My son is al­ways a sub — should he quit GAA?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING - WITH DAVID COLE­MAN dcole­man@in­de­pen­dent.ie

MY 11-year-old son plays GAA. He goes to all the train­ing but is then left to sit out the matches un­til the last five min­utes. He doesn’t want to stop go­ing, but he is very up­set com­ing home. He loves train­ing but the

WHAT a dif­fi­cult si­t­u­a­tion your son finds him­self in. There seems to be a point that is reached in all clubs, where un­der­age com­pe­ti­tion trumps un­der­age par­tic­i­pa­tion. Once that hap­pens, those play­ers who get reg­u­lar game time tend to im­prove, while those who get lots of time on the side-line dis­im­prove (both in terms of skill and morale).

I can’t imag­ine that the GAA are alone in this com­pet­i­tive at­ti­tude that sees “good” play­ers favoured over other com­mit­ted (but maybe weaker) play­ers. How­ever, the ap­proach you de­scribe at your son’s club is in di­rect con­tra­dic­tion to the GAA’s own child safe­guard­ing state­ment.

In that doc­u­ment, en­ti­tled Code of Be­hav­iour (Un­der­age) the GAA states that: “Young play­ers should be en­ti­tled to be af­forded ad­e­quate and mean­ing­ful play­ing time to as­sist in the de­vel­op­ment of their play­ing skills within their own age group and in ac­cor­dance with Rule.”

On the fol­low­ing page of the Code of Be­hav­iour (Un­der­age), the GAA states that coaches should matches are hard, as he so rarely ever gets to play. An un­der-10 boy played for the whole game last night while my son and a few other un­der­12s were left out. It’s not good for their con­fi­dence. We don’t have a lot of op­tions for other sports where we live. Should I en­cour­age him to quit be­fore they to­tally crush him?

main­tain a child cen­tred ap­proach within which they “…recog­nise the de­vel­op­ment needs and ca­pac­ity of all un­der­age play­ers, re­gard­less of their abil­ity, by em­pha­sis­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion for all while avoid­ing ex­ces­sive train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion. Skills de­vel­op­ment and per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion should have pri­or­ity over com­pe­ti­tion when work­ing with un­der­age play­ers.”

The fol­low­ing line states that coaches should “…en­sure all those el­i­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in any team within the club are pro­vided with an op­por­tu­nity to do so with pref­er­ence given to their own age group.”

Clearly, many of the de­ci­sions that the coach(es) of your son’s team are mak­ing are at odds with what the GAA are, by their own words, try­ing to pro­mote.

Some of this is, no doubt, cul­tural. I live in a small ru­ral com­mu­nity and I see the force for good that the GAA is in our par­ish. I also see the pas­sion with which all of the vol­un­teers ap­proach the club, at se­nior and un­der­age lev­els. That pas­sion is about the par­ish and the strength of our com­mu­nity, and how that gets rep­re­sented on the field.

It may be that the same pas­sion and a strong de­sire to win un­der­lies the de­ci­sions to side-line some play­ers, in favour of se­lect­ing those that the coaches be­lieve are bet­ter, for the games. Of course your son will be pick­ing up a mes­sage that he is not as good as other chil­dren and this could have an im­pact on his self-es­teem.

Your dilemma, how­ever, is whether the neg­a­tive im­pact of this on your son, in terms of self­es­teem, can be bal­anced by the sense of be­long­ing and fun that he gets dur­ing prac­tice. I could also imag­ine that a lot of his friends are shared friends from both school and the GAA and so, if he stops play­ing GAA it may af­fect his friend­ships too.

Given that the Code of Be­hav­iour (Un­der­age) is in place, and should guide the de­ci­sions of the men­tors and coaches, it is worth go­ing to talk with the var­i­ous peo­ple within the club. Don’t just talk to the coach of the un­der-12s, but talk to the club sec­re­tary and Des­ig­nated Li­ai­son Per­son (DLP). The DLP in par­tic­u­lar should be very fa­mil­iar with the Code of Be­hav­iour.

Talk too with your son. Try to judge how big an im­pact the se­lec­tion pro­ce­dures are hav­ing on him. Does he be­lieve the level of up­set he feels at matches is bal­anced and out­weighed by the fun and en­joy­ment of the train­ing?

Af­ter th­ese con­ver­sa­tions, it may be clearer whether the club will change the pro­ce­dures on the un­der-12 team and if they won’t, whether your son still ben­e­fits, on bal­ance from be­ing part of the team and the club.

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