Over-emphasis on technology affecting sport at all levels, conference hears

GPS systems help with injury prevention but ‘it has gone too far’, says Valerie Mulcahy

The Murder Capital pictured at St James’ Church, Dingle on Saturday as part of the Other Voices festival. Photograph: Rich Gilligan

The Murder Capital pictured at St James’ Church, Dingle on Saturday as part of the Other Voices festival. Photograph: Rich Gilligan

 

An over-emphasis on technology has been creeping into all levels of sports , including GAA, in recent years, the Ireland’s Edge conference in Dingle has heard.

“Community is no longer just a physical place, it exists online in a virtual world now and technology is disrupting and changing our lives in an extraordinary way,” historian and former director of the GAA Oral History Project, Mark Duncan, told a panel discussion on the issues of community, digital technology, social media and gender in sport.

“Team games are competitive sport, it’s about winning and we absorb all this technology to improve performance in sport, is this just the price we pay because sport is competitive?”

Others on the panel included writer and camogie star Eimear Ryan, All-Ireland-winning footballer Valerie Mulcahy, Kerry footballer and GAA pundit Tomás Ó Sé. Ireland’s Edge is a series of discussions involving key figures from across society that makes up a strand of the annual Other Voices festival.

Pressure

Mr Ó Sé noted that professional sport is utilising GPS trackers to gather data on the performance of individual players. He said this technology is now finding its way into amateur clubs and is even used by some local GAA clubs to analysis players on and even off the pitch.

“I played in an era when there was none of that. If we were losing the stats were on the score board and that was all,” he said.

“It is scary really, and in an amateur sport the pressure is added not only to player but to the management as well. Now you can go on your laptop and analyse every play or step your opposition takes before you meet them on the field. It’s like we are being trained or coached by this technology and not by the people around us.”

Ms Mulcahy said the emphasis used to be about improving skill levels. “We, the players and our team came first and then we discussed the opposition after that. It was all about performance and that worked well,” she said.

Statistics

The panel also agreed that adopting technology from other sports does not always work well for the GAA.

“These systems make more sense in sports like the NFL, where each player has a very specific roles, but in the GAA where every player has to be part of the entire team, they have to be total players, I don’t think it transfers well. “ Ms Ryan said.

However, Ms Mulcahy said that while there is an over-emphasis on stats, these systems have their place.

“There are teams that are looking for more analysis, and GPS systems can help,” she said. “These systems can help with the likes of injury prevention or seeing where players can improve but I do think that it has gone too far and we have to get back to enjoying the game and not just focusing on the statistics we’re gathering.”

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