Camogie star Julia White developing GAA's future leaders
By John Harrington
Cork camogie star Julia White is a natural leader on the pitch, as evidenced by her dramatic winning point in the 2017 All-Ireland Senior Camogie Final against Kilkenny.
She’s now also displaying the same qualities off it in her role as a tutor with the GAA/PDST Future Leaders Transition Year Programme.
White is a teacher in Christ King Secondary School for girls in Cork where one of her responsibilities is rolling out the Future Leaders Programme.
The cross-curricular programme comprising of eight Modules in subjects as diverse as Coaching, Sports Journalism and Event Management, is designed to provide a learning experience based on the practical application of the skills from each module, by empowering every student to play an active role in the organisation of a Gaelic Games opportunity in their school or community.
“It's going great, they're loving it,” White told GAA.ie “Our TY students have a range of options from languages to dance and my group of 20 chose the Future Leaders programme.
“My aim would be to get the 20 of them the Future Leaders Cert at the end.
“We decided to start with Wellbeing which is one of the modules to develop a good, safe classroom environment and make sure everything is confidential. There would be different activities in that as well then relating to mental health.
“The students seem to love it.”
The students will also take on modules in GAA coaching, refereeing, administration, journalism, performance analysis, event management, and nutrition over the course of the Future Leader Programme.
White chose to start with the Wellbeing module because she believes mental health is such a relevant topic for teenagers now in modern society.
“There's so much stress going on for students who are doing their Leaving Cert or Junior Cert, and young people nowadays also have to deal with the constant demands of social media,” said White.
“I would personally hate to be growing up now. I'm obviously not that old, but there's definitely a difference now for teenagers in a world where everyone has phones with instagram and snapchat compared to ten years ago.
“There's so much going on and there's never any down-time for them to just get in touch with themselves.
“I'm a PE teacher as well and any time I've been short facilities I've brought them to a classroom and said we're going to do a bit of mindfulness.
“You wouldn't think that a group of 30 15-year-olds would just want to sit quietly and listen, but they actually love it, they adore it.
“Wellness and mental health is just hugely important. If they're not getting that right they're not going to be able to perform in school or be happy and healthy mentally. It all comes back to that.”
White’s life has been enriched by her association with Gaelic Games and she believes that one of the main positives of the Future Leader Programme is that it can do the same for others who might previously not have had any involvement with the GAA.
“I think that's the number one thing for me, I definitely wouldn't have made any of the friends or connections or gone where I am in my career if I hadn't played camogie,” said White.
“But what about the child who can't play? Should they just not be a part of this brilliant community?
“I think this will allow them to get involved, make friends, make connections and test out possible careers and just really develop personally.
“It helps them get involved in a world that might have been perceived to be just for sporty people or people with a GAA background, but which is now it's opened up for everybody.”
So much so, that there are even four German foreign exchange students in White’s Future Leaders Programme as well as others with no previous experience of playing gaelic games.
“The foreign exchange students wanted to really get a good idea of the culture, I think, and that's why they selected it,” said White.
“We have a few players, camogie and gaelic footballer, a few injured players with long-term injuries as well who are looking for other roles in Gaelic Games while they're injured in things like the admin, nutrition, and statistics.
“There's a few other girls then who might have been sold on the performance analysis side of things. And there would be a few girls who would really love the journalism and photography side of it.
“It's a complete and utter mix in the class, which is great.
“Traditionally GAA and camogie has been more focused on the player, they're the centre of it, whereas I think this focuses on the skills of other members of the community.
“It's going to be great to get people involved because they'll know they're part of it, it's not all weighted on being the best player on the pitch.
“Also, I think, it's going to be really good for the GAA going forward if they can get more administrators and people involved in that sense. I think that's probably something they'll be looking to benefit from."