As the sun goes down on Movember for another year and razors are sharpened by partners across the country, a new programme has been launched by Movember, the GAA and the Gaelic Players Association – Movember Ahead of the Game.

The evidence-based emotional literacy programme has been designed for delivery in a sports club setting.
It will enable young players, their parents, and coaches, to better understand mental health, build mental fitness, and strengthen resilience to deal with challenges in sport and life through a series of interactive workshops, delivered by the members of the GPA (all of whom are present or past inter-county players).

Phase 1 will run from November 2023 to May 2024 with a target of engaging 10,000 participants in 200 GAA clubs across the 32 counties of Ireland.

75% of mental health disorders will have emerged before the age of 24. That’s why conversations about mental health and fitness earlier in life are important.

Helping young people build the skills to look after their own wellbeing, and support their teammates, is critical to lifelong mental resilience and mentally fit communities.

Movember Ahead of the Game teaches an understanding of mental health and helps build the mental fitness to deal with the challenges life and sport can throw.

The GAA joins the ranks of leading global professional codes like the AFL and Rugby League in making Movember Ahead of the Game available to their clubs and members. It puts the GAA and the GPA among the sporting leaders globally in actively supporting mental fitness as much as physical performance.

22 current and past players recruited by the GPA have recently undertaken a weeklong rigorous training program led by Rugby League Cares and the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

The players layers include Anton Tohill, Martin Stackpoole, Saoirse McCarthy and Iggy Clarke.

The interactive workshops are delivered in the familiar surroundings of a sports clubs, which allow players to feel comfortable to talk freely. It also gives coaches and parents bigger roles, too, in helping create mentally fit communities.

92% of young athletes have said they felt more confident in recognising the signs of mental health in themselves and others, and 96% of coaches have said they felt better able to respond to the mental challenges of young athletes after attending the Movember Ahead of the Game programme.

“We receive frequent request from clubs for emotional literacy content for younger members, so we are thrilled to work with organisations of the calibre of Movember and the GPA to make available this impactful, evidence-based content to our unrivalled club network.,” said Colin Regan, GAA Community and Health Manager.

“Our motto is You See Players. We See People,” added GPA CEO Tom Parsons.

“We work with GPA members to allow them to be the best they can be both on and off the field of play. This includes offering them support in the area of mental fitness. We have counselling support lines at their disposal 24/7/365 while, in times of crisis, we support those in need with residential care.”

“This support involves us being reactive while Ahead Of The Game allows us to be more proactive and have a positive impact on the lives of young people before the need for such supports might arise. It also recognises the influence our members have in their communities as role models who Is want to give back and who are looked up to by young people across the country.”

“On the last day of Movember we are delighted to share this timely announcement of such an important partnership,” said Sarah Ouellette, Country Director, Movember.

“It is a reminder locally, of the impact donations from our Mo Community has in every county across Ireland.”