THE link between education and good health is key – and one North Belfast school is going that extra mile to increase participation in sport.
Mercy College earlier this month accepted Year 8 boys for the first time and to celebrate the news, the school is investing further in a unique sport project.
First introduced in the north in September 2015, the first Little League Sport (LLS) post-16 programme was started at Mercy College.
LLS focuses on innovative sports coaching and education with the ultimate aim of increasing participation in sport and training the next generation of industry leaders.
The large team full-team of expert staff include PE teachers, UEFA-licensed coaches, multi-sport specialists and early-years professionals all ready to pass on their experiences.
Since being founded in 2008, the initiative has become one of the UK and Ireland’s fastest growing sports coaching and education companies as well as thriving in parts of Africa, USA, Canada, Finland, Sri Lanka and Qatar.
The LLS programme started in Mercy College with 18 pupils from across Belfast who came to study a Your Future Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport which is the UCAS equivalent to three A-Levels and provides direct access to university. It was the start of a very successful two years.
The dedication displayed by the pupils before the course had even started was impressive as many of them decided to leave the familiar surroundings of their own school and travel from Larne, Lisburn, Carrickfergus and Carryduff to Mercy College each day. That dedication is vital in the world of sport and from the beginning the buy-in of the pupils involved in the course was never in doubt.
Pupils with international playing profiles, pupils with national coaching experience and pupils with outstanding GCSE results resulted in the Mercy College cohort being the strongest across all centres in the UK and Ireland.
Over the two years the pupils travelled to Liverpool on five different occasions to experience LLS pathways, including life as a university pupil in Hope University. They got to meet coaching employers from all over the world and they got to network with LLS graduates locally, nationally and internationally.
The LLS graduates are now based across the globe, coaching in USA, Sri Lanka or completing university courses back home.
Since the initial cohort of 18 at Mercy College in 2015 the partnership has grown from strength to strength and as of September 4 this year there are over 40 pupils studying with LLS at Mercy College.
As well as studying on the full time programme and gaining insight into life at university and global coaching pathways, LLS place a huge emphasis on work experience and quality work placement where the pupils will be expected to complete 200 hours during the course.
Over the past two years pupils have gained valuable PE and after-schools work experience in sessions in Mercy College’s feeder primary schools, their own primary schools as well as high quality sessions with Crusaders FC, Rosario FC and Hillsborough Boys FC. The pupils will be involved in a very exciting new schools sports initiative and this will be commencing after Christmas. These placements give the pupils the skills to become better people as well as better coaches/students and these skills are often the attributes needed to be successful in the world of sport. The pupils will also gain the opportunity to travel on many of the Your Tour experiences in Madrid, Helsinki, Glasgow and Sri Lanka. These experiences provide the pupils with the chance to coach in completely different environments around the world.
Each year the pathways that the LLA pupils can access are more exciting than the year before, especially with new international partnership in Doha, Qatar and also in China.
With the World Cup in Qatar less than five years away, there is no doubt that some of the current pupils will be based in Qatar from 2021 onwards working with the next generations of sports industry leaders.
For further information on LLS courses you can visit the LLS website on or call 0151 2943229. There are also a few spaces left on the Level 2 course for this year and you can contact Mercy College on 028 90391769.