Primary schools in Stradbally and Timahoe are getting a free taste of minority sports, thanks to a community run sports scheme.
Badminton, athletics, gymnastics, even cricket, any sport can be tried out on request, according to Caroline Myers from Laois Sports Partnership.
“If they want to try something, we can liaise with clubs to do tasters. It’s going down really well in the schools. We have offered opportunities to participate in primary schools before, but there can be issues with transport costs for them. This brings coaches to the schools,” she explained.
In all, 220 children will avail of the free coaching sessions in school.
Andy Hanrahan is principal at St Colman’s Stradbally, which received the six weeks of coaching, along with Scoil Faolain Naofa in Timahoe.
“The teachers and pupils all loved it, it was very positive for the school. We had five sessions of athletics once a week, a bit of badminton, and a session of gymnastics. The children looked forward to it every week, and out of it they are now doing gymnastics in the school,” he said.
St Colman's already has an Active Flag with plenty of activity throughout the week.
“We have a lot of PE in the school, but it was great for the teachers to observe somebody else doing it,” Mr Hanrahan said.
Cosby NS in Stradbally will be next to get the free sports sessions.
“We are looking forward to it, all 38 pupils will be taking part in it before the summer,” said principal of the two teacher school Daphne Harding.
The coaches are James O’Callaghan, and Sonya Ryan from Portlaoise Gymnastics.
Their fees are covered with a grant won by Laois Sports Partnership after their research showed both a need and a variety of opportunities, to boost physical activity in the Stradbally, Vicarstown and Timahoe areas.
“We set up a steering group made up of club representatives, the SVT Community Sports Hub, with a part time co-ordinator. Sports in schools is just one of the initiatives in their action plan over the next nine months, like their Operation Transformation,” explained Ms Myers.
She is hopeful that in time they can create another hub in the Rathdowney area if they get further funding.
“I hope this can be modelled in other parts of the county. Early indications are that it is bringing back community spirit. People are investing their time and are engaged, committed and excited. Community support is vital, nothing can be delivered without it,” she said.