Giving up sport is 'biggest mistake students in exam year can make'
Former Ireland captain Fiona urges pupils to stay healthy
Giving up sport during an exam year is one of the "biggest mistakes" a student can make, according to ex-Ireland rugby captain Fiona Coghlan.
The former athlete and teacher at Lucan Community College said that being active in sport could do wonders for a student's stress and mental health.
"It really kills me to see parents making their child give up a sport during an exam year," she told the Irish Independent.
"They often feel like they will study more if they have no other distractions, which just isn't the case.
"You can only study so much and making time to exercise and clear your head is essential. Young people need to have outlets in their lives and being active in a sport is one of the best things they can do."
Ms Coghlan believes that many young girls approaching secondary school have a lot of confidence issues taking up a new sport.
"Although things are certainly changing for the better, there is still a long way we need to go," she said.
"There is too much focus on competitive sports these days, but introducing new sports like yoga and tag rugby can turn sport into a much more social and dynamic activity.
"Growing up I was involved in so many different sports, but it was only when I started college in Limerick University that I got involved in rugby.
"Even back then, which was only 15 years ago, rugby wasn't an option for girls in schools, but now more pathways are beginning to open up for them."
While male rugby players can make a full-time career out of the sport, it is not the case for their female counterparts.
Ms Coghlan says she would love to see women being given the opportunity to carve a living out of rugby, but she understands why this isn't the case.
"It would be great to see Irish female athletes having their sport as their full-time career, but where does the money come from to fund it? The lads are selling out the Aviva Stadium week in, week out, and generating a huge amount of income, but the ladies team just isn't there yet. Money is one thing, but we also need to make the interest in female sport sustainable."
The ex-rugby captain was speaking at the launch of the #BoostYourAwareness Touch Rugby Blitz event in Lansdowne Rugby Club yesterday.
The day-long event, which it is hoped will raise more than €10,000 for Cadbury's charity partner Aware, will see 20 teams compete in the blitz. The tournament aims to highlight the importance of maintaining positive mental health by staying active.
"Talking about mental health is really crucial and if we can eliminate the age-old stigma in our younger generation then I firmly believe it will have such a positive effect," she added.