Munster GAA to host GAA for All Inclusion Day on September 23
By John Harrington
GAA National Inclusive Family Week will begin next Saturday, September 23, and the theme this year is ‘GAA Healthy Families’. The event coincides with the European Week of Sport (Sept 23-30) which aims to promote sport a #BeActive lifestyle to everyone regardless of age, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, nationality, or fitness level.
Following on from last year’s National GAA for All Inclusion Day, this year Provincial GAA for All days are taking place. On Saturday the 23rd, Mallow hosts Munster GAA’s Inclusion day which will showcase the great work being done by many clubs in the province that run GAA for All programmes.
The day is being organised by Munster reps of the National GAA for All committee, Oola Ball4All and the GAA’s Community and Health department with the support of Munster GAA and the province's Health and Wellbeing committee.
GAA for All programmes and initiatives are set up in Clubs for children with additional needs, with the main objective being to promote an ethos of inclusion in club and community and supporting children in being part of their local GAA Club. Support from coaches encourages participation in a team game, assisting with ball skills, exercise, and, of course, lots of fun and enjoyment, in a safe environment.
“A lot of clubs who have GAA for All programmes will be coming and we're hoping to have 90 kids in attendance from every county in Munster,” says GAA Regional Community and Health Coordinator for Munster and Connacht, Stuart Moloney.
“Munster GAA coaches will be facilitating it on the day and the kids will also be accompanied by their own club coaches so there's that familiarity that makes it that bit easier for them.
“We'll put on an interactive session in a multiple station format with kids spending 10 or 15 minutes at a station and we'll keep rotating that around.
“Munster GAA will be providing all the participants with medals and it should be a great day. We're just hoping to promote inclusion and encourage more clubs to become involved in it.
“I know some clubs who are considering introducing GAA for All to their own club members will be sending some coaches on the day to have a look and see how it operates.
“It's a super initiative to be involved in and there's more and more clubs putting together GAA for All programmes which is great to see. And they're not just keeping it in their own club, they're opening it up to other nearby clubs to see if they have anyone who might be interested in participating too.”
Every year more and more clubs are making an effort to be more inclusive by promoting a variety of GAA for All initiatives. National GAA for All Rep, Sinead Crowley, has witnessed the growth at first hand and is enthused about the potential for more development in the coming years.
“There's been a huge increase to be honest,” she says. “There was a healthy club conference in Cork earlier this year and we had a segment on GAA for All and that kicked off even more interest.
“The more it's publicised the more it brings it to peoples' awareness. It makes people realise that there is something there, that there's people who can support me and so on and so forth. It even helps to talk to someone who'll say you're right to be nervous, but you're doing the right thing.
“It’s something that really started growing over Covid. I think people had time to reflect and realise that everybody needed to be included in everything. Definitely over the last three or four years there has been huge growth.
“I think you can trace a lot of that back to Ger McTavish, the GAA's Diversity and Inclusion Officer, being put in place because she encourages us all, supports us all, and promotes it obviously all the time.
“I'd say there was a lot of initiatives going on in clubs previously, but nothing to the extent that there is now.”
The message that Crowley would like to get across to clubs who are actively promoting GAA for All initiatives is to not be shy about letting people know what they’re doing so that word spreads and other clubs are inspired to do more themselves.
“There are a lot of clubs doing things and not publicising it because that's the norm in their club," she says. "But by publicising it you bring it to the attention of other clubs about something that might not be on their radar.
“I'm talking to a lady at a moment who's considering starting something in her club and she's nervous which is common, clubs are often nervous they'll say or do the wrong thing. So she's going to come along on the 23rd just to talk to some other coaches and clubs.
“That's one of the messages we want to send out. Other clubs will support you, Croke Park will support you, and so will the Munster Health and Wellbeing committee as well. No event or initiative is too small.
“If you do something for one child or 101 children it doesn't matter. You should do what you're comfortable with and it's often best to start small. It all depends on the number of people you have to help you and the needs of your club because every club is different.”
More information is available at https://www.gaa.ie/my-gaa/community-and-health/social-inclusion/ or from GAA Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Geraldine.firstname.lastname@example.org