THE GAA club prides itself on being at the heart of its community, serving the sporting, cultural, and social needs of the community. Both the club and the school benefit from having strong club–school links.
A lot of areas are experiencing dwindling numbers due to emigration and rural depopulation, and whilst the GAA in urban areas struggle against the wide variety of other activities on offer it has become increasingly important that clubs think carefully about engaging with the young people of their area.
How can club-school links be created?
Club–school links can take many forms. In many of our parishes the school is known to the club and vice-versa but increasingly this scenario cannot be taken for granted.
1. Clubs should appoint a school-club liaison officer whose duty it is to visit the school principal and staff to inform them of what their club is all about – sending letters, flyers and so on are not enough. The school must be able to put a face to the name, and be able to pick up the phone should they need too. Clubs will struggle to really implement a strong club school link if they do not fulfil the role of the school liaison officer.
2. Clubs should ask about the provision of Gaelic games in the school and see if there is anything the club can offer in terms of providing coaching, equipment, facilities and so on.
3. Clubs should promote ‘off season’ coaching for the pupils through after school coaching with a club coach, where possible.
4. Clubs should ask to establish a club notice board in the school. This should be updated weekly with information being provided to the school via the school liaison officer. The school should be made aware of the pupils’ achievements with the club.
5. Clubs should promote the idea of one of its members sitting on the school’s board of governors.
6. School should promote the GAA club to its pupils.
7. School should provide their facilities to the club, where necessary.
8. Schools should have a staff member who will be responsible for linking with the local GAA club.
9. Schools should encourage staff to become qualified GAA coaches and to promote Gaelic games and the GAA club in the school.
The benefits of strong club school links are far reaching. Not only will the club have a greater audience, it will be in a better position to represent all members of its local community.
It is widely proven that children are not getting enough physical activity. The GAA club provides a safe place where children can partake in physical activity in a fun environment. The benefits to children of playing as a member of a team, learning self-discipline, learning new social and sport skills are vital in a child’s development.
More than ever the importance of engaging with our local schools has become evident in order to best serve our communities of today and our clubs of the future.