After speaking with many clubs in the US and Canada, one challenge they've often highlighted is player recruitment. So, I've compiled a list of tips to help your club build awareness and attendance. Although this list is focused on the US and Canada, it can be applied to any club in any location.
Here are a few ideas for you to recruit new players to your club:
1. Teach hurling at universities
Research if your local university runs a Celtic Studies program. If there is one, reach out to the professor and ask if their students would be interested in trying hurling. It's a great opportunity to expose them to another part of Irish culture. If you get the go-ahead, run a brief hurling workshop at the end of their class and conclude by announcing the times of your training sessions.
I got started at the University of Toronto by connecting with the Celtic Studies professor. She sent out an email to her class and that gave me some good traction for the first few hurling lessons. After the second lesson, I asked the professor for testimonials, which I published on my website for extra promotion.
Even if there's no Celtic Studies program, contact the university to see if you can post signs around campus to promote your club.
This is the usual pitch I say to North Americans to convince them to play: Hurling is faced-paced like lacrosse, requires the same level of hand-eye coordination as baseball, and has the toughness of hockey, all in one sport.
If that pitch doesn't convince them, here is a list of reasons why people should play hurling:
Hurling is steeped in 3000 years of history.
Hurling is considered to be the fastest field sport in the world. The fastest shot ever record was 112 mph by TJ Reid in 2014.
The All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final has had a higher stadium attendance than the Super Bowl for 13 out of the last 15 years, with the exception of 2014 and 2011.
Hurling builds character and incredible courage.
Players are honest and tough. Diving, as seen in soccer, is not tolerated.
What you've learned in basketball, baseball, football, golf, lacrosse, hockey, and tennis, you can apply to hurling.
Hurling equipment is cheaper than other major North American stick sports.
Hurling has constant action and constant scoring. Games are thrilling and unpredictable.
Nothing is more Irish than hurling. Love Irish culture? You should be playing hurling! Everyone is welcome to play hurling and most clubs are more than happy to teach you the basics.
At every training session and match, take photos and videos of what's going on and upload them to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using local hashtags (e.g. #NYSports, #LASports, etc.). Give people who might be interested a window into what your club looks like, which may encourage others to come out to your next training session.
Find Facebook groups in your area (e.g. Irish abroad - usually "Irish in [insert location]", local baseball/lacrosse/hockey groups, etc.) and ask the admin for permission to post about your club. Refer to the list above to give people a reason to attend.
4. Display signs while you’re training for onlookers
I originally saw this idea promoted by the NCGAA and I think it's an excellent way to get the word out there.
When you're playing hurling abroad, people often stop to watch and become very curious about the sport. Some may have heard of it, and some may have never seen it before, but a simple sign can be a great opportunity to spread awareness of hurling in your community.
You can download both player recruitment posters that I've created to display it at the side of the pitch during matches and training sessions.
Always have business cards and promotional material at the ready, so when people ask about the game, they can walk away with something they can refer to later.
5. Cross-promotion with other stick sports
Reach out to local baseball, hockey, or lacrosse clubs asking if anyone on their team is interested in trying a similar stick sport. Reinforce the fact that hurling is not a replacement sport, but a complementary one. Skills they learn in hurling can be applied back to lacrosse/baseball/hockey, and vice versa.
You can find these clubs on Facebook or Twitter, by Googling "baseball club in X city", or by finding groups on Meetup.com
You can approach this 2 ways:
1) Organize a demonstration game between your club members during a baseball/hockey/lacrosse game to spark some interest in hurling. For example, Jersey Shore GAA recently held a demonstration game at a local baseball club.
2) Run a 15-30 minute hurling workshop at the end of a club's practice to teach their players the basics of hurling. Conclude by announcing your next training session times, if they're interested in learning more about the sport. After the event, post photos and videos on social media of the workshop and tag their club in posts. They might repost it to their followers, giving hurling better exposure to other sports communities.
6. Use testimonials from your existing players
Testimonials will encourage others to try hurling. These can be posted on your club's Facebook page and website. Club promotion doesn’t always have to fall on the secretary. The whole team can be involved in player recruitment and promote hurling together.
7. Post your club and events on playhurling.com
One quick and easy way to promote your club, and any events your club is hosting, is through the platform you're reading this blog post on right now. You can post events here or submit your club if it's not already listed on the club page here. This platform is growing quickly and it's a great way to get your club's name out there.
For any special events or inquiries, you can write to me personally on Twitter @playhurling or Instagram @playhurling and I can help you promote your event or club. You can also tag me on Twitter or Instagram with any pictures or videos from your training sessions or matches.
I hope this blog post helps your club grow! Feel free to comment and share any tips that have worked for you below.
I really enjoyed the hurling workshop! I had never heard of the sport, let alone play or see it, so this was a very enriching experience that was very fun. I would definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone as it is a very fun sport to learn and it allowed me to learn more about Irish culture, which is always an added bonus to learning a sport. It is challenging, but not too hard, fun, competitive, and an overall great time. I want to go to more workshops if they are available because of how much I enjoyed the first one!
Russell Cummings - University of Toronto Celtic Studies Student
The hurling workshop was really fun and instructive. Bhain mé taitneamh as. I really hope to continue learning about this sport in the future. Go raibh maith agat for teaching us!
Isabella Matsura - University of Toronto Celtic Studies Student
I studied abroad in Ireland and had the opportunity to play hurling there. WHAT AN AMAZING SPORT! Glad that the Play Hurling platform is available for people outside of Ireland so they can enjoy the sport too!