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Alison Curtis On The Many Benefits Of Gaelic4Mothers&Others

Alison Curtis On The Many Benefits Of Gaelic4Mothers&Others

It's been a phenomenal week or two for Irish women in sport. Ellen Keane, Leona Maguire, Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, Katie Taylor and the Meath ladies footballers all showed the power of women in sport.

Their heroics will inspire the next generation of Irish female sportspeople. But sport is not just about elite performance. There are huge psychological and personal benefits from participation in team sports. Gaelic4Mothers&Others is one great initiative aimed to get women playing back gaelic football, as broadcaster Alison Curtis has been discovering of late.

Curtis is a well-known voice on Irish radio. The Canadian is a regular fixture on TodayFM and presents the Weekend Breakfast programme. She's been taking part in Gaelic4Mothers&Others over the past few weeks - despite have no experience playing gaelic football - and finding it to be an amazing experience.

Gaelic4Mothers&Others is a brilliant initiative that encourages women to get onto the gaelic football pitch. We all know the unfortunate statistics about drop-out rate in sport amongst young women. According to research, half of Irish girls give up sport by 13 years old.

Yet women are integral parts of so many GAA clubs, both on the sidelines and behind the scenes.  Gaelic4Mothers&Others helps to bring women back on to the pitch, to exercise their minds and bodies in a fun, stress-free environment.

Alison has been taking part in Gaelic4Mothers&Others - which is sponsored by Sports Direct - at her local club St Vincents in Marino in Dublin and has been been reaping the rewards of playing.

"I moved here in 1999, and I starting working in morning radio, so I quickly got to grips with GAA. But I have only played it in the last few weeks. So much of this campaign is about getting women off the sidelines as they've accustomed to being when they're cheering on partners and their own children, and getting onto the pitch."

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Growing up in Ontario, Canada, Curti  would not have been familiar with hand passing drills or playing forwards-and-backs before taking part in Gaelic4Mothers&Others. But she's absolutely loving her Monday night training sessions. Compared to individual sport like jogging, which can be lonely at times, she's discovered playing gaelic football has both social and physical benefits.

"I've done a lot of solo sport during lockdown so it's nice to get back to a team environment. All the things we tell our kids about the value of team sport still apply when you're older."

She also loves the camaraderie she's struck up with the other women.

"I've made instant pals. Everyone is really supportive. Everyone spoke from the heart about how this is their time and how playing improves their physical and mental health. It's multicultural. The captain is from Tokyo, I'm from Canada, it's all good!

On Monday nights, I sometimes feel bleh about going for a run, but now I know I can't let my teammates down."

The benefits are immense. Sports Direct and the LGFA carried out a survey with over 1,200 Gaelic4Mothers&Others participants that found 90% of respondents felt that the initiative had aided their mental health, while 89% thought that Gaelic4Mothers&Others had "empowered them to be a sporting role model within their family."

Alison is one of a number of mothers to take part at St Vincents, but you don't need to be a mother to be involved. The 'others' in the initiative's name refers to women who might be new to a community or simply looking to get back onto the gaelic football pitch in a fun and non-competitive way.

There are 220 clubs taking part in Gaelic4Mothers&Others across the country. And while it is strictly a non-competitive environment, there are provincial and national blitzes planned for next year.

The most important thing to remember is you don't actually need gaelic football experience to take part.

As Alison says, "If I can do it, anyone can do it."

For more information, download the Gaelic4Mothers&Others Information booklet

Donny Mahoney
Article written by
Donny Mahoney is Chief Sportswriter and one of the founders of Balls.ie

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