Saturday 19 April 2014

The time that so many parents give to local clubs is precious

"I want to salute those parents and adults who contribute to the fitness and health of our country's children"

A wise woman who was travelling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day, she met another traveller who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.

The hungry traveller saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.

The traveller left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

"I've been thinking," he said. "I know how valuable this stone is but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone."

The man had discovered that the real treasure was something deep inside. Something inside so strong, so generous, so kind. Her ability to share unconditionally. Non-attachment.

The wise woman reminded me of all those parents around the country who work hard during the week, and then on Saturday and Sunday mornings get up early and go out to their GAA, soccer, rugby or athletic clubs and volunteer to train and coach children to play games out in the fresh air. They give their time and energy so freely and unconditionally.

I remember a Saturday morning some years ago down at the Bray Emmett's GAA club in Bray where our son Fionn was playing on an U-12 team. Paddy O'Rourke, the Down manager at the time and a footballing legend, called.

"Can you talk?" says Paddy. "Of course I can Paddy," I said. "It's a beautiful morning here and the pitches are flooded with children of different age groups, all practising football and hurling. I'm so impressed by all the parents volunteering their time to coach and train the children. The place is buzzing."

"Well," Paddy said, "I'm here in the club in the Burren and I see a similar sight in front of me. And every parent here coaching and training is a volunteer, giving their time and their energy unselfishly to help those children to be better players and better people." There are two positive Green Platform scenarios from the Burren and Bray.

Now, against this backdrop, we have the Red Platform story of the one-in-four – the one child in four in our country who is obese. This epidemic of overweight children is now at a point of crisis.

But how many more would be obese without this huge voluntary effort by so many generous adults? That morning, when I looked across that playing field of Bray, another negative Red Platform scenario crossed my mind: a vision that none of this was happening.

A vision of parents sleeping in. Not making the effort. Then all those children not out running around the fields in the fresh air, but rather stuck up in stuffy bedrooms with the windows closed only exercising their thumbs playing some kind of Xbox on a flickering screen gorging biscuits, crisps and fizzy drinks.

This week, I want to salute those parents and adults who contribute to the fitness and health of our country's children as they continue to give something even more precious than a precious stone – their time, their energy and their consistent unbridled enthusiasm.

And you know what they say about enthusiasm – it cannot be taught; it can only be caught.

Declan Coyle is a director of Andec Communications. His motivational techniques have been used by several All-Ireland winning teams.

Irish Independent

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