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A lasting legacy

Wednesday 14 March 2012

In the University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science (CSES), experts are working with a number of high-profile athletes, including Sheffield’s new boxing superstar in the making, Kell Brook.

The CSES team have been helping Kell prepare for his biggest fight yet – a world title fight against American boxer Devon Alexander in Detroit’s Masonic Theatre that was scheduled for 23 February, but has since been postponed due to an injury to the American.

Sport scientist Dave Hembrough has been working closely with Kell since before his last fight, an impressive third round knockout of Argentinian Hector Saldivia. He says: “My role is a strength and conditioning coach, mainly working at keeping him injury free, keeping him strong, making sure he’s in good shape in the build-up to the fight.

“Between myself and my colleague Alan Ruddock, we put Kell through his paces and then measure his performance to make sure it’s working. We’re concentrating on recovery and regeneration, so he can adapt and benefit from training as much as possible.

“For Kell, the schedule and the detail is behind the scenes. He trusts us that what we tell him to do, he’s capable of doing and it’s good for him. He’s very experienced and he’s very comfortable in his environment.

“Stepping out in front of 15,000 people and walking down to the ring, with the lights and noise, would scare most people. But for him it’s every day – he’s very mentally tough and very confident.”

Kell has impressed the CSES team with his commitment to the training regime, which aims to ensure he is at his physical and mental peak for the world title fight against Devon Alexander.

Yet it’s not just sporting superstars in the making that are benefitting from the University’s work to create a legacy of impact from London 2012. For students in the University’s Academy of Sport and Physical Activity, the true impact of the Games, and the promised world of opportunity they opened up was the subject of the annual Physical Education, Sport Development and Coaching conference, organised by lecturers from the Academy and hosted at the University in January.

The conference brings sport industry professionals to the University for two intensive days of workshops and keynote addresses with the students, who are assessed on their learning throughout the conference.

Sport lecturer Sarah Wenham says: “Having worked extensively within industry prior to joining Sheffield Hallam, the teaching team have an unrivalled contact list within the sport and PE professions. They use this to ensure that the students benefit from two days of working alongside high-profile experts from local and national sporting organisations, and we are enormously grateful to them for giving their time, knowledge and expertise for free.”

This year Premier League referee Howard Webb spoke to students about the values of sportsmanship, and former minister of sport Richard Caborn gave a workshop on the organisation of major sporting events. Both have honorary doctorates from the University.

John Steele, chief executive officer of the Youth Sport Trust, gave one of the keynote speeches, focusing on Olympic legacy. “There’s something special about sport’s ability to galvanise change,” he says. “If you get sport right, in terms of developing young people’s lives, there are big knock-on effects, not just in sport, but outside of it as well.

“As well as kids learning important skills and achieving their potential, it means people living better longer, cutting obesity, reducing crime, economic growth and more productivity.

“Did we inspire a generation? Only time will tell. We excited a generation, but we’ll know if we inspired them in about five or ten years’ time. Because inspiration has to lead somewhere – if you don’t feed it with opportunities, it fizzles out.”

Inspiration and opportunity are the key principles behind the University’s highly successful Performance Athlete Support Programme (PASP). Performance athletes at Sheffield Hallam are currently benefiting from around £82,000 worth of investment, including individual scholarships ranging from £1,000 a year to £6,000 a year.

The programme is benefiting a team of 57 performance athletes, which includes Olympian Ellie Faulkner, by giving them unlimited access to facilities and supports their training and studies.

The scheme also provides athletes with sport science support, including strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, performance coaching, nutrition advice and access to a sport psychologist.

Over at the Centre for Sports Engineering Research (CSER) a team is working with a range of partners on a new project at the U-Mix development at Lowfield sport ground in Sheffield. The four-year ProFit project is a European Union funded initiative to develop new sports technologies and analyse how people use local facilities.

David Curtis from CSER has led the project and set up a field lab at the site. He will monitor and evaluate how people use the site and analyse the way they use a unique new piece of training equipment, Cone2020.

The cone can detect nearby objects, like players and balls, and has 16 lights pointing in different directions. The system creates various games for multiple players and is highly portable.

While his colleagues work with Kell Brook, Dr Garry Tew from CSES is involved in a £250,000 study into improving older people’s health before major surgery. It’s hoped the two-year research project will help patients recover from surgery quicker and, in the long-term, help the NHS save money.

Garry is also working on a series of education workshops for people suffering from leg artery disease. The sessions will promote exercise, which is known to improve the condition, and teach sufferers to better manage the disease. The project will run for a year and involve 55 patients.

The role of sport and physical activity in promoting health has become a key part of the government’s strategy for addressing health issues. It was recently announced that the Sheffield headquarters of the prestigious National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine will be based at Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre in the south of the city.

The focus of the centre is the promotion of physical activity and improving the health and productivity of the city’s population.

The government has allocated £10m to develop the Sheffield site, with other centres based in London and the east midlands.

The development of the centre is being managed by a partnership of the city’s two universities, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield International Venues, NHS Sheffield, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, English Institute of Sport and the voluntary sector.

So it’s not just the University’s students and future sport superstars that are able to benefit from the University’s expertise. With other projects set to have a real impact on people across the city, here is the evidence of a lasting legacy for all.

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