Spreading the joy of Gaelic games
A unique coaching programme is spreading the joys and skills of Gaelic Games to thousands of school children in Sligo.
Connacht GAA President, Frank Burke, was on hand to launch the IT Sligo coaching scheme at the Knocknarea Arena last Thursday.
The scheme, now entering its 11th year, is the only one of its kind in the country, involving a three way partnership between IT Sligo, the Sligo GAA Coaching and Games Development committee and Sligo Cumann na mBunscol.
The innovative scheme, which was started by Sligo City Board in 2002, allows second year Sport and Recreation students at IT Sligo provide coaching sessions for Gaelic football and hurling at Primary schools throughout the county.
When it was first introduced, the scheme was confined to schools in the City Board area but it proved so successful that it was quikcly expanded to cover the entire county.
Eight IT students were invovled in the early years but it is an indication of the growth opf the programme that a total of 18 students are now on board in Sligo with four more visiting schools in Leitrim.
Of the eighteen students coaching in Sligo, sixteen are involved in football with two concentrating on hurling.
The programme runs for twelve weeks every year, from February to May, with IT students visting Primary Schools once a week for coaching sessions.
And two weeks of blitz competitions for 3rd and 4th classes are also included in the overall programme.
It's estimated that 4,500 children will take part in the programme this year.
Each student undertakes between 20 and 30 hours training before they embark on their coaching duties at the Primary Schools.
It all means that young children are getting top class coaching at early age, thereby fostering their interest in Gaelic Games and improving their basic gaelic skills.
It's a win-win situation for all concerned.
The IT students get a good grounding in coaching, which they can bring back to their own clubs, while the children receive an exciting introduction to the joys of Gaelic games.
And ultimately the GAA in Sligo will benefit as children improve their overall GAA skills at Cumann na mBunscol level, therby preparing them for a higher standard of competition when they move on to second
Sligo Games and Development Officer, Liam Og Gormley, says the fact that the scheme is now entering its 11th year is proof in itself of its success.
"The programme is going from strength to strength", he points out.
"We're always looking at ways of tweaking and improving things.
"It's been a great success because everybody has bought into it - teachers, coaches, Cumann na mBunscol, the IT and the GAA"