I recently read an article in the Irish Examiner that had a interesting statement from Liam O’Neill, President of the GAA. In the statement he suggested that the GAA were considering having games played in total silence in an effort to stop over enthusiastic parents shouting at children.
He went on to say that shouting at children, especially admonishing them, during games was unacceptable and lowered their self-esteem. He also said they were considering having under 6 and under 8 games in silence in an effort to stamp out the practice.
It’s not too often a figure as influential as the President of any sporting organisation has the nerve to stand up and make such a statement without being ridiculed by many in the national media.
It may sound daft that you could actually get people to go to a underage hurling or football match and remain silent for the duration of the game but when you go to a game, both adult and underage, you can understand exactly where he is coming from because some of what you hear is unacceptable at any time never mind when there are children present.
In the last number of years I have travelled to a number of underage fixtures. I have a wee lad that plays and to say I was not shocked but disgusted by some of what I heard and what I still hear at games would be an understatement and it begs the question, why?
Why as a nation do we feel the need to be so critical of those who are out playing a game? Why suddenly have we become the experts in every sport that we feel the right to comment and more often that not condemn those who are trying their best? How will children every learn that there is another way; that you can go to a sporting fixture, whatever it may be, without being cynical and over critical?
Look at the coverage of Gealic games; unless those on the programmes are negative about something or other they may not be asked back. You have to get in your dig about something.
Look at the coverage of the World Cup. Apart from a few of the younger pundits the rest of them had a go at everyone especially those footballers that had huge transfer fees and were earning big money. They hadn’t a good word to say about anyone. Our children all viewed the World Cup and listened to these so-called experts. Did they learn anything? Yes, if you want to be a TV pundit you need to be a cynic.
Let’s get back to Mr O’Neill; he suggests that we put children out on to the pitch and we feel it’s ok to shout at them, and we lower their self esteem. Again I suppose not all parents will shout negative stuff at their children but if someone else’s child makes a mistake that ends up costing their child’s team the win you can be sure that there will be a mouthful or two shouted out. Some of it we put down to human nature but we all know that’s not true. It’s what has become acceptable as human nature.
Last Sunday week we marvelled at Donegal’s win in the Ulster final. We know what kind of commitment that is now expected from our inter county stars. If you don’t I will sum it up for you; professional in every way but getting paid. These lads give up everything that we all take for granted, but as Dermot Molloy was warming up for Colm McFadden a number of people in the crowd let their frustrations be known about how long McFadden was left on the field. Unfortunately for Colm he missed a couple of frees and a small number of people felt the need to tell us all. What these people tend to forget is that most of the rest of us are not interested in their tirades of abuse. Do they realize that family members, partners and friends of all the players are in the crowd and how do they feel when people shout such abuse. Yes, I know they will say they are all caught up in the moment and they don’t mean anything by it and it’s all part of the human nature line again.
Liam O’ Neill knows that this is a common feature of Gaelic games and he does not like it. Neither do I and many others who have played the game but there is only one way to change it and that is where it all starts, at the under 6 or under 8 blitzes. It’s where our referees should set out their stall as well and by the time these youngsters have come of age then maybe it will have become more of a civilized pasttime to go and watch a game without having to listen to the loadmouth or the cynic in the crowd who wants us all to hear his or her expertise.
We all wonder why kids are dropping out from playing sports. There are plenty of surveys out there which might just give us some idea but if you go to a match and watch them you can figure it out easily enough. The players who makes a mistake and the coach or a couple of parents shout at them, their head goes down. Maybe it happens on a number of occasions during the same match. It’s not going to be too long before they figure it out, do I need this crap.
The other is the young girl or boy that is left sitting on the bench even when the team is winning by a monster score and they’re still not getting a game. If an adult is faced with the same scenario they will leave, they will walk and not come back. Do we think our kids are not as cute as us; think again.
Good luck to the Donegal minors on Saturday against Roscommon in Sligo. It was great to see the level of support for them in the Ulster final and hopefully it will be the same come Saturday. Remember they’re the future.