GAA commitments influence education, career and other aspects of senior inter-county players’ lives
According to new ESRI research, Gaelic players are highly educated, with 61 per cent having at least a university degree compared to 35 per cent of the general male population of the same age. However, the study finds that players appear to be basing many decisions related to their education and their professional career around playing Gaelic games.
The report is the second ESRI study to examine how the commitment levels of the amateur sports affect players’ lives. Both reports used data from a survey of 2016 players.
This report also examines a range of other issues relevant to players’ lives, including alcohol consumption, supplement use, their views on player welfare supports and their experiences within the inter-county set-up.
- One in four players reported choosing a career path after second-level education that would facilitate them to play senior inter-county. This percentage was higher among top-tier players.
- Over 40 per cent of players would not select the same post second-level career path again. This figure was over 50 per cent among players who selected their post second-level education pathway because it allowed them to play inter-county.
- Over 80 per cent of players reported difficulty balancing the demands of studying and playing during their education course; 16 per cent either dropped out of a course or had to repeat a year; and 80 per cent missed college lectures/classes/labs.
- Some players select sectors of employment with fewer working hours (e.g. education).
- Working fewer hours, and experiencing lower promotion prospects because of inter-county commitments, may be affecting players’ earnings.
- The proportion of senior inter-county players who consume alcohol is similar to the general male population of the same age. However, they tend to consume higher quantities of alcohol when they do drink. This is particularly the case during the pre-season and off-season. Nearly nine-out-of-ten players reported binge-drinking during the off-season.
- Almost nine out of ten players consume supplements and are recommended to do so by teams. However, many players source their supplements from outside of the inter-county set-up (e.g., internet) and only over half of players indicated that supplement use is monitored within their team.
- Players reported inequalities with regards to Player Charter and County-Board supports. In particular, lower-tier counties appear to be bearing the brunt of these issues, such as the timing of when expenses are paid.
Players identified two key areas where they would like to receive more support. These were ‘professional career’ and ‘how to keep their inter-county participation in perspective’.
Players specified that the issues they would most like to change about their inter-county experience would be a reduction in the length of the playing season, fewer time commitments and the reintroduction of enjoyment into the games. The majority of the issues that players would change about the inter-county set-up are under the remit of either the inter-county management team or the players’ County Boards.
Elish Kelly, ESRI researcher and lead author of the report, commented, “Unless the underlying drivers that are giving rise to the current inter-county commitment levels are identified and addressed, the knock-on effects identified in this study are likely to be amplified among future generations of players. One of the main benefits of the current research is that players themselves have identified changes that could be made to assist with addressing some of these effects.”
Uachtarán CLG John Horan said, "There is a significant amount of time invested and commitment made by our inter-county players. Previous feedback from the playing population was extremely useful and likewise, this report will assist our approach to player welfare on and off the field."
Paul Flynn, Gaelic Players Association CEO, said; “The report’s findings under the key themes of Educational Experience and Educational Choices will prove to be a valuable resource. As we strive for a modern form of sustainable amateurism where players understand the importance of their career outside of the game, and how to balance this with their inter-county commitments, this information is hugely beneficial.”
“The report also underlines the need for a robust range of player development supports from the GPA. It shows us there is a growing need for more education and information for players about their roles and responsibilities as inter-county players, particularly around supplement usage and alcohol consumption.
“Encouragingly, our own research tells us that players who are actively engaged in their own personal development through GPA programmes are less likely to engage in risky behaviours in these areas and benefit from a better-balanced lifestyle.”