Many adults, because of life’s competition, have winning as their only goal, while children for the most part have fun as their primary goal. Kids would rather play on a losing team, than sit on the bench of the winning team. It is not winning, but making the effort, or doing one’s best, that really counts. Some credit Vince Lombardi, the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers football team with the quotation “that winning is not everything, but that it is the only thing.” Leo Durocher of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team used to say, “Nice guys never win but usually finish last.” However when it comes to coaching children, teachers, coaches, managers and trainers should always keep uppermost in their minds that games and sports are by their very games and nature fun, and should make them such. Moreover “a spoon of honey catches more flies than a barrel of vinegar.”

Sportsmanship is a word that is hard to define. However, the kids themselves give us a good idea of what it really means; namely fairness, honesty, respect and reverence for authority, self sacrifice and good character. In short it is moral behaviour in sports. It is fairness, firmness, friendliness; it is respect, reverence, responsibility. Children learn moral behaviour in sports or other pursuits in life by observing and listening to others whether children or adults. The pursuit of excellence, in a fair contest, and played fairly, especially by following the rules of the game is the all important thing; or to put it briefly, “ask not whether you won or lost but how you played the game.”

Those who play hurling, football, and camogie often take these games for granted and do not realise their greatness, goodness, nobility and value. There are many and varied excellent team games all over the world, some national and other international, but there is no team game that demands the skill, stamina, strength and ability as our own national pastimes. They play a vital role in the development of the human body because all parts of the body are used in a co-ordinated, disciplined, and skillful fashion. Moreover, the formation of character, the sense of achievement, the benefit of competition, the learning of self-control, the reward of excellence, the value of hard work and practice the lessons of courage, honour, and fair play (like the Red Branch Knights or the Fianna of old); such are the joys, benefits and values, of gaelic games. They have stood the test of time because they are enjoyed and played for recreation, pleasure, and good health without contracts, salaries, or remuneration of any kind, and we should keep them as such, pure and unsullied as their founders intended, namely, “Ar Son Gloire Dé Agus Onóra na hÉireann.

Fr. Liam Kitt (Extract)
Galway GAA Annual