded whole-school health, wellbeing and fitness initiative with Setanta. Through the initiative the school aims to build on its impressive track record in sporting terms while also catering to the wider student base, staff and parents/guardians. 

Below, Dylan Kenny (Athletic Development Coach with Setanta) provides some more information on the project while also outlining some key aspects in Developing a Schoolwide Athletic Development Programme.  

An Overview of the Initiative

There are three primary sports played in Ardscoil Rís in hurling, rugby and hockey. Through this initiative, all athletes within these sports have athletic development support throughout the week. However, with over 60 staff and 730 students, this expanded partnership aimed to include a number of different initiatives that would ensure the entire school community is supported – including students who don’t play or no longer play sports. The key areas of the initiative include:

  • Athletic Development Support for Teams: As mentioned above, students involved in hurling, rugby and soccer receive athletic development support throughout the week. Before any programs were designed all athletes completed a movement screen, which allowed us to get a better understanding of the ability of each group. Specific athletic development programs are designed for each team, with the demands of the sport, the training age of the athletes and the competition schedule taken into account.
  • Athletic Development Support for the Wider Student Population: Ardscoil Rís wanted this venture into athletic development to be school-wide. As a result of this in addition to the athletic development programs for all the sports teams, we are running several different initiatives. One of the main initiatives that we are running is providing athletic development support for students who don’t play a sport or have fallen away from sports. The goal of this is to drive improvements in health and well-being by improving basic movement patterns and functions, which will benefit everyday life and could potentially motivate the student to get back into sports. This initiative is being carried out through the student’s P.E. classes, where an athletic development coach will come into the class and deliver a session which focuses on functional movements and education. The overall goal of this initiative is to provide students, who may not have any previous training history, with the knowledge and competence to design and execute personal programs in the future.
  • Educational Workshops: Another initiative within the project is a series of workshops/talks that will be beneficial to all students. Parents/Guardians are also integral to these workshops to help create a greater chance of positive change. These workshops/talks focus on areas such as nutrition and psychology and are carried out throughout the school year. Topics can include a wide-range of information such as nutrition for health and sport, while the use of psychological skills such as imagery, reflection or self-talk can have positive impacts on a student’s life and well-being.
  • Staff Health & Wellbeing: To ensure that the athletic development programme is school-wide, it is important to not forget about the well-being of the teachers. Exercise programs that are tailored to the needs and goals of the teachers are sent out to the teachers each month through RYPT. The program ranges from strength, hypertrophy or conditioning-based programs. Each month, an athletic development coach is available for drop-in sessions to go over the new programs and ask any questions that the teachers may have.

Key Aspects of Developing a Schoolwide Programme 

  • Communication: As with setting up any athletic development programme in an organisation, communication and organisation play a large role in determining its success. However, in a school environment, this is even more important, due to the fact that there are three different sports, at multiple different age grades, with different competitive and training schedules that need equal attention. Making a schedule, highlighting when all teams have access to athletic development sessions, is one of the first steps in setting up a school athletic development programme. With the ever-changing nature of a school schedule such as trips away and exams, this schedule needs to be flexible and have the ability to move sessions where needed, timely and clear communication between the teachers, coaches and athletic development will enable this to happen smoothly.
  • Tailor the Programme for Each Group: The athletic development programme must be tailored to the needs of each group that is involved, whether that is 1st-year teams which may have no prior training history or whether that is a senior team which is looking to perform and compete. For example the younger athletes, such as the 1st and 2nd year groups, programs have a large focus on movement prep and correct exercise form, with the intention of preparing them for more structured programs as they get older. The older groups such as senior hurling and rugby, who have had previous experience working with athletic development coaches in the past, have programs that are more structured to prepare them for competition.
  • Long-Term Planning: As with any youth athletic development programme, long-term planning should be implemented. As mentioned above each program is designed with the athlete’s training history and maturation in mind. Athlete’s maturation will be monitored by collecting peak height velocity (PHV) data from every student in the school, this data will help the assigning of appropriate program to student groups. According to the student maturation status, they will focus on certain training goals and modalities such as hypertrophy, strength or power. The overall goal of this initiative is to make sure that all students are competent in a wide range of exercise techniques and modalities, this can only be done by having a long-term plan.  


In summary, when creating a school-wide youth athletic development it is important to focus on long-term athletic development goals while focusing on all aspects of athletic development such as health, nutrition and psychological well-being. Ensuring that all students, whether they play sports or not, have access to athletic development support, is essential to creating a school-wide programme.