Spotlight on Kitman Labs – The Athlete Optimisation System


FOUNDED: Nov 1st, 2012

FOUNDERS: Stephen Smith & Larfhlaith Kelly

HEAD OFFICE : Dublin, Ireland


What is Kitman Labs?

Kitman Labs is one of the rising stars in the Irish sports technology space. This position was confirmed at the 2018 BT Sport Industry Awards as the organisation was named winner of the inaugural Performance Technology of the Year Award. The company will be presenting at the September’s Masterclass in Sports Entrepreneurship, a workshop in partnership with SportsTech Ireland. With that in mind, we wanted to place a spotlight on this fascinating Irish sports tech solution.

Kitman Labs are the developers of a sports-based technology software designed to manage athlete health and performance. The technology help athletes, and trainers, to predict and manage injury. Kitman Lab’s system enables athletes to reduce the risk of injury, while improving overall performance.

How Did This All Come About?

Stephen Smith came up with the idea that would become Kitman Labs while working as the senior rehabilitation coach at Leinster Rugby. At the time Leinster had started to collect a large volume of data on its players without having any clear idea how to use it. Unfortunately, as is the case with many similar outfits, injuries were a serious problem at Leinster Rugby. Stephen watched on as players were forced to call time on their careers due to injury. Young players with many years left in them, given no other option but to retire. This is an unfortunate and ongoing issue across the world of professional rugby.

As an onlooker, Stephen was left frustrated at the amounts of data being collected with no real purpose. The issue he discovered was that the tools simply weren’t there to enable the club to do anything with the data collected. Instead of passively watching the ongoing injury problem grow, Stephen felt compelled to do something about it. “I felt like the athletes deserved more from us. We owed them a duty of care.”

As Stephen was completing his master’s degree he decided to place a focus on the topic of  “Combined Risk Factors as Predictors of Injury”. That is, using data collected on athletes to help predict future injuries. The findings that Stephen gathered from this research were then used on the Leinster Rugby team squad to great effect. The successful implementation of this system was enough for Stephen to pursue the idea of turning his solution into a start-up. And so, Kitman Labs was born.

How it Works

When working with Kitman Labs, teams collect data on their athletes. This includes daily movement assessments, subjective metrics about sleep, diet, soreness and mood. Teams can also aggregate data from third party devices such as GPS or game metrics. Once the data is centralised, teams have the flexibility to create data visuals and interrogate the data through their own analysis. This allows them to tailor training or recovery plans to each athlete or make quick interventions for at-risk-athletes.

There is no shortage of data in sport. However, there is a lack of tools that enable teams to properly interpret and find meaningful answers in the data.

Kitman Labs has built the world’s only Athlete Optimisation System™ that links data back to performance and injury. This helps teams to automatically identify meaningful trends in their athlete’s information. Management can therefore make quick decisions on how to improve the health and performance of the individual. Using Kitman Labs, coaches are able to understand the variables that elevate injury risk for individuals. Likewise with Kitman Labs performance analytics, teams are able to connect athlete data back to on-field performance metrics. This means that coaches can make decisions about an athlete’s training that will directly influence their ability to succeed on the field.

See Kitman Labs 3D Capture in Action

The short clip below gives a good idea as to how Kitman Lab’s 3D capture solution uses motion sensors during the player screening process.

Greater Player Availability – Greater Results

Kitman Lab’s mission is to change how sports teams use data to improve the health and performance of their athletes. The company believes that winning has as much to do with science as it does with desire. Kitman Lab’s products and services provide actionable insights that improve player availability and deliver stronger team results. They do this through employing a combination of machine learning and multivariate techniques that are grounded in scientific research.

There has been a tremendous amount of advancement in modern day sport. Teams can benefit from more advanced training methods as well as more sophisticated nutritional information. Nonetheless, the rise of injury is an ongoing concern. A tech solution that can proactively combat this issue is an exciting development to say the very least.

Breaking the Elite Performers Market

Kitman Labs has been working with some high profile clients worldwide to help them get the very best out of their players. Injury prediction, a previously foreign concept, is becoming a real option for sports teams. Some notable clients of Kitman Labs include American sports teams such as LA Galaxy, Buffalo Bills, San Jose Sharks and the NY Yankees. A number of top level rugby clubs such as Saracens, Bath and Leinster Rugby. As well as a host of English Premier League clubs. With users of their solution experiencing a huge drop in both injury layoffs and performance outcomes, the future looks very bright indeed for Kitman Labs.

Another high profile adopter of Kitman Lab’s ‘Athlete Optimisation Solution’ has been Rowing Ireland. Recently, we caught up with European and World Champion, Mark O’Donovan. We discussed how Irish rowers are using Kitman Labs to improve performance, Mark’s rigorous training schedule and the value of upskilling for elite performers. Mark also looked ahead to the massive challenge facing himself and teammate Shane O’Driscoll. The pair recently moved from lightweight to heavyweight in the hope of landing a place at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

This guest post was kindly contributed by Ben Dillon, Content Manager At Inkvine. If you would like to guest post at SportsTech Ireland, feel free to get in touch. 

Spotlight on the FitrWoman App With Co-Founder, Grainne Conefrey

SPOTLIGHT ON: FitrWoman powered by Orreco


FOUNDERS: Grainne Conefrey and Georgie Bruinvels

HEAD OFFICE : Galway, Ireland


In September 2018, SportsTech Ireland and Kemmy Business School, UL launched the Sports Entrepreneurship Masterclass, which was the very first of its kind in Ireland. The two day event welcomed athletes, entrepreneurs, coaches and leading sports innovators to participate and present at the event. Over the course of the two days, there were many insightful lectures. One of the standout product talks, in terms of ingenuity and innovation, was given by Orreco Product Development Manager and FitrWoman Co-Founder Grainne Conefrey.

FitrWoman allows female athletes to optimise performance during their menstrual cycle. Many studies have highlighted that the menstrual cycle can be a major deterrent for women partaking in sport. In a study conducted by Populus on behalf Orreco, 54% of women have had to stop exercising as a result of their menstrual cycle. This increases to 73% in 16 to 24-year-olds. In a separate study by Women in Sport it was identified that 42% of women do not exercise while on their period. The FitrWoman app is helping to combat these issues. The app helps athletes to track their menstrual cycle. It then provides personalised training and nutritional suggestions tailored to the changing hormone levels throughout the cycle. We caught up with Grainne to discuss how the product came about, the remarkable highs to date and what’s next for this invaluable product.

Intrapreneurship and the Development of FitrWoman

Although FitrWoman first launched in the Apple Store in 2016, the seeds were planted years previously. Grainne graduated from UCD with a degree in Sports & Exercise Management. Her first job out of college was outside of Ireland in Boston where she worked with Hill Holiday Marketing Agency. Grainne explained the relevance of this role.

One of the biggest clients was Major League Baseball and I was working with the MLB account team. In this role I was working closely with the marketing team, developing the next seasons campaign. I also had to research and analyse the other major competitive sports in the USA. This included the NBA, NFL, NHL. It was an amazing experience.”

This experience gave Grainne her first taste of working with elite athletes. Upon moving back to Ireland she wanted to continue in this field and started working with Orreco in Sligo. Orreco is a company that is well known to SportsTech Ireland. It was founded in 2009 by Dr. Brian Moore and Dr. Andrew Hodgson. Their goal is to use proven sports and data science to enable elite athletes to perform at their best.

It was through this role that Grainne met Georgie Bruinvels. Georgie is a research scientist who,at the time, was completing a PHD on female athletes and the effect of the menstrual cycle on performance.

Through her research, Georgie was discovering all these fascinating insights, most of which weren’t widely known by the public. There was information on how the body changes during the menstrual cycle and how you can adapt your nutrition to perform better during your cycle. The more we spoke, the more we decided that this is something that all female athletes should know. We decided to pitch our idea to Orreco and see where it would take us.”

This bit of intrapreneurship proved vital to FitrWoman’s success. Having the backing and support of an established sports science company afforded them huge opportunity for growth.

Orreco gave us a small fund to put toward the development of the first version of FitrWoman. Initially, we outsourced the development to create an MVP version. However, after the success of this version, Orreco backed us even further and we were able to bring development in-house. We have a fantastic product team and sports science team to help us with future development. FitrWoman has very much become a part of the Orreco roadmap. Having the support of Orreco from the start has been incredible and has created some great opportunities for us.” 

Forbes, CNN, Ladies GAA and the US Swimming Team

FitrWoman is the first app of its kind on the market. Although there are other apps that help women to track their menstrual cycle, there is none that come from the angle of physiology and sporting performance. FitrWoman has been able to use this innovative angle as well as the help from a very well established company in Orreco, to garner worldwide attention and achieve success that is very inspiring for such a fledgling product.

We’ve definitely had a lot of great moments already. We were featured in Forbes Magazine, CNN, Italian Vogue and The Guardian. Georgie recently did a podcast with Judy Murray (Scottish Tennis Coach and Creator of Miss-Hits, mother of Andy Murray), who is a massive fan of the app. Sonia O’ Sullivan has also been introducing the app to younger athletes. Outside of that we were also featured in the App Store under ‘Best New Apps’. That’s something I like to tell people. Getting featured on the app store is much harder than you’d think. There are millions of apps out there!

In the past year, we have been working with some amazing athletes. Amongst others, we work closely with the Oregon Track Club in America and British Cross Country Champion, Emelia Górecka, has become a brand ambassador.

We have also signed some exciting partnership deals with the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and with the USA Female Swimming Team. The LGFA are a fantastic organisation to work with and we both have very similar goals to increase participation and awareness. Five players have also signed up as ambassadors. Working with the US Swimming Team will be a science and research partnership. It’s a partnership that we hope both sides will learn a huge amount from” 

Bringing an Elite Performance Platfrom to the General Public

FitrWoman is available to all users for free on the App Store. When the app was initially launched, it was aimed specifically at elite athletes. However, Georgie and Grainne quickly realised that they could translate the information in a way that was accessible and beneficial to the general public. While working with their elite athletes, Grainne and Georgie were able to build a bank of questions that athletes were interested in. This has helped them to develop the app even further.

Along with this, FitrWoman continues to grow its coaching platform. This is a paid offering where coaches can monitor their own athletes. The coach has access to a team dashboard. Through this dashboard players upload information about any symptoms they might be experiencing or where they are in their menstrual cycle. The coach is then given suggested plans tailored to individual’s needs. The platform helps coaches to better understand the players and work with them to optimise performance.

An Ambitious Vision for the Future

It is a testament to the ingenuity and effectiveness of the app that FitrWoman was featured in such prestigious publications as Forbes and CNN. Aside from the positive feedback and media spotlight, FitrWoman is also starting to grow a dedicated community of users. This early success has afforded Grainne to look ahead to a very positive future.

At the moment we are putting a huge amount of focus on app-performance and user engagement. To make a great app, you need to constantly be upgrading and making improvements with your target user in mind

We are putting a big emphasis on making our content very user-friendly. We also want our users to be able to interpret the data they are capturing in FitrWoman and make it beneficial and actionable for them. Right now, we are focusing on creating charts and insights to allow users to track their cycle and activity over time. Something else that we are pursuing is ‘wearables’ and integrating devices such as FitBits and Apple Watches into FitrWoman

And the Grand Vision for FitrWoman?

Our big ambition is to be the number one exercise tool for women. We want FitrWoman to become part of a daily routine. That desire is what is driving us forward right now.”

It is very inspiring to see an Irish Sports Technology company making such big strides and having such a positive impact on females in sport. If early signs are anything to go by there is a very bright future for Grainne, Georgie and their team at FitrWoman and Orreco. We would like to say a massive thank you to Grainne for sharing her story. For all our readers, be sure to head over to the App Store and download the FitrWoman app

If you would like to hear more from exciting Irish Sports Technology companies, why not check out our Spotlight on Kitman Labs. Kitman Labs have created another fascinating tool developed to assist in athlete’s performance.

To learn more about our recent Sports Entrepreneurship Masterclass, check out this blog post

The Biggest Test of My Career – Irish World Champion Rower Mark O’Donovan- 2018 Interview

Technology is empowering athletes like never before in history. In sport, the most marginal of improvements can change everything. This is especially evident in rowing, where time and synchronisation is all important, miniscule adjustments can make all the difference. Irish rower Mark O’Donovan is now embarking on a challenge where every detail counts. Technology has played its part in what is sure to be a heroic journey. We caught up with Mark to talk all things rowing, technology, upskilling and taking on the biggest challenge of his career.

On Top of the World

2017 was a great year for rower Mark O’Donovan and his teammate Shane O’Driscoll. The pair were standing on top of the world having won gold medals at both the European and World Championships in the lightweight division. An unbeatable year like that doesn’t happen by accident. Years of training and competing had propelled them to the very top of their sport.

After hitting those great heights, 2018 represents a whole new challenge. They might be world champions but a change in structure meant their lightweight doubles category was no longer an Olympic event. A decision had to be made, there were options available but as Mark explained, really, there was only one.

After winning the World Championships last year we had to sit down and think about what’s next. Do we want to win another World Championships at lightweight or do we want to go to the Olympics? That decision was easy as Olympics has always been the dream.

We then had to think of the route there. Do we join up with a new crew at lightweight or stay in the same category together and move up to heavyweight. There really was only one option, we had to stick together. 2017 showed us that we had something special. We believe we have what it takes, it’s just a matter of moving up and embracing the challenge.

Taking on the Heavyweights

Deciding to move up to heavyweight is no mean feat. From being world champions, they now have to compete against much bigger men. At 5’10, Mark is the taller of the two and it’s not uncommon to face rowers of 6’7, as was the case recently in the Irish National Finals. In rowing, that kind of advantage counts for an awful lot. The challenge that Mark and Shane are embarking on could be one of the great Irish sporting stories if it goes their way.

At the National Rowing Centre in Farron Woods, sipping on a smoothie, in what now must be a common sight given the enormous 4,000+ calories they have to eat each day to gain weight, Mark spoke of the challenges behind the transition.

There are a lot of them. Qualification for the Olympics will come down to the World Championships in August 2019 where we have to finish in the top 11. We’ve only been at this “heavyweight project” for a couple of months now. That doesn’t give us much time. The big challenge at the minute is trying to put on mass while staying as aerobically fit as we can. We are eating all day to compensate for the training. It’s definitely tough to stomach at times.

Most of the guys that we’ll be up against will be naturally bigger. They would be around 90-95 kg while we are currently 76-78 kg. It’s not just weight, it’s lung capacity, VO2max, lever length and the experience of competing at heavyweight. We will be on the back foot for sure, we just have to row better and be technically more efficient than the rest. It is about being smarter, that’s our tactic anyway. We are well used to having the gun to our head so it doesn’t phase us too much.”

Train Like An Olympian

Competing at an elite level and undertaking such a big challenge is a full-time commitment. Mark’s schedule is jam packed, for six days a week every minute is accounted for. Mark explained the full-time training schedule that they hope will launch them into unchartered territory.

“We train six days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday it’s three session a day and Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we go twice a day.

Most days are pretty similar. Up early and out the door around half 8. Usually we are pushing our boats off around 9/9:30 and we’re in the water for 90 minutes. After that it’s either off to the weights room or home depending on the day. In between you are trying to get a bit of food in but it’s difficult to eat with all the exercise we’d be doing. All you can stomach is porridge and maybe some supplements that are high in calories.

Once we get home after that we try to properly refuel and rest. If you can, you get another hour or so of sleep. That’s just to increase the overall hours of sleep which are obviously very important when training so much.

We try to get back down to the rowing centre before 5 o’clock  for an evening session. We push out as many sessions as we can in the water. If the water’s not rowable, we go indoors and use the rowing machines. It’s the time on the water and getting that mileage in that’s all important. Once that session is done, it’s evening and it’s home time again. That’s pretty much it. In between it all you try to get as much food into you and plenty of caffeine!”

Getting a Technical Edge With Kitman Labs

This gruelling schedule works in tandem with a company well known to Sportstech Ireland – Kitman Labs. Operating out of Dublin, Kitman Labs is a leading sports and analytics company used to help elite athletes optimize their training. (We spoke with Kitman Labs at the official launch of SportsTech Ireland.)

The Institute of Sport use Kitman Labs to track our training data. We put our entire schedule, training loads and recovery down on that. If something isn’t right we get flagged and make changes off the back of that. It’s very reassuring to get a report back every now and again. The software confirms your mileage and breaks down the intensity levels of your training. It helps to give your training a steer definitely.”

When asked if there was any other pieces of technology that he used to gain an advantage, his answer was an app you might not expect.

I use a meditation app called “Calm” as much as I can. I try to use it every day. The app guides you through a meditation session and helps to relax the mind. It’s all about following your breath and slowing down. It’s only a small thing but helps to calm the nerves and get a mental edge.”

Life Outside of Rowing

This type of professionalism and volume of training seems to leave little time for anything else. Mark spoke of life outside of sport and the importance of upskilling.

Thankfully, we currently get Sports Council Funding and that helps to keep us afloat. I used to work with EMC but found it difficult to mix the two. It’s great now to be able to put full focus on rowing and the World Championships. Upskilling is definitely important and I took a year out in 2013/2014 to do a Masters in Sports Performance which I found great.

At the moment, as you probably noticed from our schedule, there is little time for much else. During the Winter, I do try to train others. I usually take up strength and conditioning training for a few different clubs. Rowing Ireland also run a coaching programme that the coaches attend. I teach the Level 1 Strength & Conditioning through that which is great learning experience also.

During the Summer it is hard to do that but it’s important to get a positive distraction during the Winter months. That could be in trying to get some external studies or ways to further yourself. You don’t want to be stagnant. Thankfully, I have a degree behind me but you want to keep your coaching and Continued Professional Development (CPD) up while you are competing.”

A Promising Start to Heavyweight Life

Mark and his teammate Shane have a challenge of David vs Goliath proportions ahead of them as they try to bag a spot at Tokyo 2020. The early signs are quite encouraging however.

On July 15th, it was Irish Olympic heroes the O’Donovan brothers that grabbed the headlines winning gold at the World Cup 3 in Lucerne. Somewhat under the radar there was another impressive milestone for a pair of heavyweight newcomers. Only months after making the unprecedented jump from lightweight, Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll finished third in the Men’s B Final and 9th out of 28th overall. In the overall context of what they are trying to achieve, 9th in the world was a major signal of intent. The first rumblings of what may well be one of the great Irish underdog stories.

Thanks to Mark O’Donovan for speaking with us and we wish him all the best for the year ahead. We initially caught up with Mark to discuss our upcoming MasterClass in Sports Entrepreneurship. The two-day MasterClass is perfect for all those passionate about sports who would like to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. For full-time or part-time athletes it’s a launchpad into entrepreneurial life. You can find full details for the September event here.

Photo Cred –, balintczucz

Masterclass in Sports Entrepreneurship

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