Hammersley delighted to be attending 2023 GAA Youth Forum
By Cian O’Connell
Passionate about assisting young people, Timmy Hammersley is eager to make a positive contribution at the upcoming GAA Youth Forum at Croke Park.
The event at Croke Park on October 7 will attract hundreds of teenagers, providing a valuable opportunity to discuss topical issues.
Hammersley, through his work as Coaching and Development Manager with Ballyboden St Enda’s, is adamant about the relevance of empowering young people.
“I'm particularly happy to be involved with the Youth Forum in Croke Park because my previous job was with a charity called Spunout.ie - developing the potential of young people is definitely something I'm passionate about even if it is inside or outside the GAA environment,” he says.
“Obviously when you can combine two passions you have, helping young people and GAA, that is something I'm passionate about.”
With 208 teams in Ballyboden St Enda’s Hammersley relishes being involved, but also is aware that everybody needs to be minded. Sport can help build resilience, but it shouldn’t always be viewed as a given according to Hammersley.
“Sport can teach people a lot about themselves as individuals and communities,” he says. “Just one facet on that, I don't think we should always take it for granted, though, that sport is inherently a good thing or will automatically contribute to the lives of teenagers and young people.
“We always need to work at creating the space for young people to prosper within the wider association and on the ground with clubs.
“Yes, young people by enlarge will grow and will benefit from participating in the GAA and clubs. That isn't always the case either and I don't think we should take it for granted that it is always the case or will always be the case.”
Ensuring young people can operate in a comfortable environment is key. “I'm really passionate about creating the opportunities within clubs for young people to get their say, to have a voice, to feel they do have a space within a GAA club,” he says.
“Regardless of their talent playing, maybe their talent is in other areas outside of playing. It is just something we need to be conscious of, that in clubs we do find a space for all young people, regardless of their talent and within clubs that we aren't afraid to empower young people to take ownership of the community within their club.
“That is why I'm passionate about the event that is going to be held in Croke Park. I see the event itself as a wider extension of that, for young people to go from the event feeling that they can have a say and have an influence on the types of spaces we do have in clubs.
“I also feel that clubs have to be open to that and clubs have to create that space for young people. We are actively trying to do that now in my current role, we are creating and setting up a focus group for young people.
“They will get the opportunity to tell us and give their opinion on what it is like to be a young person in the club and how we can make it more inclusive for all the types of young people we have participating here.”
So what can be done practically to help with this process? “A lot of different organisations have groups of young people who they'd consult with,” Hammersley says. “Consulting with young people is one thing, but then having follow on and results, making young people feel like it isn't just a token gesture, that there input will actually count.
“It isn't just Croke Park, I feel like events like this are a key point. The GAA are making it clear that they value young people and they care about the input they can bring. I'd really love to see that trickle down to counties and to clubs.
“Really what we are trying to do in Ballyboden St Enda's, we have 20 young people between the ages of 15 and 18. It will be their job to tell us how we can make this club a better place for the young people in the club. I'd love to see that from Croke Park trickle down to counties and clubs.
“It is one thing having an event and it is brilliant, and I've no doubt young people will go away inspired from it.
“This could be the first time a young person in a GAA environment has ever really been asked what do they think. I'd love to feel going forward that counties and clubs will be open to creating spaces for young people.”
Youth players and members must be allowed have a proper voice is Hammersley's belief. “We want to try to get away from the traditional top down approach where it was adults that had all of the understanding and knowledge, it was up to adults to tell young people what to do,” he says.
“I suppose young people took in what adults said. I just feel there is so much more importance and potential in actually involving young people in the whole process of decision making.
“I'd say it isn't just asking them in a token gesture way. The participation and empowerment of young people is definitely something that you hear about now.”
On Friday October 13 Ballyboden will hold a meeting for 20 teenagers in the club. That will be the first step for Hammersley.
“From there I'd envisage a wider youth day either side of Christmas,” he adds. “We'd invite all of the young people then within the club from 15 to 18. You are probably talking about 1,000 young people in that space and we'd explore the issues that count to them.
“Whether it is wellbeing, alcohol, drugs, whether it is the online space - any of the main issues they'd see as challenging them. As a club we aren't going to be able to change the world in terms of how these issues impact young people, but I do think we can help to develop the space they have here within the club.
“That would be the overall aim I'd have. Firstly we'd empower young people to give their say and essentially then we'd look to make the club more inclusive in terms of the issues that count to them.”
It will be a journey worth monitoring.
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