Dr. Wade Gilbert: 'I'd love to replicate the GAA in the USA'
By John Harrington
Dr. Wade Gilbert, one of the key-note speakers at last weekend’s 2017 GAA Games Development Conference, says he’s envious of the sporting culture fostered by the GAA.
Known as 'The Coach Doc', Gilbert is an award-winning professor in the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Fresno, California.
He’s the author of recently published book, ‘Coaching Better Every Season’, and one of the most respected authorities on sports coaching in the world.
He has travelled the globe giving presentations like last Saturday’s in Croke Park, and believes the ethos of community promoted by the GAA makes it a unique sporting organisation.
“That definitely does not exist in the United States,” Gilbert told GAA.ie. “We have completely gone the opposite direction. It's all pay-for-play.
“It's become a for-profit business. Children and parents are consumers. It's sad, because we've lost that sense of community. So even within an neighbourhood or a literal geographic community, your neighbour's kids might play on the other side of town for a different club.
“And it might cost five or ten thousand dollars a year to play for that club. And you'll be travelling all over the country sometimes.
“So even the people you live next door to, don't share that same sporting community. I would love to be able to replicate what the GAA has. That model in terms of really building a sense of community.
“I would imagine maybe some of the smaller towns there might be an element of it, but for sure the model is the USA is moving away from amateurism, community, and play, to training and sport as a business.”
Gilbert believes GAA coaches are a different breed to those he works with in the USA because they are often emotionally invested in the teams they work with in a way that goes beyond simply trying to improve the players they coach.
“In some ways it may be more difficult,” says Gilbert. “It seems like it's so connected to a community and the identity of a community that I can imagine there is some pressure as a coach to perform.
“The whole community knows about it so if you lose, have a bad match, or something happens at a practice everyone will know about it.
“Whereas it's a little bit more removed in an American system. There it's a more private sport and it's just really a job. You go and you coach and you leave and go home. It's not part of your daily life.”
Gilbert is one of the foremost authorities in sports coaching in the World, but he believes he learned a lot from the 2017 GAA Games Development Conference.
“Most definitely. The times in my life when I've failed normally are when I thought I knew what I was doing. When I went in too confident.
“It's good to stay humble and it's good to come to events like this and be open-minded and really come here to learn.
“I came here to learn as much from you as others did to learn from me. More so.
“Even when I presented I wanted to make the point that I'm just sharing what I've heard and wanted to use this as an opportunity to learn.
“Definitely it has been a very rich experience.”