A SPECIAL ceremony with governmental representation in Croke Park saw 58 GAA clubs recognised as the first official Healthy Clubs in Ireland.
Two Mayo clubs, Aghamore and Achill GAA, can now proudly fly a flag above their grounds (endorsed by both Healthy Ireland and the Public Health Agency in NI), letting their members and communities know that they value health and wellbeing as much as leagues and championships.
In January 2016, almost 100 clubs applied to participate in phase 2 of the project (just 16 participated in phase 1 between 2013 and 2015). Many cited the dearth of services in their communities that are tackling issues such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, mental health and suicide. They wanted to be part of the solution.
Clubs engaged with their members and community before identifying health themes upon which to focus on. Most common include healthy eating; physical activity for non-playing members; emotional wellbeing; engaging older members of the community; youth development; gambling, drug, and alcohol education; and inclusion and integration. Almost half of the clubs (29) also opted to become completely smoke-free venues as part of their 18-month journey.
Progressive GAA clubs Aghamore and Achill are the first clubs in Mayo to receive national recognition. Their various health and wellbeing initiatives have had a tremendous impact on their clubs and wider communities.
Both have become complete smoke-free zones this year, setting a positive example and normalising the fact that smoking no longer takes place pitch side.
Achill GAA have established a monthly walk and talk group known as the Achill Loopers, which provides a social outlet for people of all ages and abilities on the island. The group focus on the 14 existing stunning loop walks in the area and recruit troops from the surrounding local communities as they pass through.
Currently average participation in the walks is 80 people, with adult participation of approximately 70%.
Aghamore GAA are coming into the third year of their hugely successful Operation Trans-Agha-Mation (OPTAM). Last year saw between 50 and 80 people attending the weekly exercise classes (yoga, circuits, MetaFit, bootcamp, etc.) The programme promotes a healthier lifestyle within the community and encourages people to get active while using the club facilities.
Former Tyrone football captain Seán Cavanagh is a big supporter of the GAA’s Healthy Club Project (HCP) and presented the clubs with their official flag and plaque in Croke Park on Saturday last.
The GAA hope to extend the project to 150 clubs in phase 3 (with expressions of interest to open in early 2018) before opening the project to all interested clubs in 2020.
For more information, visit www.gaa.ie/community.