Over seventy participants attended the inaugural Irish Football Association (IFA) Health and Wellbeing Conference at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown.
Organised as part of the SCORE Pilot Project, which is funded through the UEFA HatTrick programme, the conference brought together junior players, senior players, their parents and coaches. Hosted by Claire McCollum, the day involved a number of workshops delivered by University of Ulster specialists including Dr Andrea McNeilly, Dr Chris Bleakley, Jim Lowther, William Moore and Alison Moffitt. Topics covered included nutrition, strength and conditioning and player welfare.
IFA technical director Desi Curry formally opened the conference and congratulated the women's department for hosting this innovative event for female footballers.
"Statistics provided by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety highlights that adults in Northern Ireland fail to eat the recommended five pieces of fruit and vegetables per day," said Curry. "Combine this with a general apathy towards exercise and physical activity and we have a society that is generally unhealthy. If we want to produce better footballers in the future, both male and female, it is imperative that we educate our players, parents and coaches about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity."
Guest speaker Helen McKenna, a former Northern Ireland player, outlined to the conference delegates how she managed to juggle her training and match commitments for Northern Ireland and her education/work obligations. Helen is a qualified solicitor who continued to play for her country throughout her studies and during her years of employment with a local Belfast law firm. Helen recently retired from international football and is expecting her first child in September.
The unique nature of this conference meant that players and parents both attended the workshops. Organiser of the conference Sara Booth, the IFA women's domestic football manager, commented: "It was important that the parents attended our Health & Wellbeing Conference as they are the ones that buy and prepare the food. There isn't any point in us telling an 11-year-old what to eat when he or she isn't responsible for preparing the food.
"On behalf of the association I would like to thank UEFA, the University of Ulster and Simply Fruits for making the event possible."
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