Solan: New training techniques protecting players

Strength and conditioning training is improving the quality of life GAA players will enjoy during and particularly after their careers, according to Barry Solan, one of the country’s leading physical trainers.

In recent seasons “strength and conditioning” has become one of the buzz terms in Gaelic games, much to the suspicion of some traditionalists who doubt the value of sport science and that it is superseding the primacy of skill.

However, Solan, who this year has been a coach to Katie Taylor, the Polish national soccer team, the Laois footballers and his Ballaghaderreen team who contest Sunday’s Connacht SFC club final, maintains the growth in his field in Gaelic games has not been at the cost of skill, while the traditionalists are overlooking just how dangerous and outdated previous training regimes for players were.

“I’d say the value of proper strength and conditioning training is that it is preparing lads for the demands of the game that they’re playing and that it helps keep them healthy to make sure that when they’re finished playing, they can continue to live healthy lives and that they’re not crippled,” says Solan, the subject of tomorrow’s Irish Examiner Big Interview.

“I know from reading the papers there are still some commentators wary of its merits and wondering where it was in their day but I can tell them that I’m inundated with phone calls from lads who are finished playing inter-county training and are crippled from the wrong training.

“There has rarely been a lack of effort in the GAA, just a lack of direction, and strength and conditioning coaches can help provide that.”

Solan, who will be entering into his third season with Justin McNulty and the Laois footballers in 2013, also contends that skill will continue to be the key differential in the sport.

“If you’re not able to compete physically, then you’re not going to compete in football. It’s as simple as that. But likewise, even if you’re in very good shape physically but aren’t in good shape footballwise, you’re not going to be able to compete at the top end either. That hasn’t changed.

“It’s just now there’s a little more detail known about what the actual game is like.

“It’s a stop-start game, the same as any other field sport. There’s no need to be running marathons as I would have myself with the club coming up through the ranks.”

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