'We all know many teens drop out of sport even before these restrictions...'

St Vincent's chairman and Cork TD Thomas Gould has concerns ahead of the underage return to play
'We all know many teens drop out of sport even before these restrictions...'

The St Vincent's minor hurlers celebrating a Mid-Cork Division 2 Championship win over Clyda Rovers.

ST Vincent’s chairman and Cork North Central TD Thomas Gould has called on the government to engage with stakeholders and develop a plan to help all clubs get young people back to sport.

A recent report, Growing Up in Ireland Covid-19, published by the ESRI examined the difficulties children and teens are facing with their outdoor activities restricted, though non-contact training has been set for April 26 for U18s.

“Over a third of children reported disappointment at missing out on sporting activities due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Almost 40% report that they spent less time in 2020 playing sports than in previous years," explained Gould.

“It’s clear that kids are struggling and my real concern is that many are going to struggle to come back to sports once it is allowed at the end of April. Looking at last summer, many clubs were reporting a reduced turnout and we need to make sure that we don’t lose these kids from sports forever.” 

Gould, whose St Vincent's club deal with many children in the Hollyhill and Knocknaheeney communities, has concerns ahead of children's return to sport.

“I raised this with Minister Catherine Martin last year and she assured me that a plan would be put in place to get kids back into their clubs and organisations and a year later there is still no plan despite a return date being confirmed.” 

In the words of Deputy Gould, engagement with stakeholders is vital to establish an initiative to support clubs in reaching out to young people who haven’t returned after April 26.

“61% of 12-year-olds reported spending more time on screens due to the pandemic and kids will need help to come out the other side of this and get back to normality.

“There is a particular need to make sure that girls come back to their sports and activities as one in five- to 12-year-olds reported low moods as this disproportionately affected girls.

We already know that many young girls drop out of sports coming into their teenage years, my fear is that Covid-19 will exacerbate this.” 

As well as his tireless work in his constituency, he has serious worries for his club as we head into the summer months.

“As chairman of St Vincent’s Hurling and Football club, these concerns are very real for me as I have seen the positive impact that sport has on young people and I know that the mental, and physical, benefits of sport cannot be overlooked.

“This has been a difficult time for many children’s mental health and recognition of that is vital in developing a plan to ensure that these kids can and will return.

“Despite my warnings and despite her assurances, it would appear the Minister Martin has done nothing to develop a plan to make sure that kids do go back when they can.”

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