Vikki Wall hopes new Player Pathway will tackle drop-out rate
By John Harrington
Meath Ladies Football star, Vikki Wall, hopes the newly launched Gaelic Games Player Pathway will keep more teenage girls playing Gaelic games.
A 2017 study showed that one in two young women give up team sports completely by the age of 13 and tackling this high drop-out rate is one of the main goals of the new Gaelic Games Player Pathway which puts a real emphasis on developing players at club level.
“I definitely player retention is a big issue and the fact that the player pathway focuses so strongly on the club is important,” said Wall at the launch of the Gaelic Games Player Pathway.
“I know that people drop away from the club rather than the county and especially for women, between the ages of 16 and 18 is pivotal, and the fact we are focussing on club, and whether you are male or female now, when you go in at nursery level now you can see a clear pathway equal to both that will hopefully tackle some of the retention issues.
“From a player’s point of view it is a definite positive, seeing the three organisations work together on this player pathway is huge. It is positive and an encouraging sign to see the three organisations working together.”
Wall recently gave a powerful interview on TG4′s ladies football awards programme, ‘Peil na mBan – Foirne na Bliana – le AIG Insurance,’ where she detailed the verbal abuse – related to her weight – she was subjected to from the sideline in recent years.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation was that much of the abuse came from opposition managers.
And she admits now that she perhaps would have stepped away from Gaelic Games herself during that period because of that bullying if her love for football wasn’t as strong as it is.
“Yeah, I definitely do,” she says. “I reflect on it and think if I did not have such a love for the game and if I didn’t have that underlying confidence in myself, I do think it could have gone a different way.
“It probably did affect me more than I would have liked to admit at the time. I definitely think that the strong love I had for the game helped me, but I do think it did affect me as well.”
Wall’s honesty when speaking about the insults she’d been subjected to while playing football have really struck a chord and started an important conversation on the general topic of verbal abuse and bullying in sport.
She’s been taken aback by the positive reaction she has received, and hopes it leads to more awareness on the topic.
“It was not something I gave a huge amount of thought to. I said I would bring it up in the interview but I did not expect the reaction is has got so far.
“I am overwhelmed by it, but I also think it has been really encouraging in the fact that a lot of younger girls have reached out to me and I did not realise it was such a problem but the fact that these girls have reached out to me with their stories having that conversation on the topic was not a bad thing.
“I did have contact from some parents thanking me and it kind of shocked me how young it is, players who are under-12, under-14, and it is not something at that age I would have been conscious of. I think it is definitely trickling down into younger ages and a little more conversation and awareness about the topic is a good thing.”