More than half of student-athletes regularly 'overwhelmed' by GAA commitments

More than half of student-athletes regularly 'overwhelmed' by GAA commitments
At the Gaelic Players Association launch of their 2019 Student Report were GPA CEO Paul Flynn (centre) with Tyrone footballer Conor Meyler and Wexford hurler Rory O'Connor. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

More than half of the GPA's student-members regularly feel "overwhelmed" as they juggle study and sporting commitments.

The GPA Student Report 2019 has revealed that 35% of inter-county players in college had to repeat an exam, while just over one-in-ten had to repeat an entire academic year.

It comes as fixture-makers examine ways to rework the GAA calendar, with the premier college competitions set to move earlier in the year to lessen clashes with the National Leagues.

A majority (65%) feel their training load has a negative impact on their academic performance, while 54% say they don’t receive supports from their college if they are under pressure - the same number that describe themselves as regularly feeling overwhelmed.

The squeeze isn't just on the students, with four-in-five reporting that being a student-athlete puts financial pressure on their family.

The vast majority (83%) are playing with at least three teams, with seven-in-ten travelling home for training three or more times a week. Less than half felt confident to talk to their county manager about a reduced training load.

“Being a player should help our members develop valuable transferable skills and not prohibit them from performing to an optimal level academically, or negatively impact them financially, physically or emotionally,” said GPA chief executive Paul Flynn.

“Without a doubt, the demands on student players has never been greater but with the right supports in place they can achieve greater success in life and make a positive contribution to the overall college environment.”

Just over a third of student-members say more financial support to cover the costs of travel, accommodation, and nutrition would be their main priority.

More than half of student-athletes regularly 'overwhelmed' by GAA commitments

    Recommendations:

  • The GPA will include a mental health literacy workshop as part of the new suite of programmes it will offer to inter-county squads.
  • All GPA staff and service providers will participate in a mental health first aid training workshop and a gambling awareness workshop.
  • The GPA will share the findings of the current report with the GAA Higher Education Committee and will seek to establish representation on the Committee.
  • The GPA, GAA, other players associations, and educational institutions will explore the development of a cross-sport elite athlete friendly university programme, as well as the ongoing exploration of future scholarship opportunities with third-level institutions.
  • As well as supporting students to identify flexible employment opportunities, the GPA is currently exploring the development of an internship programme, which will be piloted in 2020.
  • The GPA is also currently developing a new bespoke financial information and advice programme to provide members with support and guidance in financial planning, budgeting, tax, etc.
  • The GPA to review the current expenses model in 2019 and continue to work with teams on the implementation of squad charters.
  • The GPA is involved in the development of scientifically supported training load measures underpinned by the work the GPA is doing on a Minimum Standards Charter for player welfare.
  • The GPA is also represented on the new Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force to review the GAA Fixtures Calendar and examine the timing of higher education competitions. The Committee has been tasked with having a report with recommendations completed by November 2019.

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