Davina Tobin says fun is the key to player retention
By John Harrington
Kilkenny camogie All-Star, Davina Tobin, is delighted that the new Gaelic Games Player Pathway is designed to encourage lifelong participation in our games for every boy and girl, regardless of their ability.
The drop-out rate of players in their teenage years is a huge issue for all three Gaelic Games Associations, and Tobin believes one of the biggest drivers of this is that many coaches put too much emphasis on winning instead of participation.
“Every coach should understand that every player is at a different level and to try and keep players coming back,” said Tobin at the launch of the new Gaelic Games Player Pathway.
“And if it is getting too serious, maybe have a few sessions that are fun, make it enjoyable for everyone.
“Two years ago, we had a girl that never wanted to play a match, just wanted to be part of the team and wanted to be part of having all your friends around you.
“She stayed playing for two or three years until she finished college and again, it got too competitive for her to stay with us.
“This pathway is really about looking after your players. Without the players, it is very hard to have a team. You are just trying to make it to suit everyone and keep everyone active no matter what level you are at.”
Tobin is speaking from experience because many of her own friends stopped playing camogie in their teenage years because the fun went out of it.
“Yeah, it was actually the same for my age group, at U16 level especially. It gets too competitive, maybe, that girls in clubs decide that this is too competitive for us, we are only there for the social aspect.
"I, myself, was more competitive than some other girls, but I do find at U16 level there would be a big dropout. And even in my own club, the Emeralds, we had to join with our neighbouring club, St Anne's. Our feeder parishes would be big parishes so we really shouldn't have to join with another club but there is a big dropout.
“Many girls just like the social aspect of it, they just can't deal with a manager wants to just win at that age.
“Now the U14s are making up our club's U16 team. They rely heavily on two age groups coming together to make up a team.”
Tobin is enthusiastic about the benefits of being involved with a Gaelic Games team.
She got involved with Emeralds Camogie club almost by accident, but it quickly became a hugely positive outlet for her.
“When I was in fifth or sixth class a teacher who actually wasn't even my teacher saw me in the playground and I was running and she kind of knew I’d a natural ability to run and asked me why I wasn’t playing camogie when all my friends were out in the field.
“So, she kind of got me going with that and from then I always had good coaches in the club.
“Everyone looked after you, even people older than you your team-mates in the club.
“The encouragement was unbelievable. You’d be hoping now that you’d do the same for tthe younger girls coming along, that you’d give them the same encourage them and keep them going at it.
“Some people might have people who would make them want to play camogie. My family wouldn’t have been a GAA family.
“Our Mam or Dad never would have played so there was no one in my family that pushed me to it so it was the encouragement from others in the club that was the biggest thing for me.”