CLG Beart benefit from Club Super Games programme
By John Harrington
If you ask young players why they enjoy playing football or hurling, it’s highly likely the most common answer will be the simplest – because it’s fun.
Sometimes though the fun can be diminished for some by the intensity of traditional competitive structures or the pressure to achieve results that sometimes comes from coaches and parents.
Studies have shown that there’s a significant drop off in participation rates between the 12 to 17-year age-groups, and the most common reason these young players give for hanging up their boots is that it’s just not fun anymore.
The GAA Super Games in association with Sky Sports have been designed to tackle this problem by fostering a playing environment where fun is the be all and end all of participation.
The games have a recreational 7 or 9-a-side format; every player gets games and there are no substitutions; scores aren’t recorded; there is no coaching input from the sideline; the players themselves oversee the organisation of the games under adult supervision.
The latest Club Super Games programme will recommence with 219 clubs during the coming autumn and winter months to provide recreational Gaelic Games activity to teenage club players when formal competitions and club activity ceases.
Donegal club, CLG Beart, ran their own GAA Super Games Initiative during the summer and, according to club secretary, Catriona Sweeney, it was a hugely positive experience for all who took part.
“We ran it over three weeks and we had over 50 children involved ranging from our U-12 girls and boys right up to U-16,” Sweeney told GAA.ie. “The bulk would have been U-14 to U-16.
“The way we worked it was that they all went into mixed groups and we ran off a few games internally two nights a week on a Tuesday and a Thursday.
“They really enjoyed the fun and participation aspect of it. I think also they all just loved being back out on a pitch. It was good timing from our point of view because there was a lot of interest in getting children back out onto the pitch. Everyone was really eager to be back and we found that we had a lot of kids turning up for it.
“And those kids who turned up for the first session were all still there by week three. So it went well, and the feedback we got from everybody was that they want to do it again.”
The core philosophy of the Super Games is that they’re not training sessions, they’re an opportunity for players just to turn up and play games.
There are no coaches shouting instructions from the sideline, instead the young players themselves are running the show.
According to Sweeney, one of the positive developments of this silent sideline approach was that it fostered more leadership among the participations.
“We have a few born leaders so they enjoyed the autonomy to run around and just do their own thing, absolutely,” she says. “You find that the leaders tend to come out more in that situation, definitely.
“It was definitely evident that without coaches shouting instructions from the sidelines, that the players themselves communicated a lot more.”
Having seen the Super Games Programme have such a positive impact in her own club, Sweeny has no doubts that others would benefit from taking part.
“I'd absolutely encourage other clubs to get involved,” she says. “I think it gives another alternative to just competitive games or training.
“It definitely helped promote the sport, especially maybe for children who aren't that skilful at a younger age, because it allowed them to be very much involved.
“Kids just love playing and that was definitely obvious from how all the sessions went.”
For more information on the GAA Super Games Programme, go here: https://www.gaa.ie/my-gaa/getting-involved/super-games-centers