Cork GAA Youth Health & Wellbeing Forum - February 10th 2019 2019-02-14 00:10:00

The forum took place in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday February 10th and  was targeted at 14 to 16-year-olds within the development squad system and aims to create an awareness of the issues which may impact on their development. 

The event, which was open to coaches, mentors and parents, featured presentations from Cork hurler Stephen McDonnell, All-Ireland winning ladies football manager Éamonn Ryan, former Cork players Bríd Stack and Rena Buckley, who hold 29 All-Ireland medals between them, and clinical psychologist Jennifer Hayes. There were also presentations from Conor Quinlan, a psychotherapist and cognitive performance coach, and Stephen Casey, the Cork minor hurling strength and conditioning coach in 2017 and 2018. 

Cork board children’s officer Des Cullinane said that they have a duty of care to young players, both on and off the field, noting that improvements can be made where the latter is concerned. 

He explained: “We do an excellent job in coaching our young players and teaching them the skills of the game, but I believe we spend too much time concentrating on skills. 

 “We need to develop a greater understanding of the issues young players are dealing with away from the pitch and how we can help them. Otherwise, we are in danger of turning people off sport, which is not what we want. 

“One of the objectives of this forum is to equip young players for their journey to becoming an inter-county player. It will focus on mindset, lifestyle, the challenges that 14, 15 and 16-year-olds may be exposed to. We want to mind our players, but we also want to make them more resilient.” 

While coaches cannot be overly demanding of any one player, young hurlers and footballers, according to Cullinane, must also be educated as to the importance of putting their own welfare first. 

“Cork GAA will look after the player, but the player must also look after themselves. Players must be taught to self-help and self-regulate. They have to recognise they cannot do everything. If they do, they will burn out. 

“Coaches and mentors, similarly, have to realise that everyone can’t be demanding that Johnny or Mary plays with them.” 

The county board children’s officer added: “We need our mentors to recognise the signs of stress and that we are not contributing more to a player’s stress levels by putting them under pressure. We need to educate our coaches because a lot of them may not understand what is going through the mind of a 14-year old. We want to show parents and teachers that we are very serious about all aspects of a player’s development.” 

The response to the forum was excellent and it is certainly something that will be developed further. 

The event was put together by Cullinane, Cork GAA coaching officer Ronan Dwane, and Cork GAA games manager Kevin O’Callaghan. Our GDAs also put a huge amount of work into this event

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