About an hour after I press the send button on this article, my fellow coaches and I will be stood on a muddy pitch while a band of determined U-12 girls will lash footballs at us for the betterment of their skills. For 90 minutes, we will attempt to pass on some of our perceived wisdom, until they go home, muddied, energised, happier for the participation, and hopefully, slightly better players.
The scene is replicated on pitches and community grounds and dimly-lit community centres across the country. People who are clerks by day become trapeze artists by night as they scale lighting rigs on century-old halls to set up for amateur drama productions; Saturdays are taken up by hardy souls having to line pitches, to repair football nets; to get ready for fetes and fairs.
We all do these things because without them, society would not function to its optimum level. When we were all children, we made our own entertainment. We left the house after school and played football until it got dusk...and until we got hungry. Back then, that was the way it was done. The presumption was that you would be OK. Nobody asked if you climbed high walls, rusty fences. Nobody asked who was responsible if you twisted your ankle on the big lawn at the Garda station that was our Nou Camp, our Old Trafford.
Back then, life was not as litigious. There were no consent forms, no documents to waive culpability in the event of something happening. Back then if you got a kick and limped home, the first instinct was not to check if the school insurance covered your visit to the doctor.
I know that we cannot continuing harking back to the practices of yesteryear, but what we can strive to do is to ensure that we maintain the principles and idealism of yesteryear. I know that if coaches like myself and the thousands of others did not do what we do, then tens of thosuands of children would not be able to play organised sport or engage in organised activity. I let my guiding principle be the thoughts I had myself as a youngster, and how disappointed I would be if a game or activity was cancelled because there were no adults to police it.
We all muck in for the sake of our community. We become the shields so that modern young communities can enjoy the things that we all took for granted. Back then too, we did not realise the greater benefits that came from facilitating clubs and societies, events and organisations. We had no cognisance of the greater good that comes about because we take the time to do these things.
Life has become more guarded, and more litigious. We are all vetted and analysed; trained and upskilled. And these things are necessary if we are to ensure that acticities are safe and that participants are treated with respect and dignity.
However, such an approach comes at a cost.
I write about this today in the week in which Galway Community Circus said the high cost of renewing its insurance means it has had to limit the services it provides and could be forced to close.
The Community Circus said it has only been able to secure one quote for insurance despite several months of effort. This does not cover aerial acrobatics or any activity above a height of 1.5 metres.
As a result, it has had to cancel classes for 650 members and put a portion of its activities on hold.
On the organisation’s Facebook page this week one parent commented: ‘‘Your work is measured by the children and adults who have cemented self-esteem, confidence and the ability to work towards things that seem impossible. You are building better adults and a better world, we need you in it.’’
I wrote last week about how we want our public representatives to behave; and how there are matters that WE want them to prioritise, and not the issues that THEY want to prioritise. Their energy would be better spent on ensuring that insurance companies are prohibited from shutting down community activities with exorbitant demands.
In the year in which we are the European Capital of Culture, what better contribution could our Government make to community and culture, than taking firm action on securing cover for groups and organisations like Galway Community Circus.
If you have the ear of your local councillor or TD this week, let him/her know how you feel about this. Let him/her know that this issue has the potential to derail every community; to deter volunteers from coming forward. It would be like extinguishing a light of creativity, of participation, of fun, from every community in Ireland.
And if we let our clubs and societies and organisations go to the wall, then it will be very hard to rebuild them, because inaction will have sucked the very life out of them
We have a full-page opinion piece on the Galway Community Circus issue on Page 56.