Darkness Into Light - Pittsburgh
Welcome and thank you for visiting our page. This Pittsburgh GAA page is dedicated to sharing information on upcoming events where we will be supporting & raising funds for awareness in the fight against mental health issues and suicide. We do this to honor our dear friend Nate Maurer who tragically lost his life to suicide in April 2016.
The events we are currently supporting include the Pieta House Pittsburgh Darkness into Light Walk and the 46 Climbs annual climb to conquer suicide. We encourage you to check back often to see what we are doing and how you can get involved.
Remembering a Friend, Teammate and Leader
"Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself."
- Desiderius Erasmus
Nathaniel Herman Maurer
July 26, 1982 - April 17, 2016
Nate was brought into our lives by chance in 2008 when he met an Irish guy named Paraic at a house party where he was recruited to play Gaelic football.
All Nate asked was, "Is it physical?"
Paraic replied, "Lad, I may just have the sport for you."
He was on the pitch a week later. Nate quickly picked up the sport because he was a remarkable athlete, but he was so much more than that. He was an intellectual who loved having long, deep conversations about literally any topic imaginable. He was a leader and had a charismatic personality that lifted people up and brought people together. Above all else though, Nate was an extraordinary friend. He was brutally honest, severely loyal and was genuinely happy when those that he loved were happy. There was no better sounding board or shoulder to lean on (if you could reach it). Though Nate was not in our lives nearly long enough, he had a tremendous impact on us all. We will never forget his beaming smile or the hugs that could swallow you whole.
Join us for any or all of the following events to reminisce and support all those in a similar situation.
wANT TO Get Involved?
After a successful decade in Ireland, Pieta House, the center for prevention of suicide and self-harm, which is a people’s charity, has now brought its services to America. They have supported people and communities in crisis by providing freely accessible, professional services to all. The organization is also responsible for changing the national social fabric in Ireland, by removing the stigma and shame around the subject of suicide.
Members from the Pittsburgh GAA and community came together to start Pittsburgh’s very first Pieta House Chapter to provide support for those who feel suicide and self-harm are their only option for help. We welcome all to join our mission!
Darkness Into Light - 5k Walk
Saturday, May 6
My Gaelic Story
By Nate Maurer
I was a 26-year-old American living in Pittsburgh when I first heard of Gaelic football. Until then I had played – at some level – baseball, football, soccer, golf, lacrosse, tennis and basketball, having recently returned from Portugal where I had been playing professional basketball for CAB Madiera and Club Povoa following a college career at Carnegie Mellon University. But none of those prepared me for the sport and experience of Gaelic football.
I should have known it was going to be different given my introduction to the sport. I was at a rather dull house party in the spring of 2008 when, as a result of a game of Charades, I started chatting it up with an Irish fellow who began describing a sport to me that didn’t make a bit of sense (you can catch the ball?…and then run with it?…but not the whole way down the field?…and there’s a goalie?…and a field goal?). The whole thing sounded like one gigantic clusterfuck but my professional basketball career had ended on a slightly sour note and I was looking for a competitive outlet where I could unleash some pent-up aggression and whatever this Irish lad was describing sounded like a possible environment for doing just that. I only had one question.
“Is it physical?”
“Lad, I may have just the sport for you,” replied Paraic McCague.
A week later I was on a field (pitch) chasing after people carrying what looked like a soccer ball in their hands wondering if my junior high-level football or soccer skills would help me in this game. I decided to save that question for later and instead focused on trying to physically annihilate whoever had the ball, turning practice into my own game of ‘smear the queer’.
I played with that type of recklessness throughout my first year with the Celtics and while I succeeded in releasing some of the pent-up aggression I had leftover from my basketball days, our team was not overly successful on the field. But despite our team’s lack of success, I knew I had found a game and a group of teammates that suited and accepted me (and my somewhat barbaric ways).
Over the next three years my skills evolved as I began to learn, understand, and embrace the nuances of the game. Our team also began to improve with the addition of various Irishmen who made the trip across the Atlantic to experience the American Dream for a few months and play some football as well. Their skills and abilities greatly increased our team’s competitiveness in practice and challenged the core group of American players to become better each and every day. It was a challenge that we all welcomed because sustained success was something we desperately wanted to experience as a club.
Success on a bigger stage quickly followed as we won the Midwest Title in 2011 for the first time in five years and capped that incredible season with our club’s first ever National Title, a Junior B Title, that September in San Francisco. The following year we did it all again, going undefeated for a second straight year and winning back-to-back Midwest and National Championships, this time a Junior A National Title in Philadelphia.
As I write this, and before losing to Vancouver in the Intermediate Semifinals this past September, the Celtics had had an unbeaten streak of 34 games that spanned 1,091 days. I had never been involved in a streak like that during my entire sports-playing life. Not in high school, not in college, and certainly not at the professional level. It’s a testament to all the past and present players and the countless other PGAA club members who have helped make this team what it is today. I am fortunate and proud to have been a part of something so special.
It’s the kind of sustained success that I hope the Pittsburgh Banshees will experience one day too. This past spring I decided, somewhat reluctantly, to help coach the women’s team in what I thought was going to be an assistant position. That quickly morphed into a solo job when the other assistant left just three weeks into the season due to family commitments.
Since I had no wife, no kids, and no girlfriend, some might think I was the perfect person to coach women’s Gaelic football. But I had only been introduced to the game four years earlier, had very little coaching experience beyond basketball summer camps, and was not sure how I would be able to handle coaching first year players and 10-year veterans on the field at the same time. And oh yeah, this was my first time coaching women, an altogether different animal.
To help get up to speed, I attended a weekend coaching clinic in Buffalo and left with a handful of drills, a rule book, and a small hint of a clue as to what lay ahead. But at no time during that clinic did we go over aspects that I assumed inconsequential to team success and beyond the scope of coaching – such as jersey sock color. I fast learned that jersey sock color was in fact a big deal to some and was a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. As an unexpected bonus, I grew comfortable with 20 or so ladies’ jerseys hanging from my clothesline once a week, as laundry duty came with the job!
As a player, I never much liked practices. Truth be told, I hated practice. I hated breakdown drills. I hated competing against the same people every day. And above all, I hated listening to a coach tell me how to do things. As a player, two hour practices felt like four hours. But now that the roles have been reversed, I see things differently, much differently. As a coach, I love practice. I love breakdown drills. I love seeing the same faces at every practice. And above all, I love giving them instructions that I think will make them better players. As a coach, a two hour practice feels like an hour.
But coaching a group of women that ranged in age from 18 to 36 was often not what I expected, good and bad. The bad being that while trying to referee and coach a scrimmage, I’d hear players engaged in side conversations about Justin Beiber and nail polish. The good being that I had a veteran captain to whom I could always turn and count on for leadership and professionalism, and a group of women who understood my masculine-dominated lingo (i.e. when I first started out, as a force of habit, I referred to them all as guys, as in, “do you guys understand?,” after going through instructions).
Of course the good far outweighed the bad, and I quickly grew attached to each player. It was an attachment predicated on self-improvement and collective accomplishments; I wanted each player to strive continually to improve her football skills while understanding that individual achievements were only a part of the team’s overall success. Their selflessness was contagious as numerous players played new positions for the first time and countless others told me they’d play or do whatever helped the team.
It was a side of competitive sports that makes it so beautiful. And for the first time, I saw that beauty from the coach’s perspective. It was a perspective that gave me a new appreciation for what they do in their usually thankless job. I had been critical of so many coaches during my playing days; when described as a player, the term “coachable” was never included next to my name. But now it had come full circle and it was as if I was getting a dose of my own medicine when my players voiced their discontent.
Fortunately for me, there weren’t too many times for them to voice their displeasure as the Banshees went 8-0 and won their first ever National Championship in thrilling fashion this past Labor Day in Cleveland. To see the smiles and tears on so many faces made the victory that much sweeter and made all the work and effort put in throughout the year seem worthwhile.
As my time as the PGAA’s Public Relations Officer comes to an end, I know it is time for me to step away from a game that I adopted as my own five short years ago. A person meets a lot of people throughout their life. People come and go as one graduates high school or college, changes jobs, moves, has a family, tries new things, or joins different organizations. The Pittsburgh Gaelic Athletic Association was an organization I joined that opened the door to a group of people that don’t simply come and go with the passage of time. They’re a group of people that stick with you. I often struggle to describe what Gaelic football is all about when others ask. All I know is, five years after playing Gaelic for the first time, I have developed a tremendous group of friends and a bond that is uniquely different from any other club, team, or organization that I have ever been a part of.
I will forever be indebted to a number of people who have meant and done so much for me over the years. To the man who introduced me to Gaelic football, Paraic McCague – I would not have found this sport and all the great people that are part of it had it not been for you…and a bottle of bourbon! To John Young for all that you have done to make this club what it is today – from your incredible fundraising efforts to your inspiring dedication and passion to Gaelic football in Pittsburgh. To Bridgette Kennedy for a selfless perspective on life that I wish I could emulate. To her brother Devin for reminding me of the athletic passion and dedication I once had. To Ryan Dowd and Danny Coyne for making me feel old during all the van rides but putting me at ease knowing this club has the players and leaders to sustain success for years to come. To Howard Elbert for being one of my biggest fans and keeping me positive during the times I questioned whether it was worth it. And finally to my dearest friend Dave Roberts – the person I promised to play alongside for as long as he would wear the Celtic jersey. I can’t believe we’ve accomplished all that we have, but then again, I know you knew we were going to do it all along.
I thank all of you for everything you have done for me. I have done the best I can to describe how much everything and everyone has meant but know it fails to capture it all. Sometimes, it’s impossible to describe all that your heart feels.
Thank you all for filling my heart with so much.