A majority of student county players may not be enjoying a high quality learning experience and require more support from their respective academic and sporting environments according to a new report published by the Gaelic Players Association back in April 2015.
The report was compiled in response to issues raised by third level student county players who are members of the Gaelic Players Association over the past two years. Other relevant stakeholders consulted for the report include academic staff, sports administrators, county and college managers, GAA college administrators and county board officials.
The objective of the report is to shine a light on what we know to be a problem period on the GAA calendar and to support the various groups involved at this level in providing solutions to some of the particular challenges. Reconciling college and sport is one of the biggest challenges facing student county players and finding solutions to the problems occurring for this cohort of footballers and hurlers will require input and learning for players, managers and college authorities.
Considered a first step in tackling issues pertaining to this cohort, the report contains a number of proposals which will assist the GAA with its on-going efforts in addressing the national fixture programme.
Speaking about the Report, GPA Chief Executive Officer Dessie Farrell:
“While we are focussing on the specific difficulties many of our student county players face during their college years, the intention with this work is to encourage a collaborative approach to sorting out these difficulties. We believe that by tackling issues like overlapping competition structures we will be lifting a significant burden off the shoulders of these young players who are committed to managing a difficult dual career between sport and studies. However, compromise will be essential to solve the crux and we hope that the Student Report will encourage moves to initiate the necessary changes.”
Among the issues raised by players were: lack of a consistent planning in relation to playing and training schedules, academic underperformance, financial difficulties, a lack of time with family and friends, time management and stress.
Significantly, 40 percent of student county players surveyed by the GPA recently stated that they have had to repeat exams in college and 14 percent have had to repeat an entire academic year. This is considerably higher than data from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which revealed a less than 6 percent repeat rate across all third level students in Ireland.
- 55% of student county players indicated that the feel under pressure to represent their college
- 50 % report that the feel overwhelmed by their commitments
- 40% revealed they would like more time for their sport, 51% more time to have a part time job, 56% more time to devote to their studies and 61% more time for family and friends.
- 55% are experiencing financial difficulties
- Restructuring fixture programme between January and March to avoid overlapping competitions
- Examine changing U21 grade to U20 in football and hurling
- Removing colleges from pre-season inter-county competitions
- The establishment of GPA representation on the GAA Higher Education group to facilitate engagement with key stakeholders such as managers and educators
- Initiate education fundraising campaign to increase support for those who need it most
- Support the GAA’s development of player welfare mentor position at county level to help manage training and playing commitments of student county players representing multiple teams
The GPA is also committed to developing further its Athlete Friendly Institution Protocol, a policy initiative commenced in 2014 with a view to protecting the wellbeing and academic needs of student county players. This represents a useful contribution to the development of a co-ordinated policy of support for elite athletes across Ireland.
Education is a key component of the GPA’s Player Development Programme. The players body has distributed 430 scholarships – valued at €374,000 – to undergraduate and post-graduate county players to date in 2015.
You can download the full report here.