Why can't kids take part in contact training when they're sitting together indoors for school?

Jo-Anne Williamson on the frustration being felt by coaches across all sports, even with underage action returning on April 26
Why can't kids take part in contact training when they're sitting together indoors for school?

Covid signage to help prevent the spread of the virus at Wycombe House Tennis Club in Isleworth, London, where they are preparing for re-opening after lockdown restrictions for outdoor sport and leisure facilities are eased. Picture: PA

WHILE the rest of the world seemed to be spiraling out of control last year, our little Isle looked like it was ship-shape and riding high.

However, as other countries have picked up the pace and begun the reopening of sports, public gatherings and so non, we are somewhat stuck in a rut! Looking for ways to exhaust our energies... like most good people, we look to sport.

With less than two weeks until GAA training at county level returns on April 19, the Dublin football kings took matters into their own hands with several players from Dessie's army involved in an outdoor training session, alongside a coach, showing the sporting world that they'd grown tired of waiting.

While I don't support the breaking of government guidelines, I feel their sporting pain. 

Openly defying lockdown protocols has brought the manager under fire with a red flag being waved over just how frustrated sports players of all levels are at this point.

Coaches all around the country have been holding tough for months. After a huge loss of wages and with mental health at breaking point for some, a return can't come fast enough.

With the government recently announcing an April road map, it's set to see tennis, golf and other outdoor sports return at all levels from April 26 along with training for kids at last!

The conditions of these returns are yet to be revealed but judging by restrictions placed on the return to tennis in NI, it falls a little short of the net for coaches.

It seems pods of 15 are most likely in team sports while tennis gets harsher treatment if we are to run in line with Northern Ireland. 

Singles only or doubles with a partner from the same household, strict limiting of group numbers make running any club junior program a tall order and with most clubs at membership capacity, it's a disaster waiting to happen. 

Speaking with Windsor LTC Director, Simon McFarland, his delight at being back on the court is evident although he faces challenges.

Jo-Anne Williamson. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Jo-Anne Williamson. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

"We're only taking private lessons for now. We can have two households on the same court at opposite ends and the coach stays at the net. 

"The demand for private lessons has also been high."

It appears crazy to have this on-court structure as children of school-going age will have been indoors together daily but must distance from each other outside!

GAA BIAS

After the return dates were announced, there was a flurry of resentment towards GAA players getting the jump on other sports. 

Tennis Ireland CEO Richard Fahey was quick to tell me, “GAA are not open before tennis“, a misconception made after the government's announcement of the return to sport dates. 

He assured me that ”Ireland's high-performance players have been training in the National Centre since as far back as last May and that all tennis players will be back on April 26.”

The Davis and Fed Cup panels totaling 16 players have trained hard including two Cork-based girls, while Covid-19 put a firm stop on ordinary-level sport. 

If you were considered high-performance then you were free to continue within the sporting world.

Not so for our national sports though! 

Their elite players only return to train a week before other outdoor activities on April 19. 

A week later the GAA U18 players join alongside the senior elites and a number of other chosen sports. 

I feel less aggrieved knowing this but I question why the GAA was not considered elite in the first place?

While I understand the governing bodies approach being cautious, it does make me wonder why the high-performance players are put ahead of all others? 

Speaking with Bishopstown TC Head Coach Conor Twomey, his view is clear. 

“Club players will bounce back and the elite will continue to improve. I feel it's our juniors on the cusp of high performance that will lose out with the lack of play! 

At provincial level, it's these players I worry about the most. Making that leap into competing at senior tournaments now seems a really big ask, the gap may be too wide."

Sports coaches of all kinds have been sitting in the wings waiting patiently for the opportunity to return to work. 

Former head coach Jo-Anne Williamson with Declan Whelan-Curtin and Ali O'Brien at the Lower Aghada Tennis Club junior close championships before restrictions. Picture: David Keane.
Former head coach Jo-Anne Williamson with Declan Whelan-Curtin and Ali O'Brien at the Lower Aghada Tennis Club junior close championships before restrictions. Picture: David Keane.

Frustration has set in. With a high percentage of coaches being self-employed, the government has made good in following through with the PUP payment but after four months of sitting in the proverbial tramlines, I am beginning to wonder where the sense in it all lies? 

A huge drain on the country's resources. However, we won't be tempted, we will wait! 

Roll on April 26 so we can breathe a sigh of relief.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

jerseywarslogosml
votetextheader

jerseysformpu
echolive

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more