Friendship and empathy can help to create winning dressing room

Galway City native Conor Hogan, who is undertaking a Phd degree study exploring the themes of friendship and empathy among juvenile members in the GAA and how these might influence policy within sporting associations going forward.
Galway City native Conor Hogan, who is undertaking a Phd degree study exploring the themes of friendship and empathy among juvenile members in the GAA and how these might influence policy within sporting associations going forward.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

A Galway City man, who is currently carrying out a PhD degree study looking at the role friendships play in youth sports and, in particular, in the GAA, believes the way to build a successful team is by cultivating an environment where everyone looks out for one another.

Roscam’s Conor Hogan outlines that, through the NUI Galway research project, he is looking “to establish potential messages for policy and practice in the youth sports sector and related education field”.

To this end, in recent weeks, Hogan has distributed surveys through Castlegar hurling and camogie clubs and St. James’ juvenile football and ladies football clubs where by juveniles between the ages of 12 and 18 – boys and girls – have been encouraged to air their views on the themes of friendship and empathy.

Following on from the questionnaires, he will then carry out interviews with those young people who are willing to discuss these topics and, all of this, he assures will be done with the consent of the juveniles’ parents or guardians.

No doubt, it is an interesting study exploring the nature of friendships in a sporting context and Hogan hopes through his work he will be able “to measure levels of empathy and identify instances of friendship among youth peer groups involved within the two GAA Clubs (Castlegar and St. James’)”.

He is also looking to ascertain if there is any social benefit to youth members being involved in their local GAA club while, finally, when completed, he hopes his findings may direct and guide the GAA, and other associations, to establish or improve youth policy and good practice.

His motivation for undertaking this body of work, he states, is in response to an ever-changing society in which, he ponders, what constitutes friendship or, indeed, a network of friendships.

“That could be your friends within the GAA club or outside the GAA?” he says. “When I say ‘outside the GAA club’, that could be online friends or the perception of online friends, which is important (to differentiate). That is very important nowadays.”

In other words, what defines ‘a friend’? Hogan believes one of the foundation stones in any friendship is empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – and he notes in most cases friendship and empathy often form two sides of the one coin.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.