Chatting to other parents on the sidelines, I see firsthand the GAA's ability to pull communities together and foster a love of sport from a very early age.
We are new to the sport, but my son LIVES for his training on Saturday mornings at our local GAA club. Seeing him build his social skills at the same time as his physical skills is simply a joy.
The benefits of GAA for kids of all ages are huge - it encourages responsibility and teaches the importance of team environments. It is also a great way for children to make friends outside of school and to stay fit and healthy.
Being at your peak is essential for any future GAA star, which is why diet is so important.
When playing sport, it is not unusual to lose water through sweating which will affect the ability of your child's muscles. Encourage them to carry a water bottle and sip throughout training.
2. Get the balance right
Make sure your child is eating the correct amount of carbohydrates and proteins for their energy levels. Carbs include oats, fruit, rice and wholemeal bread or pasta. Up their protein to help repair muscles with tuna, chicken and turkey, fish and natural yoghurt. I like to make fruity yoghurt pops in the freezer to have on the way to training.
3. Eat proper meals
On-the-go eating is ok now and again, but for a dedicated player, it is important to make sure your child is eating good home-cooked meals where possible. Try to get into the habit of giving them well-balanced meals that their little bodies need to help their performance. Planning ahead is the key to this, but remember your habits become their habits, so you are setting them up to see the importance of healthy eating throughout their lives.
4. Game day
As with any endurance sport, if your child has matches on the weekend, try to ensure you give them a meal with plenty of carbs three hours before (where possible). Make it lower in fat because this takes longer to digest and could upset their little tummies. If you don't have three hours, serve them a lighter meal or snack with easy-to-digest foods such as fruit, veggie juice or bread.
After a big game or marathon training session, again offer fruit or a sports drink with plenty of water. A post-game meal should be a balance of lean protein, carbs and fat. We like to make turkey burgers and the children love them!
5. It will stand to them for life
At this age, they need some good energy to fuel their matches but later on, if they continue in the sport, good nutrition will help with smoother recovery and increase the standard of performance.
Feeding your little athlete healthy meals, consistently, is a great start to their sporting career. What you serve will be a solid foundation during times of matches and training. In addition, it will help them to recognise the importance of healthy eating throughout their lives.