Building a hurling club — Where do you start?

Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Hurling in America, My effort

Lately my time for hurling has been scant — new baby, projects at home, etc. — but a few times here and there, I’ve had a hour to spare and used them to run out to some local parks for a little bit of hitting practice.

GOT GAME? Hurling is a field sport that started in Ireland. The game requires lacrosse-like skills as you try to hit a baseball-sized ball through a goal or above the crossbar.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve resigned myself to an extremely limited schedule for hurling this year — up from a projected “nothing at all” earlier this year. But with that limited time, I have decided to work on generating some interest in my community for the sport.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, gasoline prices and my tight schedule have meant that I can’t practice and play with my “home” team, the Baltimore Bohemians. Instead, I just get their e-mails, check out their facebook page and wistfully dream of the fun they are having on the field.
That means that I have to try to build some interest in the game on my immediate home turf (Pennsylvania’s York, Adams, Lebanon, Dauphin and Cumberland counties). I figure between all those people, I’m bound to find a few interested in the game.
But I do have to start small.
This blog, which I’ve used to promote the Irish sport here in America, was the first step. It’s been going for about two years now, and I’d call it a success. A lot of American clubs link to it. I often get “thank you” notes from people interested in the sport.
More recently, I began to post listings on Craigslist in an effort to reach out. Those posts read:

 

Ever heard of the Irish sport of hurling? (Watch this video if you haven’t: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmzivRetelE)
It’s a great game and last season I tried playing the game with the Baltimore Club, but gasoline prices being what they are I can’t afford to travel there.With that in mind I want to start some club or group around here.
I’m pretty much a total newbie at hurling, and I’m not from Ireland. It’s just so much fun that I want to keep playing.
With that in mind, lets try some casual get-togethers in the Harrisburg-Lancaster-York-Lebanon area for hurling (or even gaelic football).
Also, I’ve been documenting my effort to learn hurling here: http://www.ydtalk.com/hurley/
Let me know if you’re interested. I know I am!

That’s where I started. So far, I haven’t had any bites, but I still have my fingers crossed.

But that’s only the beginning. One of the other parts of the plan is to make more “face time” at local parks. I stop by during especially busy times and begin batting around the sliotar with my hurley — and that’s really worked. In my last three outings with the my hurling equipment, I’ve had someone stop me and ask about it every time.

None were ready to join up (yet), but I have them thinking about it.

And now I need to go further with my effort.

As I said, here’s what I’ve done so far:

  • Advertise on the web: Post to local online forums requesting players. I suspect that these ads will only draw those already interested in the sport, such as Ireland natives.
  • Face time: As I mentioned above … visit local parks, get a game or skills practice going and hope people walk up and ask you about it. I certainly need to do more of this, but I’ve started.

 

And here’s what I need to do next:

  • Advertise at local Irish establishments and events: Make up some fliers that talk about the game and ask interested parties to give you a call. The problem here is that since I am currently a team of one, I don’t have a lot to offer.

And that’s where I’m stuck. What should I do next? Can any successful club founders offer me some tips?

6 Comments

  1. John, Here’s a few suggestions, as we were right where you are now at the end of April. The next step was to start a club website. Though you’re a man with a vision, you’re but one man. Getting the hype up at the park and pub are great starts, but a website is open 24/7 and provides a fine funnel terminus. Websites also have an uncanny tendency to lend credence to the sustainability of the club. We kicked off with http://www.webstarts.com It provided domain registration, e-mail accounts and allowed a rather painless method of synchronizing with various social media and calendar apps. Plus it was relatively cheap, letting us sink more money into start up equipment. Once your website is up, funnel interest to it through advertisement. Either word of mouth followed by a small business card with your site’s QD code or a nice letter sized, full color poster to stick up in front of pub urinals and on the inside doors of the stalls. You’ll start to gain more and more interest at your site, so give visitors an outlet to get involved by keeping the calendar up to date and referencing it often.

    About the same time, we developed our Facebook presence. It has really taken off from there. Between the website and Facebook, everyone is linked to the club. But more importantly, everyone’s friends are linked to the club as well. Since its incept, about a month ago, our FRHC Facebook page has had over 10,000 impressions… right, with four zeros. How’s that for free advertising?

    We had the benefit of having a ready made sponsor, in McGuinness Irish Pub. One of the methods I’ve used to gain additional sponsorship is to go to http://soccer.epicsports.com/cat/24/uniforms-closeouts.html and get four or five adult extra large jerseys. Have them printed up with a prospective sponsoring pub’s name, some numbers, and your club logo. The total cost will be less than $50. Get an audience with the decision maker, make your spiel with gusto, roll out your flashy uniforms and make your proposal. Even if they do not wish to sponsor you, give them the uniforms for their bartenders to wear. With the name of the pub on the back, you bet the decision maker will like them. Hang up several of your letter sized posters, drop off some business cards and coach them a little in funneling folks to the website. Your logo on their jerseys will bring questions, as well as interest. It will also give you a second chance to seek sponsorship from that pub.

    Luckily McGuinness Irish Pub is owned by the same fine folks that own the Irish shop next door. They also agreed to carry some gear on consignment, so interested people don’t have to wait for their hurls or sliotars to come through the mail. They can get it quickly, as our society seems to enjoy. Once the spark of interest is there, get a piece of ash in their hand quick! Once they hold a hurl, they’re hooked for life. Just like you, and just like me. So if you can’t find a store to help you out on consignment, keep a small supply of equipment for those times when someone else becomes really interested.

    You’ve already got the support of the Baltimore group, so practices and structure should come easy. Don’t be discouraged if you’re the only one out there sometimes. Consistency begets respect, and it’s a grind at first. The Baltimore club also knows of people that are in your direction who decided Baltimore was too far to drive to get involved in the first place. They’re already got the spark.

    Gone are the days of ‘I, Me, My’. Everything in respect to the club or its efforts is now ‘We, Us, Our’. Dave Olson helped me with this one. It beckons to size and solidarity.

    Consider Co-Ed hurling, rather than hurling and camogie. It will make it far easier and more likely for young couples to join. Many of them are already looking for something they can do together.

    Draw up a waiver, and articles of association/bylaws. Many models exist on the web.

    Keep a ledger of revenue and expense, you can use it to monitor costs, estimate club fees and determine budgeting. Plus you or your accountant will need it to push ahead with 501(c) status in three years from now.

    Good luck my friend, and keep in touch!

  2. Thanks for linking my youtube vid. Send me your mailing address and I’ll send you a handful of DVD versions of the movie. You’re on the right track with your ‘face time’ efforts. What you need is to get one other person to hit the ball back to you, even if it means getting one of your buddies from Baltimore to make the trip for the purpose.

    Would I be right in saying you’re in the area of the Mid Atlantic Division of the North American GAA? If I were you I’d contact Andrew Healy or Mary Beth Ginder at the Washington DC Gaels. They should be able to give you some support with equipment and so on. Maybe even get them to travel down en masse and play a demo game. Those guys are very supportive of efforts to get new clubs going.

    I’d do your face time demos on a regular basis. Same time, same place each week so people can know to come back and try it out. Make sure it’s in a place with enough space to play but also with plenty of passing foot traffic.

    Use the online poster generator in the Online Resources page at the NCGAA website to produce a customized poster which explains the rules of the game and can be customized to include your contact info. Have this on hand to pass out to any curious onlookers. Feel free to burn additional copies of the DVD and hand them out too.

    The comment above about non profit status and sponsorship is correct (although I think this site right now is good enough for the time being) but before you get as far as sponsorship you have to get your numbers up and get more people roped in. The face time and demos are going to be crucial for that.

    Best of luck!

  3. I was talking to the Allentown Hurling Club this weekend at a Celtic faire. They stated that someone (i think it was you) was interested in getting interest in the the area (I live in cumberland county and work in york) I am very interested into getting into the sport and may be able to get one or two more guys. Are you trying to start a york club? I have never played but can help in any way I can. Thanks

  4. Hello, Berney!
    Yes, I am very interested in starting a local hurling club. I figure it won’t be a “York” club, but more likely a Harrisburg club that draws from the counties around the Pennsylvania Capitol region.
    I will contact you through your e-mail shortly.
    As for having never played, that’s OK. It takes short time to learn the basics (but a lifetime to master any of them.)
    Man, I wish I knew they were going to be at the Celtic Fling.

  5. Why not just start a lacrosse team instead. It’s interesting that if you look at all the pre-Columbus gene flow between North America and Ireland it seems probable that lacrosse and hurling have a common origin.

    Being that lacrosse was more widespread in the United States tnhan hurling was in Europe and given further that lacrosse is more technologically advanced than hurling I would imagine that hurlings origins are from New World lacrosse.

  6. I think sexy laxy unintentionally brings up a good point … rather than frame hurling as an alternative to lax or other sports, our small all-ages club has had great recruiting success by specifically targeting the lax and hockey families. Not only do most of those players already have caged helmets :-) but they immediately recognize that hurling is a great compliment to any other stick and ball sport, but especially hockey and lax. And since hurling is generally played over the summer months, it doesn’t conflict with their other sports.
    Any day I can get on a field with my kids is a good day …

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