‘An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.’ – that’s the definition sport in the Oxford dictionary.
Having been involved with my local Minor Club for the last number of years I’ve been amazed at the attitude on the sidelines when it came to games; it’s to win at all costs.
In counties there are amalgamations of more than two clubs – some yes due to numbers but others are geared towards being successful. But success can prove costly because players will give up the game because they aren’t getting game time. Surely as a mentor or member of a club you have a duty of care to every player, not just the best ones.
Nemo Rangers are the most successful senior football club in Ireland and they have a fantastic underage policy; they are not interested in winning underage championships or leagues they want every player to get a game. If they do win something it’s an added bonus for them.
Children are impressionable and if soccer, rugby or another sport treats them better or gives them a better chance of getting a game they will leave the GAA and may be lost to the games forever.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of covering some games in the Féile na nGael. It is a fantastic competition with memories being made for every child that participates. What I found pleasing was that for most of the clubs the focus wasn’t about winning but instead for every boy or girl to get a game and to enjoy themselves.
One of the clubs I covered went on to win their Division and I was not surprised when I saw the result; yes they had some great players but they played as a team and were encouraged to do that, to get every player involved. Their management team never stopped motivating every player. It was fantastic to see.
My local club have for well over 21 years held an U10 Tournament for all the schools in the locality. For several members of the current Longford county team it was actually their first real taste of football. At the end there are four finals with cup/shields for the winners but every player gets a medal (in a proper box too). There is more excitement for the medal and the goodies than there is for winning the finals. At the end of the day it’s all about participation.
I remember back to a time when I played (or should I say tried to play) football and at the end of a game when you asked the ref the result, he’d reply “a draw.” We were all gullible and believed it was a draw. The thing for us was we got to play football and we enjoyed it.
The ideals of the GAA’s Go Games for U6s to U11s is ‘a level of fun, friendship, fair play and achievement derived by participants and every player gets a ‘go’ during the game. Wouldn’t it be great if that went for all underage grades. Is the price price of instant success more important than the future of clubs and the well being of players?