Food for thought in under-age camogie review
'The talked a lot about nutrition but after every blitz we got chips and chicken nuggets.'
This was just one piece of feedback contained in Wexford camogie's under-age review report which was released at the reconvened Convention last week.
The report was commissioned by former County Chairperson Angela Gahan and her County Board to delve into the running of the inter-county under-age programme, with the goal of improving the structure for the coming seasons.
The committee put in place to draw up the report was headed up by Development Officer Joe Roche and included Mick Curran (Craanford-Monaseed), Máire O'Connor (St. Martin's), Mark Codd (Cloughbawn) and Melanie Ní Dhuinn (Buffers Alley).
To complete the 125-page document, players, parents and management, amongst others, were canvassed for their opinions. Those of the players and their parents make the most interesting reading, with both positive and negative contained in their feedback.
Of 140 players who were involved, between the Under-14 and Under-15 development squads and the Under-16 and Under-18 county squads, just 37 replied to the survey. A randomly chosen ten of those were invited to focus groups to further discuss, in detail, the issues arising.
Some of those responses have been addressed and high, medium and low level priorities have been formulated. One of the most important points outlined was 'enhanced awareness of player welfare and prioritise prevention of player fatigue and/or player burnout'.
It's an issue that is clearly getting worse, with one player offering up a damning assessment of her struggles to balance all her commitments.
She said she was out every single day, trying to keep up with Intermediate or Senior club and Minor club games, as well as Intermediate and Minor county.
'I remember the whole of July…I had something every day and every weekend but I loved doing it….but at the same time you are so tired…'
Other high priority recommendations include improving the level of coaching with inter-county teams, ensuring managers have a minimum Level 1 coaching qualification, as well as recommending that all bosses are appointed by mid-September.
However, several issues, mentioned multiple times, have seemingly been brushed over by the committee. One big point of emphasis of both players and parents was the lack of bonding opportunities afforded to inter-county youngsters. Multiple players said there should be bonding exercises organised but this was ignored in the recommendations.
Another massive issue identified but disregarded are the complaints emanating from development squads. The general consensus was that they were too lightweight and lacking intensity, one player offered up the following:
'In first year everything was intense and it was physical and you'd only get a minute for a water break every now and again, and it was all go, go, go, it was heavy work. Whereas this year it was kind of the same drill, and it wasn't at the pace you'd think county was.
'Like, my own club was at a higher pace. It was only messing. It was all messing. Some of the people (were) not there wanting to play, they (were) kind of there just to mess.'
Furthermore, just one of the four members of county management that responded to the survey were satisfied with how well supported county management was by the development section of County Board, and in relation to the presence of a comprehensive development plan underpinning the structures for under-age county squads. Two of the four were 'dissatisfied'.
Only time will tell on how much of this report will be implemented.
Overall it was a worthwhile exercise, albeit a little smaller in remit than it might have been had financial aspects and on-field results been dealt with in some, or greater, detail.