The game of life at old Kilbarry school
Playing at the top level is a different ball game but for kids, participation and fun are what count
As in life this schoolyard game was kind of dominated by the strong but mistakes were rarely if ever commented on. Photograph: Inpho
The GAA’s progressive and inclusive Go Games initiative was in the sports news recently, as was some discussion on Liveline on RTÉ radio on the subject of poor sideline behaviour by a minority of adults at children’s games .
The GAA , in my estimation, is on the right road with the Go Games . Basically, all the child players get to play for the full game in a fun environment with emphasis on improving skills. Participants are not subject to the “win at all costs” approach.
This should lead to less perceived stress on players from coaches and parents. The emphasis is on player development rather than winning or losing. Everybody involved in Go Games, whether as players, parents/guardians, spectators, mentors, teachers or officials should adhere to the fundamental principles and give expression to the GAA’s “Give Respect, Get Respect” initiative.
I grew up and always played in an environment where winning was everything . I never fully believed in this philosophy but as a player one had to develop this edge or risk not getting on the first team.
It wasn’t until relatively recently I experienced first-hand proof that children like to play and have fun and that winning doesn’t really matter. We adults are responsible for inculcating the win at all costs mentality much too early in their young lives. Much of the time the adults are endeavouring to make their children into the kind of players they wished they were themselves
My final teaching days were spent in Kilbarry National School. This wonderful small rural educational establishment has been sitting at the side of the road a few miles east of Inchigeela in the barony of Muskerry for over one 130 years.The concrete school yard is about 60 metres by 20. The school stands at one end of the long side and the road is the other boundary. A stream and a field provide the remaining borders.
Every dry and not so dry lunchtime gave the boys and girls the opportunity to play Gaelic football across the yard. This is a footballing area and most of the children have a great interest in the game.
On arriving to teach in this special area a few years ago I was immediately fascinated by some of the dynamics of the daily game. It was actually an enactment of an almost perfect life, a life that has rules, respect, tolerance and allowances.
I can’t lay claim to having taught the children any of the values or skills they so easily use in every game. Their homes have to take most of the credit.
As in all walks of life there was a hierarchy in this schoolyard.The sixth class boys were at the head. The teams were chosen by the leaders. A pupil could only play in the big game when he or she was in the master’s room. Equality and inclusion were givens. If you’ve made it to fourth class you were in the game if you wanted to be. Some didn’t of course.