By: Jayci Kuhn
The involvement of children in sports engages them in a community where they gain friendship, athletic ability, and numerous skills that last a lifetime. Gaelic sports in the United States reap all the benefits of any other youth sport but also ties in cultural diversity. Gaelic football and Hurling are the most popular Irish sports in the United States are. Gaelic football is often considered to be a mix of soccer and rugby. Two teams of 15 players battle across a field using a round ball slightly smaller than a soccer ball. The ball is carried for short distances and passing is done with a kick or struck with a hand or fist. Protective equipment is nonexistent. Hurling, on the other hand, is similar to lacrosse or hockey. It’s played on a large field with players carrying a curved wooden stick, or “hurley,” and a small ball called a “sliothar.”. One of the fastest games afield, it’s not for the faint of heart. Bodies bang, the ball is as hard as a baseball, and the sticks are made of solid ash.
Due to the sports high-velocity, multidirectional, and high physical contact elements expose players to a risk of injury. Both Gaelic sports have a higher lower limb injury prevalence than soccer and rugby. The most common elements of the sports that give rise to injuries are collisions (22%) and twisting/turning (19%) both causing stress on the knee, making them highly susceptible to a knee injury. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears are the most common cause of prolonged absence from the sports, although hamstring, hip, and cruciate injuries are becoming more common in the current era. The promotion of Injury prevention has become a very important aspect of Gaelic associations around the United States. In 2015, a Medical, Scientific, and Welfare Committee in conjunction with a working group created a standardized warm-up program aimed at reducing the number of injuries sustained by GAA players
There are numerous associations planted around the United States like, the San Diego Youth Gaelic Athletic Association, The Midwest Gaelic Athletic Association, and the largest one is The United States Youth Gaelic Athletic Association. Within each of these associations, there are hundreds of clubs around the United States that promote the participation of youth in Gaelic sports. The United States Youth Gaelic Athletic Association operates year-round in promoting the sports and involving any child interested in learning and playing. I reached out to the association and asked about the background of their members and was told they have a wide range of ethnicities: Irish, American, German and Asians, ages ranging from 6 to 18-year-olds who participate. Becoming involved in their association is fairly simple. On their website, there is an option on how to create a club of and the proper coaching skills and drills necessary for its teams.
The largest event for youth Gaelic sports outside of Ireland is the Annual Continental Youth Championships run by the US Youth GAA itself. Beginning in 2004, each year up to 2,500 children classified U6 to U18 on 200 teams participate in the tournament with hundreds of games organized over the course of the four-day event. Cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, San Diego, Cleveland in the United States, and the Canadian cities of Toronto and Ottawa all sponsor teams. The tournament has become a very popular event, bringing in thousands of spectators every year. The tournament, associations, and clubs have not only promoted the recognition of Irish culture in the United States but has become a way for Irish American’s to connect with each other and show their pride.