Children in Ireland are failures at mastering even the most basic of movements according to a recent study, with a new GAA programme to fix a glaring problem.
Can your teenage kids run, skip, jump, catch, throw, dribble, kick or hit a ball with a bat? If so, congratulations; they have mastered the basic skills of a six-year-old.
Also, they are in the minority.
A 2014 study from Dublin City University (DCU) found that only 11pc of Irish adolescents had mastered these skills. Almost nine in ten have not.
The figures are so concerning that DCU and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) have banded together to drive the biggest study of its kind, to try to solve the movement malaise throughout the Irish youth population.
The 11pc is considered an “unprecedented low” by Dr Johann Issartel, who works in DCU’s School of Health and Human Performance, and helped to compile the original study.
Some extraordinary figures from that report showed that almost one-third of children couldn’t catch a ball with two hands, barely one-quarter of girls could throw overhand and less than half of boys could strike a ball with a bat.
“It’s a potential catastrophe for public health because the inability to perform fundamental movement skills leads to an aversion to sports and exercise later in life,” said Issartel, who will lead the new initiative.
Called ‘Moving Well – Being Well’, the programme will see the DCU-based Insight Centre for Data Analytics help to test 3,000 primary school students over the next three months.
Using the data, researchers will then create an intervention, which will be adopted in schools and delivered by DCU and GAA representatives.
Training sessions are currently underway with GAA officers. Teachers will be trained up and, after these sessions are implemented in classrooms, the students will be retested to see how the intervention works.
“I don’t think we need to be alarmist here,” said Pat Daly, GAA’s director of games development and research, “but there is a problem and this project aims to tackle it in the most child-centred, activity-based, learner-led, achievement-oriented, fun-filled and value-laden manner possible.”