Gaelic Games Europe prioritise youth development
By John Harrington
A recent forum for youth coaches held by Gaelic Games Europe at the Irish Embassy in Brussels focused on how best to continue growing the game at youth level on the continent.
There has already been significant youth development in recent years, most notably in Brittany and Galica, and the forum provided an opportunity from coaches all over Europe to connect with one another and learn what has worked best for others.
“We're trying to put some momentum and energy behind it because it's something we really want to focus on long-term,” says Gaelic Games Europe Chairperson, John Murphy.
“There was a great buzz at the coach's weekend. We had two hours the first morning with Mickey Quigg, the former New York GAA Games Development Officer. He walked us through some drills because one of the challenges we have is how do you skill up or down drills when you're working with kids of multiple ages.
"If you have five U-10s, two U-12s, and a few U-8s, how you match them up with drills or make them more simple where required. So Mickey walked us through that.
“We went to the Embassy for lunch and then we did different talk pieces. I presented our new strategic development plan for the county and the specific focus we're going to have on youth going forward.
“We then did a piece about how you can create a more inclusive focus on getting more girls playing Gaelic games. Mickey Quigg presented that.
“Our new Youth Officer, Pearse Bell from Vannes, who has been a driving force behind Féile, presented on how you get sponsors involved in youth development.
“Our Coaching and Games Development Officer, Alexandre San Martin Costa talked about the huge success of the Galician Schools project in order to give some detail to people who might be interested in doing the same.
“Tadhg Dunne from Luxembourg GAA spoke about how they have around 90 kids coming out to train, which is incredible, and how they have male and female coaches at each age-group.
“The ambassador spoke about their mission in Belgium and what the DFA focuses on which gave us some good insight because it's important to have that connection.”
Because the numbers playing youth Gaelic games in Europe continues to grow, GGE are putting a big effort into developing and upskilling more and more coaches.
And to ensure more youth players continue along the player pathway from adolescence through their teenage years and then into the adult grade, they also intend to organise more competitive matches at youth level.
“There's a lot of involvement and enjoyment in that U-6 to U-12 age-group and at the age of U-12 and beyond the kids want a bit of competition,” says Murphy.
“So absolutely our focus will be to have more and more tournaments or even friendlies where one club comes up to another or multiple clubs have blitzes.
“One of the reasons we had that weekend was to faciltate that network. When you know what the other person is like at the end of the phone it makes it a lot easier to organise that friendly or tournament.
“This weekend we were already nailing down a date for doing something in France at the end of May next year. So, yeah, the aim is more tournaments at all age-groups and also growing the Féile. That was a great success for us in its pilot year this year.
“The feedback was so overwhelmingly positive that I think it will become a central part of our youth calendar going forward. It's a great opportunity for kids to compete both in Europe and then in Ireland.”