“Fun, friendship, fitness, and freedom to express yourself.” That was the core belief set out as part of the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association adoption of the principle of Go Games for kids playing up to U12.
Go as in every kid gets a go, games in the widest sense of organised play where the result is not recorded and there is no Championship to be won by one team and defeat for everyone else.
The restating of that principle in an email to clubs across the country, this week though was seen by some as tantamount to the end of days.
Once again we were into the wild world of phone in radio commentary, the listening too must be responsible for the shortening of life spans so much rage and spluttering offence does it cause.
At clubs, the reaction was more sanguine. Those who organise the games are far more concerned about how to get children from one side of a county to another and who took the bag of balls from training than they are at looking up the scores of the opponents.
Pat Daly, was Head of Games Development who oversaw the introduction of the Go Games philosophy in 2010.
I remember sitting with him shortly afterward, as the coach of an U12 team at the time, and remembering his explanation of the purpose and time frame of the development of children in sport.
From the day they start at five years old until they get to 12 they should be seen as playing to learn. In those early teenage years of 12 to 16 they should learn to compete and only when they get to Minor level should they be encouraged and enabled to compete to win.
Three clear stages on the development pathway, one clear message for all coaches to understand, and for all clubs to play by.
There will always be some who don’t see it that way. Those who want to stream their groups of players, if you are lucky enough to have the numbers, from an earlier age. Those for whom the winning of a shield is more important to them than it will ever be to the child. Those who see the delight in the eyes of the child who scored but fail utterly to see the disappointment in the child who did not get to play and who ultimately walks away.
This is not an introduction of a new set of rules that will destroy the game and leave children ‘too soft’ for the real world of wins and losses. If anybody says that within your club, ask them what age group they are responsible for and encourage somebody else to step in alongside them and see them as children, not soldiers in some staged battle in their own mind’s eye.
There is a time for that and it comes when children have developed their own skills, their own capacity to run, kick, pass, shoot, catch and all the fundamentals.
Everyone who coaches kids has to be trained and certified in safeguarding, has to be vetted, and has to have at least a foundation course in coaching. Maybe we should introduce a ‘cop on’ test as well so that they can see the value in allowing kids to be kids.
And I wonder could we impose the same standard on anyone who wants to phone in to their local radio station or post on social media to give out about the state of the world.