CORK GAA has led the way in recent times in the promotion of physical activity in communities throughout the county as well as being conscious of the mental health of players and all involved in the sport.
Nest Monday thousands of players will return to training in pods of 15, on a non-contact basis.
A vast range of content has been rolled out to cater to players at child and youth level organised by Rebel Óg Coaching.
In February, Colm Crowley and Pat Spratt launched a weekly series of fundamental activities for Primary School teachers and pupils to use as part of their PE programme in the absence of face-to-face interaction.
The activities were easy to follow, required very little space and little or no equipment while most importantly great fun.
They were a great support to teachers and there were more than 50,000 interactions with the content through their Youtube account. This was followed up in March with a focus on club players at child level by bringing activities to club coaches on a weekly basis which they could use with their players at grassroots level.
The GAA at national level have also enhanced this offering with a Be Ready To Play initiative designed to provide resources to coaches at child level.
Cork GAA have also been very proactive at teenage groups targeting individual skills practice for players on a weekly basis, again through its Youtube channel propagating the mastery of right and left sides of the body covering the basic skills in both hurling and football.
Players and coaches have also got guidance around athletic development, injury prevention and nutrition through the GAA Return To Play programme.
Players who are on regional representative squads have been working on their leadership skills with their peers, sharing what their club and community means to them and getting to know other players through online communities being formed by GDAs and development squad mentors.
Boys on county U15,16 and minor county panels have had access to talks around dealing with setbacks in sport and life, controlling their reaction to stimulus, dealing with stressful situations and general mindfulness strategies that will be useful in everyday life.
The players have access to high-quality conditioning programmes led by high-performance manager, Aidan O’Connell, and inter-county players such as Eoin Cadogan, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mattie Taylor, Mark Collins and more have all contributed enormously to these boys well being in various ways over the last few months, which shows the strength and unity of the Cork GAA family.
This combined with individual clubs linking in with players has ensured that the pandemic has not been as bad as it might otherwise have been for our youths across the county as all played their part in trying to take care of young players' mental health.
The GAA’s Mental Health charter is a policy document that helps clubs develop a culture that supports and promotes positive mental health. The resource is designed to reinforce the GAA’s ‘ Give Respect Get Respect’ initiative’s positive message and transfer it into the world of mental wellbeing.
It outlines a club culture that is inclusive and open and one that holds the following values clear: Respect, encouragement, support, positivity, and being enabling, considerate and tolerantt.
In these difficult days, Rebel Óg would encourage all clubs to be mindful of this area and to be conscious of the needs of individual players/coaches in the coming weeks.
All can’t wait to get back training from next week, but for some, it may not be possible for a variety of reasons. Rebel Óg would encourage underage structures to be mindful of this and to not ‘forget’ those they may not be able to return just yet.
Try and keep them in the loop and continue to communicate with them as well as those back training. It has been a tough time for thousands of people in different ways and they would encourage clubs to not make it tougher for many.
Rebel Óg are also asking all clubs to adhere to the guidelines that have been set out: non-contact and pods of 15 including coaches.
Whilst they accept this is not what all want they are asking all to play their part in the hope the restrictions will be lifted soon and also to ensure we don’t go the opposite way and end up in another lockdown.
It’s great for underage players to be back doing what they love, no matter what the sport, and let’s hope that it will continue to move forward in the coming weeks and it won’t be long before games are back.