Ulster Council are wary of burnout

THE Ulster Council of the GAA has commissioned a survey into the topical issue of burn-out among young GAA players.

The research will be carried out by the University of Ulster over a period of three years, starting in October, with the Council supporting it financially by funding a PhD student.

“We need to know if our coaching and player development programme is achieving its objectives and also we need to know if any of our practices are contributing to player burnout,’’ Ulster Chairman Michéal Greenan said yesterday.

Top players in the 16-23 years age bracket in all nine Ulster counties will be surveyed in an attempt to identify individuals at risk from burnout and uncover the factors which contribute to its onset and development. Following the sudden death of Tyrone captain Cormac MacAnallen, questions have been asked about excessive demands being placed on young players, leading many becoming disillusioned with the sport. Concerns have also been expressed that overexposure to training and matches can lead to injury and possible premature retirement.

Dr David Hassan, a lecturer in Sports Studies at the University of Ulster, who will lead the research, agrees that the issue is a very contentious one within the GAA, at club and county level.

“The problem is probably most widespread in gaelic football but the heaviest burden obviously falls on talented dual players - those who play football and hurling up to county level. They could be playing for two or three age group teams at club and county level and also at school or further education level.

“Add in the training for all these squads and you can see how the sport then comes to dominate these young people's lives,’’ said Dr. Hassan.

“They love playing gaelic games but we have to find a way of managing their involvement better so that they can continue playing for as long as possible”.

Commending the Ulster Council for its ‘proactive approach,’ he explained that the main aim of the research will be to provide ‘definitive answers,’ and from there recommendations that may serve to alleviate further cases arising in the future.

Greenan stressed that their players are their most valued asset and they need to ensure that their involvement is at the highest level for the longest period. “The Association is interested in the total well-being of all our players and we look forward to the findings of the study, which, I am sure will make a very significant contribution to the long term development of Gaelic Games.”

Dr Eugene Young, ‘High Performance’ Director for Gaelic football at the Sports Institute for Northern Ireland said the research will focus on the social and psychological factors which may contribute to burnout.

“We will make some reference to the physical demands placed on the young players but the whole issue is so wide that we have decided to narrow the focus a bit. We want to identify and quantify the factors that can lead to burnout and make recommendations to address the problem. This research project is an investment in the future of our young players and it is hoped the outcomes will help inform policy making within the Association.

“There also may well be lessons for other sports in our findings.’’

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