Kevin Cassidy

KEVIN CASSIDY: A rethink on underage ruling is badly needed

I’VE purposely left this sit for a week to see what sort of reaction would occur from the decision to ban competitive action at under age levels.

I’ve gone on record here before stating that sometimes the GAA amazes me – in particular, how they come about some of the decisions that they take and how they, the decision makers, seem to have very little knowledge of how those decisions will impact so many people.

The decision taken last week to ban all competitive game at underage level up to u-12 is crazy if you ask me. What it actually does is it hands the advantage to our competitors. I am speaking here as an underage coach with my club Gaoth Dobhair.

I have been involved with the same team since u-5 and we are now at u-9 level with this group. From experience, the first question that every last member of our panel will ask after the final whistle blows will be “who won”.

We are now asking our players, coaches and clubs to strip players of that competitive edge and just to go out and play a game. That all sounds great in theory – that we all turn up play and give everybody plenty of game time and no one cares who won but, in reality, that’s just not the way we are built.

The issue here is not the players or indeed 99 per cent of the clubs or coaches because anybody I’ve come across at this level, have always had the best interest of their players at heart and treat them all equally.

By taking away the competitive nature, I think we are actually setting our players back as opposed to bringing them forward. This rule was brought in to ensure that games are fun and that each player gets equal playing time.

Well, I’m sorry but if that is not already happening within your club then it’s up to your club to get rid of the coach or coaches who are not doing this. Do not punish the rest of us because a few clubs can’t get their house in order.

I wrote earlier about handing the advantage to our competitors and the other sports. I’m speaking about the likes of soccer and rugby who may be competing for the same players within your catchment area or parish. Young players love competition and they love to see who won or lost and they also need to learn to cope with disappointment.

So if our association is taking that element away from them, then, if there is a choice to be made, naturally, these kids will opt for the competitive environment where they may have a chance to win a shield, a medal, or a cup with their friends.

As a coach, your only job should be to try and take as many players forward with you as humanly possible.

If we are all being honest, results mean very little to any of us who are coaching because at the end of the day it’s all about how many players you can successfully bring through to the senior ranks of your club.

If you are one of those coaches out there who just focuses on the strong eight or nine players you have and forget about everything everyone else, then ultimately you are going to fall flat on your face when those guys move up the ranks.

You are going to need the whole lot of your players operating at the same level in order to compete so that’s why equal time should be given to all players during coaching sessions and during games because it’s just silly to do it any other way.

I urge the GAA to rethink this decision because I think we are making a big mistake here. I have no issue with the reason for bringing in the rule.

However, I do feel that more pressure should be placed on clubs to monitor their underage coaching structures to make sure that none of those issues arise within the club and that all children get equal playing time regardless of ability: it’s the bigger picture that is important here and we should never lose sight of that.


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