Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

It all starts with a ball

I saw a great post online from Oliver Plunkett’s GAA Facebook page about kids taking up the sport. It started off by saying that when a child wants a football they will soon want goal posts. When they get goal posts they will want their parents to go out and play with them.

Next is the club jersey which of course means shorts and socks then joining the local team.

What children gain from here is invaluable for their own life skills and development. Being part of team or sport where dedication, commitment, learning rules, team work, sportsmanship, and winning and losing are all part of the process.


I am grateful that I had the opportunity to play and be involved in sport and physical activity all my life. I am thankful that this is something I do as a living and can pass on the positive experiences of sport and physical activity to the people I work with. Best of all it’s something I love to do.

But where did it all start for me?

It started at my home, in the garden when footballs, tennis rackets, swing balls and bikes were brought into my life.

It started playing indoors with my sisters and outdoors with my friends.

It started when we played rounders outside with the whole family, kicked a ball with my dad, when I was dropped off to my friend’s house to play football in their back garden. This was all before organised sports or joining any sort of team.

Most importantly it started with my parents. They were the ones who invested in my play time, either financially or even better with their own time. Mum would be at home looking after the four of us, sending us outside whenever she could and even bringing the biscuits and juice outside for our own mini picnic.

When dad came home from work there was no rest. It was either a mini wrestling match or kicking a ball outside.

It didn’t have to go on for hours just enough to spark my interest and then I would continue on by myself or meet up with friends.


Then when organised sports came along there was the added expense of buying equipment, training gear and the family ‘taxi’ service.

I was also very fortunate to live in a park where one of the dads helped take the football team so we were never stuck for a lift to matches and always had the company of friends in the car with us.

To say I enjoyed playing all the games would be a lie. I loved playing sport but would always be nervous before and sometimes during the games. When I look back now, it was the whole thing that I enjoyed and learned from.

Getting up early on a Saturday morning, putting on my Killyclogher shorts and socks, making my own breakfast, getting my gear ready, looking out the window waiting for my lift, speaking softly in the back of the car at times so the adult driving wouldn’t hear us, meeting the rest of the team at the grounds, playing the match, chatting about the match (never lasted too long), stopping off at a shop on the way home, planning with the lads what we will do the rest of the day and all this before 12 noon!

Compare this to a Saturday I didn’t have football. SMTV Live and a big bowel of cereal! Not much in the way of social and physical development there.

From here on in, sport played a massive role in my life, including all the ups and downs not just for me but my family and friends. Delayed holidays, missed family functions, early to bed, eating at different times, gear washed and dried in time for the next match.

Sacrifices were not just made by me but by the whole family and I wasn’t the only one in the house playing sport.

Dinner times each evening were like a finely tuned production line. Different people eating different things at different times.

Fast forward to today and now I’m playing the role of buying the ball, spending time playing outside with my son, dropping him at training, taking training sessions, buying the jersey and taking him to his big sporting events.

It’s only now that I realise the importance of what my parents did for me. It doesn’t have to be a massive gesture, in fact it’s just giving your time and attention to let them explore and fall in love with sport and physical activity.

It’s the same as getting them to fall in love with reading or music, you must give them the opportunity and guidance to let them find their own way.

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