Lives of student inter-county players are a juggling act
Today (Wednesday, 6th November 2019), the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) has revealed the latest insights into the lives of over a third of its members, who are third-level students.
63% of the GPA’s student-members are 21 – 24 years of age and 93% are full-time students, and all of them face the specific challenge of managing the demands of being an inter-county player alongside their academic commitments and personal lives.
The GPA Student Report 2019 highlights the challenges experienced by GPA student-members, some of which were also highlighted in the most recent ESRI study published in 2018 on the demands on all senior, inter-county players. This report also provides actionable GPA recommendations to help student-members achieve better-balanced lifestyles so they can thrive on and off the field.
The key findings and recommendations include:
- 54% – over half of student inter-county players regularly feel overwhelmed by their commitments
- 62% find it difficult to manage all of the commitments associated with being a student-athlete
- 93% of student players who had engaged with the GPA’s Player Development Programme (PDP) reported that it had assisted them in their off-field lives.
- The GPA will include a mental health literacy workshop as part of the new suite of programmes it will offer to inter-county squads.
- All GPA staff and service providers will participate in a mental health first aid training workshop and a gambling awareness workshop.
- 35% had to repeat a college exam; 11% had to repeat an entire academic year
- 65% feel their training load negatively affects their academic performance
- 54% don’t receive supports from their college if they are under pressure
- 48% felt more like an inter-county player than a student trying to earn a degree.
- The GPA will share the findings of the current report with the GAA Higher Education Committee and will seek to establish representation on the Committee.
- The GPA, GAA, other players associations, and educational institutions will explore the development of a cross-sport elite athlete friendly university programme, as well as the ongoing exploration of future scholarship opportunities with third-level institutions.
- 35% say more financial support to cover the costs of travel, accommodation, and nutrition would be their main priority
- 80% feel being a student-athlete puts financial pressure on their family
- 34% are in a position to be able to work part-time
- As well as supporting students to identify flexible employment opportunities, the GPA is currently exploring the development of an internship programme, which will be piloted in 2020.
- The GPA is also currently developing a new bespoke financial information and advice programme to provide members with support and guidance in financial planning, budgeting, tax, etc.
- The GPA to review the current expenses model in 2019 and continue to work with teams on the implementation of squad charters.
- 83% are playing with at least three teams
- 81% take part in social activities less than most other people their age
- 70% travel home for training 3 or more times per week
- 48% felt confident to talk to their county manager about a reduced training load.
- The GPA is involved in the development of scientifically supported training load measures underpinned by the work the GPA is doing on a Minimum Standards Charter for player welfare
- The GPA is also represented on the new Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force to review the GAA Fixtures Calendar and examine the timing of higher education competitions. The Committee has been tasked with having a report with recommendations completed by November 2019.
Additionally, many of the challenges experienced in 2018 were consistent with a previous GPA student report in 2015. However, areas with the most significant change include:
- 78% report feeling stressed at least once a month (up 24%)
- 73% would like to spend more time with family and friends (up 12%)
- 69% travel from college to training at least three times a week (up 17%)
- 69% would like more time to devote to their studies (up 13%)
The GPA’s remit covers three core areas: player welfare; player development; and representing player interests, and its objective is to ensure that the commitment of every inter-county player to their on-field career has a positive impact on their ‘well rounded’ lives.
Speaking at today’s launch event, Paul Flynn, Chief Executive of the GPA, said:
“Being a player should help our members develop valuable transferable skills and not prohibit them from performing to an optimal level academically, or negatively impact them financially, physically or emotionally. Without a doubt, the demands on student players has never been greater but with the right supports in place they can achieve greater success in life and make a positive contribution to the overall college environment.”
“We know for a fact that 93% of student inter-county players who engaged with the GPA’s Player Development Programme say it has assisted them in their off-field lives, and equipped them to better manage the demands of this dual-lifestyle. We firmly believe that the execution of our key recommendations alongside the ongoing support of the GPA’s Player Development Programme can help student inter-county players perform to their personal best in both their on-field and off-field lives.”
The GPA’s Player Development Programme (PDP) is open to all student players and it offers a range of player development programmes focused on career, education, personal development, and health and mental wellbeing.