An Acceleration of Hope, Fear and Hard Work as Return Draws Nearer.

There is an old Yiddish Proverb that while “We plan, God laughs.” Try not to mention that within earshot of a GAA club secretary or a sports administrator over the coming days though. The reaction might be fierce and involve the throwing up into the air of reams of scribbled out notes and papers.

Over the past 72 hours there has been a clear acceleration of hope in terms of how a sporting year of substance may yet be rescued in 2020.

The Government hit the right note in announcing a €70 million fund to mitigate some of the financial impacts being felt everywhere from the corridors of power in our largest sporting organisations all the way through to the local clubs.

The freeing up of restrictions and the setting of earlier than feared dates for the resumption of the Guinness PRO14, the Gaelic Games Championships in Club and County, and the Republic of Ireland international soccer team have put a pep in the step of those for whom sport is the driving passion in their lives or merely the balm to soothe other stresses.

But when those first balls are kicked and when the first small crowds begin to gather they will have done so on the backs of an army of administrators and volunteers for whom lockdown has morphed into a point close to meltdown.

I attended a Zoom meeting last night as a coach and now Covid Supervisor in waiting for my local club.

There were over 100 of us on the call, it’s a big club, and our club secretary did his best to advise us of what we had to do, what we should be doing and how we would need to pass on the responsibility for sanitising goal posts to one of the other coaches while we were checking certificates and health questionnaires.

eLearning

We are all, or at least most of us, now certified as having completed the GAA’s easy and intuitive eLearning module on the role we have to fulfil.

It took around 35 minutes to complete and is basic common sense for the most part but only if you’ve been paying attention and care for what is perceived as being the right way to do things.

If you delayed filling it out until you returned from a Donald Trump rally in Tulsa, this job is probably not for you.

The online part is the easy bit though. The health questionnaire which we spoke of last night as needing every coach, player, and parent of child to complete prior to showing up for training, is hoped to be released today.

It’s the Just in Time principle but that’s fine and what else could be the case in the current circumstances.

We will need it to have been completed by next Monday night, or tomorrow night in the case of adult players, if the risk assessment on the pitches needed by the local county council is completed in time.

“Yeah, they’re grand”

There was discussion about whether it had to be done online or whether parents could show up, sign their name on a piece of paper and leave little Johnny or Jenny off with a cheery wave and a ‘yeah they’re grand’.

The rules are a little bit fluid on this but we decided as a large Dublin club with good mobile penetration and signal that we would avoid the obvious shortcomings and risks of a paper based approach and stick to mobile in advance or you don’t train.

If we were down the country in the shadow of a mountain and we all knew each other like brothers and sisters to be clear, then it might be different. Knowing our sometimes lax adoption of the strictest rules, it may yet become a little looser here too as the weeks roll by.

We also heard about the ongoing search for sanitiser that had to be to a certain standard and PPE Equipment for us if a child or player began to feel unwell during a session.

It has been one of the single biggest challenges faced by the HSE. Now we have to get it sorted, as volunteers, within days.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, yet nobody left the call because we know that we will have to jump through a lot of hoops to get the clash of boot on leather or hurl on sliotar back as part of our lives.

Background Noise

The arguments that inevitably arise over club vs county appear to be loud on the airwaves and in print. They are merely background noise across the mainstream of the sporting community though.

Our concerns are not how to find four weeks of collective preparation but how to get 50 kids checked in and onto their socially distant space for that evening in five minutes while simultaneously clearing the 40 to have gone before and telling parents that no, they really aren’t supposed to be giving lifts to the neighbour, no matter how many times they’ve had a sleep over in a tent in the back garden this week.

Honestly, it would make your head explode, and I’m only a foot soldier, not the one who has to find the PPE and make sure the signage is created and the app developed.

And then you come off the call and you hear that yesterday was the single highest number of notified infections around the world since this whole thing started, and it has you reaching before sleep for that old book of yiddish proverbs…

 

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