Club Model

by J. O' Coigligh and Sons                                                                                                    

According to Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point, ideas spread and products sell because of a few requisite components. Not only do you need a good idea or product, you need mavens, salesmen, and connectors. Building a cadre of your friends is not enough if you really want hurling to tip; you will instead have a hurling clique. Unfortunately, short-lived teams have come and gone in many U.S. cities. That is why it is so important to form a solid foundation. First you need to find the salesman. This is the guy that is willing to go to Irish Fest or the pubs on Paddy's Day--when there are only two of you--and talk to people about hurling. Salesmen must be both gregarious and passionate, especially the latter because there will be many more failed contacts than there are successful ones. A good salesman does not forget this fact, keeps his chin high, and sells on. A good salesman keeps a list of club cards with contacts in his wallet to handout to anyone wearing a Guinness shirt or anyone he meets with an Irish name. The mavens are the first group of people the salesmen must go after. These are the people that love everything Irish or are always keen to try a new sport. The Irish fanatics are especially important because often they are also connectors. These individuals may be Hibernians, festival-goers, pint sippers, or Notre Dame fanatics. Mavens are the people who do something because it is cool, often while an idea or product is on the fringe or in an inchoate stage. You will find mavens by posting flyers in pubs, sportsbars, and at Irish events. Mavens will add numbers, but not necessarily tip your club. The most important type of person is the connector. A connector does not just know a lot of people, he knows a lot of different types of people in different areas. The connectors are the fellows that really bring numbers to the team, because when they join, they bring six or seven friends with them.    

As stated, a salesman needs a business card. Here is a great image that can be used as part of a business card. Print out 300 or so and get them circulating. It is especially nice to have a photo of hurlers on the card because most people will react to the word "hurling" by telling you that they saw those guys sweeping the ice at the Winter Olympics or they will laugh and make some comment about drinking too much and puking. Be prepared.

Now lets get that website going. The beauty of the web is that you can make things look bigger than they are. There may only be one of you, but nobody needs to know that. It is imperative that the website have plenty of information about what hurling is and web video links to whet the appetite. Websites must be modified regularly so that viewers will return to find something new. Not only is the website a great sales tool, the website is the hub for all members--so make sure the site is accurate and entertaining. Do's and Don'ts of GAA Club Web Design   also  Official GAA Club Websites

It is important to brand whenever possible. Find a graphic designer to make a crest that you can apply to t-shirts, bumper stickers, the website, fliers, etc.

Try to find someone who really knows how the game is played to help you along at practices (i.e. someone born in ie). Not having grown up playing this game, you will find yourself not only a skill-less player, but a poor teacher. Once you have your cadre, print some cheap jerseys and try to schedule a match against each other. (See league play below) Once you develop the skills and the numbers, move towards an NAGAA team. Make sure that your team wears helmets with faceguards. It is now required in all GAA matches. Some Irish may refuse as they grew up playing without one--but times have changed and helmets are now required at every standard. Also at this time, come up with some legal waivers. For legal purposes--the cousin lawyer tells me--this site will not provide an example of a legal waiver.

Once you have some numbers, shoot the NAGAA an email. They will be happy to help foster your group along. They will also put your club website and contacts on their state-by-state links page. The GAA also has information on organizing your club. If you are small, this may or may not be beneficial in your given situation. This information is provided in their GAA Club Manual.

 

League Play

The Milwaukee model involves forming a local league that welcomes competitive, yet friendly play. This model has spread across the United States to Denver, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. Once the club has sixteen or so people, you can get league matches going. It should welcome both the young and the aged, male and female.

Approach two different pubs for sponsorship. Present a letter of introduction explaining your goals of forming a league. Once the pub sponsors are secured, all post-match drinking must be done exclusively at the supporting pubs--it is paramount that you support your sponsors. Set up a schedule, report the scores to the local paper. Bug the reporters to do a story on your club.

Invariably, the league builds a community and acts as a feeder system for your NAGAA traveling team.

Encourage

-Inclusion (Every adult plays regardless of age, color, nationality, sex, or fitness/coordination level)

-Sportsmanship and Fair Play (Teach the rules and always teach your players to be the better man)

-Development (Everyone must be able to apply their skills by getting touches in league play. Rotate positions as well as free and sidelines takers)

-Fun (If players aren't having fun you will lose them to ultimate frisbee)

Discourage

-Yelling at the Referee (Even the referee should be able to have a good time)

-Yelling at fellow players (Build up your players and they will return week after week.)

-Over aggressive play (Having a mad man on the field is not usually fun and will hurt development. We all have to go to work on Monday.)

 

Growth

Set Goals: Here is St. Louis's First Year Goals

The Club’s objectives were set out January 10th, 2003 at the first meeting of what became the executive Board of Directors: (a) recruit at least 30 active members (exceeded), enabling a minimum two-team league, (exceeded, with a three-team league) (b) increase awareness of the sport and the club in the metropolitan area through aggressive marketing, (achieved) (c) establish a strong national reputation of St. Louis hurling through victories in nationwide competition, (achieved) (d) improve quality of play to a level adequate for consideration into the North American County Board in 2004 (achieved one year ahead of schedule). Read More About St. Louis Here

Growing pains can be a catalyst for positive change, or if ignored, can ostracize members, stagnate or destroy a club. Group dynamics is a field in itself. The GAA handbook gives advice on organization and delegation that your club might find useful to transcend polemics--but heed Thoreau: "That government is best which governs least." Hurling is a game, not politics. Remember also that hurling is sport, not war. Some may laugh at this statement, but it is true. This is the last amateur sport--amateur from the latin amator, or "lover." Enjoy the pitch, practice fair play, complement your opponent's skill...and perhaps he will buy you a pint down at the pub.

American Hurling Company