Thursday 18 December 2014

Start children young with the GAA and build healthy habits for life

Children are never too young to learn life skills from team sport.

Dublin footballer Mick Casey with son Michael (6) at the nursery at Lucan Sarsfields in Dublin
Dublin captain Johnny McCaffrey with Calum Finnerty (4) and Harry Lloyd (5).
Ray Whelan (4) getting into the swing of the game.
"I want to salute those parents and adults who contribute to the fitness and health of our country's children"

We're just a few weeks into a new season of Saturday training for the youngsters, and after one of the most exciting and absorbing seasons in GAA history, the pitches are busier than ever.

Johnny McCaffrey, the captain of the Dublin Senior Hurling side that won the Leinster Championship this year, is games co-ordinator at the club.

"I think the Dublin teams doing well has definitely boosted membership in the county clubs.

"Parents might see the teams doing well and want their kids to be involved in that sort of success."

Juvenile secretary Declan O'Leary says the figures back up the claim that GAA is growing – and not just in Dublin.

"We now have about 1,500 kids – overall about 2,100 in the club – and it's growing year on year.

"We have around 70 juvenile teams, from under- sevens to under-16s, and so far this year we've had over 800 games.

"It's a pretty big operation, but it's by no means unique – there are clubs like this all over the country."

We're here to visit Lucan Sarsfield's nursery, the place where GAA superstardom really begins.

Catering for kids from about the age of four, it's not unusual to see 60 tots wielding hurleys and tearing around with footballs in the very youngest class.

Andrew Lloyd's son Harry (5) has been a member for about a year now.

"The facilities here are second to none, with the gear and equipment and the all-weather pitches.

"It's very well organised. Harry loves it. He particularly likes the hurling, he's taken to that in a big way – probably the idea of wielding a stick!

"We split the nursery into 45 minutes of hurling and 45 minutes of football, and mix it up each week," Johnny McCaffrey explains.

"They learn all the basic skills, co-ordination and so on," Johnny explains.

"The concept of competition isn't really introduced, at least in terms of leagues or tables, until about the age of 12.

"They would play games, but it's more about fun than competition, as that can put too much pressure on them at too young an age."

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