Wexford GAA Handball elects its first female Chairperson
Another chapter in the history of Wexford handball was written at this year’s Annual General Meeting when delegates from around the county elected Tracey Hogan as the first ever woman Chairperson of Wexford GAA Handball County Committee.
The Hogan family has a long history of association with the GAA in Wexford, her late grandfather was a founding member of St. Josephs GAA club and her father Richard kept that link alive by serving on the club committee for many years. He also played some handball back then too and indeed alongside George Donovan became the first winner of the Buzzer O’Brien memorial tournament at Emmett Place in Wexford town. With that type of introduction to the GAA and growing up in the shadow of Wexford Park, it came as no surprise to see Tracey following in her family footsteps, into the GAA, into handball and finally into the committee room.
Tracey’s interest in handball was reignited about eight years ago when her eldest son became interested in playing and, not surprisingly perhaps, he joined St. Josephs Handball Club.
Tracey takes up the story “this prompted me to become involved with the club so the next progression for me as a parent was to sign up myself and volunteer to help out and ease the workload. As my passion for the sport grew so did my ambition to become a more active member and initially on tournament days I participated by helping out in any way I could. I soon realised I wanted to do more however and that was when I made the decision to accept the position of club secretary. I was motivated by a desire to become involved in the running of the club and to use my role to put forward ideas and initiatives to help us become a model for other handball clubs in the county.
Her views on standards will be thought provoking “I have witnessed many great players, including the legend that was Ducksy Walsh, but in my honest opinion I feel there has been a gradual decline in the skill levels of handball on display. That is not to say there are not young players out there at the moment who are displaying all the attributes to becoming great players at club and indeed county level. I feel very strongly about providing our players with all the skills required to help them become better players, through an adequate and fit for purpose training program provided at grassroots and indeed all levels of the sport. We need to concentrate more on developing skillful players through a more tactical approach to game play for example; we need to teach our players the importance of being able to vary the serve, instead of just striking the ball low and hard. We need to teach them the importance of court awareness and letting the ball do the work. Moving away from the ‘hit it hard approach’ must be adopted for handball in Wexford to progress to a higher level. Another tried and trusted pathway to improving our players and indeed handball as a whole is to give them more interclub competitions to participate in. This will provide more game time for all and as a result can only lead to an improved skill level in the game. Additionally, we can tap into our valuable resource of experienced older players to provide the necessary guidance and training to improve the game at underage and juvenile level. There is a wealth of experienced players that can help to train our up and coming generation of players, by passing on to them their skills and knowledge of the game through structured training”.
GAA Handball Ireland are proud members of the recently released Women in Sport Initiative by the Federation of Irish Sports, titled – 20×20 IF SHE CAN’T SEE IT SHE CAN’T BE IT. The campaign is based on 3 pillars, Media Coverage, Attendance and Participation and the key message is to increase media coverage of, attendance at, and participation in, women in sport in Ireland by 20% by 2020.
Not surprisingly Tracey Hogan agrees with this and sees a greater role for women in handball in the future “I would like to see many more women participate at both playing and administrative level” she said adding “women have a lot to offer handball, so let’s encourage new members to the sport and halt the current decline in women participating in the game”.
Tracey Hogan no longer sits on the fence, indeed if she ever did, and her advice to players and parents is simple “get involved in your local club, for the more hands on the wheel, the steadier it is”. On that basis Wexford GAA Handball can surely look forward to a period of safe driving.