In sport, it’s about lifelong learning

We are always learning. Learning from our experiences, learning from the experiences of others. Fast-tracking our own progress and sometimes avoiding making mistakes.

It is not just an individual athlete or team who can learn from others but a sport itself.

Sporting organisations can learn from other models, even looking abroad to learn and mimic best practice and successful structures.

I have always thought sports can learn a lot from each other and often wondered why they don’t learn more. During my youth I played a lot of sport, mostly Gaelic football, soccer, and basketball.

Throughout my entire football career I was grateful for the skills and understanding basketball and soccer brought to my football game.

I appreciated the value of what I could take from another sport and apply to my own game to be as successful, efficient, and adaptive as I could be. I believe that there is significant value to be gained by our national sporting organisations in looking to other sports for good ideas, working models, and better structure.

As a former player, training across multiple sports and falling under the umbrella of different organisations, it is evident just how many ways a sport can borrow and adapt from another. I would frequently compare and contrast the things I preferred or found more difficult.

I always preferred the ratio of training to matches with soccer than football. Players ultimately want to play games. It is the reason we all play and are drawn to the particular sport to begin with.

The joy obtained from competition and structured games. If you ever watch youngsters with a ball they don’t set up drills for themselves, they set up goalposts and select teams with little delay so that they can get into the competition, the game.

When we trained in soccer it felt like it was always geared to working on things for the forthcoming game. Training was invariably dotted between games so that we could make improvements on previous performance and alter our tactics for the respective opposition.

Gaelic football, on the other hand, had long training blocks split sporadically by matches. Sometimes six weeks of training would pass without a competitive game even at senior level.

In soccer, matches and fixtures were always known well in advance and a certain day of the week was fixed.

Everyone knew it was match day. Everyone knew in advance whether or not they were able to commit to the season and also to plan other aspects of their life around it. The structure sustained participation.

In this regard, I think that the GAA could take a lead from soccer and create a more structured and predictable season. The match to training session ratio flaw is well known and badly needs to be rebalanced.

A huge draw for playing an international sport is the prospect to progress up through the ranks and have an opportunity to represent your country. Something that the GAA can’t do much about.

However, it would be phenomenal for our native sport and for female players if ladies football could once again amalgamate with another sport to provide players with the opportunity to represent their country in a compromise rules type fixture.

GAA boasts a loyal following. Tradition and pride of parish are the cornerstones of the association’s success.

When I was playing soccer, transferring clubs was just another part of playing, and I was always a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of a tradition of allegiance to clubs and management as there is with GAA.

I do think that if a player is very unhappy with a setup, or with their experience at a club, it is better that they move so that the alternative of leaving the sport is avoided.

However, loyalty and familiarity are hugely beneficial to a player and I believe that ultimately they lose out on something important when it becomes standard to frequently change teams within a sport.

I have always enjoyed the sense of community in basketball over any other sport. Thanks to the close communication and co-operation within Irish basketball, gender discrimination is rarely evident.

The biggest events in the men’s and women’s games are organised for the same days and venues so support is shared.

That would be much harder to achieve for football and soccer but certainly not impossible, with a more proactive approach.

Our sporting organisations do a lot of good work, despite encountering many challenges, financial and otherwise.

By learning from each other, the future can be even brighter.



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