The contribution of Gaelic football participation to physical activity in Irish youth
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Background: Physical activity (PA) provides a range of health benefits for adolescents. However, approximately 80% of adolescents internationally fail to meet the PA guidelines. Organised sport (OS) participation is recognised as one of the “eight investments that work” for increasing PA. Yet, evidence highlights low levels of PA achieved in OS practice sessions, while coaches employ approaches that do not maximise PA attainment. Aim: This research aimed to: (i) determine the contribution of Gaelic football participation to adolescents’ overall daily PA levels; (ii) describe the coaching practices applied by youth Gaelic games coaches and their awareness, knowledge, and perceptions of PA; and (iii) examine the impact an alternative approach to coaching, a Game Based Approach (GBA), may have on PA levels in a youth Gaelic football setting. Methods: The total PA levels attained by 130 adolescents (males: n=65; females; n=65) during two different nine-day measurement periods and during Gaelic football participation was determined using activPAL3M accelerometers. A mixed-methods design using quantitative (survey; n=1660) and qualitative (semi-structured interviews; n=22) methods was utilised to assess the current coaching practices of youth Gaelic games coaches in the context of coaching approaches that best promote PA. Finally, an intervention was employed to investigate the impact of a GBA on players’ PA levels and perceptions of practice sessions in two youth Gaelic football teams (U17 boys; n=18; U16 girls: n=20). Results: Gaelic football participation provided 25-38 minutes of MVPA and significantly increased participants’ likelihood of meeting the PA guidelines. However, approximately 50% of Gaelic football practice session time was spent inactive or in light intensity PA. Coaches reported to spend the majority of practice session time in training from activities (e.g., drills), arranged in a linear format. Coaches also appreciated the importance of their players accumulating PA, yet a low proportion could accurately identify the PA guidelines. When implemented within Gaelic football coaching sessions, the GBA intervention led to a significant increase in practice session PA levels and daily PA levels, while also positively impacting players experiences of the practice sessions. Conclusion: The evidence presented in this thesis highlights the substantial PA contribution of youth Gaelic football participation. However, it was apparent that considerable proportions of time during Gaelic football participation were spent inactive, while coaches maintain approaches which limit PA attainment. An alternative approach, a GBA, holds considerable potential to positively impact the coaching environment and enhance the contribution of participation in youth Gaelic football to participants' daily PA levels.
- PhD Theses 
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