A PHOTOGRAPH of Neil Douglas inside the front cover of Castlebar’s strategic five-year plan sums up the ethos of a club refusing to stand still.
Gloved fist clinched, muscular arm fully extended, his face a study of delight and discovery after scoring in the course of the Mitchels’ trek to the All-Ireland final, their young star encapsulates the irrepressible nature of the club he represents.
It was well chosen as an introduction to a comprehensive and splendidly produced plan. All the aims and purposes and objectives detailed in the following 35 pages are portrayed in that iconic image of their Club Star of the Year. Words seem somehow superfluous.
The plan was in gestation for 15 months. And at the launch on Friday in An Sportlann, club chairman Finian Joyce outlined the exhaustive consultative process that led to its production.
Currently enjoying success at many levels, it was felt they must build on the goodwill this had generated. The plan is ambitious and comprehensive and outlines their objectives over the next five years.
It is built, he said, on the core values of volunteerism, inclusion, integrity, recognition, respect, teamwork, enjoyment, excellence, innovation, ambition and community.
Among the aims are:
* A major emphasis on coaching, particularly at underage level, and the appointment of a Club School Liaison Officer.
* The appointment of a club coach and a mentoring scheme for the transition from underage to adult football.
* The construction of an 86m x 60m 4-G training area
* A major emphasis on player wellbeing and a series of proposals to continuously upskill players, coaches and families.
* Enhanced internal and external club communication.
* Greater use and promotion of the Irish language and more regular club social events.
* Increased fundraising and greater use of An Sportlann to meet additional costs on implementing the plan.
* The establishment of new club structures and subcommittees, each with clearly defined roles to deliver the Club Strategic Plan.
How all this is to be implemented is painstakingly detailed in the elaborate
And stressing eloquently the importance of ensuring its implementation, Connacht Council president Mick Rock, who launched the project, said very often a plan was produced and then forgotten about,
“It is seen as an end in itself. It is done for a purpose. The intentions are good but there it rests. Sometimes it is dressed up in all kinds of fancy language. It looks great, but what does it mean? Does the club engage with it? Does it make a difference?”
The Mitchels, he said, had embarked on a very detailed process to mark out their club for the next five years ... in a different way, but with the same ideals as those who set out to found it 133 years ago.
“You are a big club with big ambitions and big responsibilities. And it behoves you to look after your club, community and catchments area as best you can. And glancing around, it appears to me that is something you achieve very well.”
After spending 15 months putting it together, “you might be inclined to say, well now that box is ticked; thanks be to God that’s done. Of course you know it isn’t. It is what you do with the plan that matters. How you implement it that is going to be important.”
A plan has to be adaptable and subject to change. Things can change. Demographic and economic circumstances can change and you might find the plan does not work for you, he said.
“You must make sure it is continually on your agenda. Those who are responsible have to be continually made responsible. Officers may change during the course of the plan, but the plan must go on.
“I salute you with what you have put in front of us tonight. I would be far happier to come back at the end of it in five years to celebrate the achievements it has brought to you on the field and your club and community.”
Mike Connelly, Mayo GAA Board chairman, said it was one club that needed a plan. A lot of changes had occurred within the county over the last ten or 15 years. One of the biggest was the shift in population, and with all the competition within Castlebar from other codes, a review of what the club was doing was very important.
He commended the committee in the work they have done over the last 15 months. The detail that has gone into production of the plan was marvellous. Without the Mitchels doing well, without them at top level the county was going to struggle. “We depend on the Mitchels and their coaches to do their bit.”
Officers will come and go, he said, and it is important the plan is on the clár at every meeting, that sight of it is not lost.