Coaching

The coach has a central role in the development of the GAA player. Coaches assist players in developing to their potential - whatever that maybe. The challenge for the coach is to create the right conditions for learning to happen and to empower the player to develop him/herself to reach their potential.

This section will cover topics for a range of people - from those who would like to become a coach to experienced coaches who are looking to develop their coaching and sports science knowledge.

Coaching information is provided for coaches of children, youths and adults. This is to recognise the many differences that coaches are faced with when coaching each of these age and development stages. Much of the information on the art of coaching will apply across the three stages, but differences in technical, tactical and team play development as well as physical and psychological areas are dealt with according to the stage of development.

Information is also provided on the GAA Coach Education Programme. For details of upcoming courses around the country visit the GAA Learning & Development Community Portal

The OTú Interactive Coaching Model is the latest coaching development in Gaelic Games. The OTú Coaching Model - the O as in oxygen and Tú, Irish for ‘you’ - provides the framework for organising balanced training programmes that enable players to deliver on their true potential.

The model, developed by Pat Daly, GAA Head of Games, is structured around the integration of what is called the 3T's and the 3P’s - Technical ProficiencyTactical Awareness and Team Play ,andPsychological FocusPhysical Fitness and Playing Facts. The coach implements the OTú Model using Coaching and Communication Inputs with Comprehension and Conviction.

A player requires many different skills to perform to his potential during a game situation. Not only does he/she need to be able to perform the underlying techniques of the game, but he/she needs to be able to employ them effectively at match tempo (Technical Proficiency). He/she also needs to be able to weigh up match situations and decide on the best option to take and when to take it (Tactical Prowess), and be able to anticipate the movements of his team-mates and synchronise with them during set play and general play (Team Play).

These skills should be developed in an integrated manner along with Physical Fitness, Psychological Focus and a knowledge and acceptance of the Playing Facts. in a balanced manner best suited to the requirements of the specific game.

Coaching Children:

For too long the practice in sport has been to identify and cultivate the talented players and elite teams at younger and younger ages. There is the tendency to nurture the perceived best and neglect the rest. This has contributed to adult training regimes and playing conditions being imposed onto young players. Training and competition is geared to outcome and winning, and not for the process of development.

For coaches of kids, there must be a balance between the need to win games and trophies versus the need to develop players and recognise the importance of fair play - provide full participation within an environment where players are encouraged to achieve their full potential. If you consider the reasons that children participate in sport, and the reasons that we as adults want them to participate in sport, you can see that there is a lot of common ground for coaches to work in:

Why do children take part in sport?

There are many reasons that children take part in sport, but research has shown that children primarily participate to:

  • Learn new skills
  • Make friends
  • See new places – and have new experiences
  • To be part of a team
  • For the competitive challenge/winning
  • Improve their self worth
  • To have fun

When children do not experience these feelings, they drop out from sport. Some will drop out in favour of other activities where they feel that these needs are being met, while others will simply drop out of sporting activities altogether. It is the role of the coach to create the environment for children to experience these.

Why should children take part in sport?

It may be obvious that children play to enjoy themselves and have fun, but there are many more reasons why you as a parent or coach should encourage children to participate:

  • Increased confidence – playing sport will provide each participant with confidence, and allow them to develop a real sense of achievement
  • Becoming part of a team – children like to feel as though they are part of a team or group. It also challenges them to work as part of a group and to think of others
  • Improved skills – participating in sport helps children develop a range of skills including balance, coordination and agility
  • Children that participate in sports are less likely to be overweight and suffer health problems

How are children different from adults?

Children are physically developing from early childhood to late adolescence. This means they have different capabilities for exercise and exercise affects them in different ways. For this reason training programs for children should not be just scaled down versions of adult training programs. There are many ways in which children differ from adults:
 

  • Technical

- Children have limited co-ordination, agility and balance

  • Tactical

- Children have poor positional awareness (we have all seen children playing where all players follow the ball – ‘beehive play’)

  • Team Play

- Children play for themselves
- Children have limited communication skills

  • Physical

- Children have limited strength
- Endurance – children have lots of energy but need frequent breaks
- Speed - their speed tends to be reactive. There is a window of opportunity to develop speed amongst children
- Children have a poor response to heat and cold

  • Psychological

- Children can lack confidence
- Children can be emotionally immature – moody/lose self control
- Children can be very choosy about friends and who they play with
- Children tend to lose concentration quickly or be easily led by others
- Children's decision making ability is poor and slow
- Children may not know how to react to the different personalities they might face in a group

  • Playing Facts

- Children need numbers to learn, to benchmark their level against others


"All children are individuals – the rate at which they develop in each of these areas will be different"

Emphasis should be put on the child's own progress, and not on comparing their achievements with those of others. This means that where possible individual instruction and challenges should be provided and a broad range of activities should be planned and presented.

Activities should develop to be of an increasingly complex nature and be challenging but 'doable'. Where possible children of approximately the same skill levels should be grouped together for coaching. Also take care to note which children work well together, as disruptive children can make organising a coaching session very difficult.

Coaching Youth Players:

Being a coach to teenage hurlers and footballers can be a difficult job. At this age, players are developing physically, psychologically, socially and emotionally. Where this stage of development begins and ends is hard to define exactly, as each player will develop at a different rate.

Coaching teenagers places unique demands on the coach. Depending on the player, the coach may need to adjust their activities to cater for changes in coordination, balance and growth. The coach may be required to offer words of encouragement to players who become frustrated with some of the difficulties of growth and how this affects their ability to play. The motivation to play differs slightly from that of children.


Teenagers get involved in Gaelic Games because of:

  • Enjoyment - Gaelic Games are fast and fun games, often high scoring
  • Skill - Gaelic Games are considered very skilful games amongst teenagers
  • Social Recognition - Teenagers, perhaps for the first time, recognise that playing Gaelic Games can provide a higher social standing. As well as being skillful, Gaelic Games are seen as being physically demanding and tough games, where courage and determination are important. Showing proficiency at such games can lead to a player developing high self esteem, and be recognised amongst other teenagers
  • Possibility of Success - Many teenagers continue to participate as they have aspirations to play at higher levels - whether that be at adult Club level or Inter County level.
  • Coach - The coach can be the most important factor in whether a player continues to play at this stage. Situations arise where the coach's goals and the player's needs can lead to players becoming disillusioned and dropping out.
  • Participation - Low involvement through poorly designed training sessions, or through a lack of games are some of the most serious causes of drop out. Being pigeon holed into one position, especially one seen as a less glamorous one, can be an issue here.
  • Training and Games - Games can be fun, but if training is dull or set at too high a level, players can lose interest quickly.

Special challenges to Coaches of Teenagers

Adolescence is a time when players:

  • Have conflicting commitments - Teenagers like to be involved in a number of different sports, or with a number of different teams (within the Club, school and/or County set up). Many also take part-time jobs to provide some income
  • Seek Independence - Teenagers often want to display a higher level of independence by not having to rely on their parents
  • Pressures from School - The later years of second level schooling places additional pressures on teenagers.

Some practical consideration that a coach can make for teenagers to assist them at this time include:

  • Use school facilities for training purposes – reduce the need for students to travel to participate in Gaelic Games. Developing a good Club/school link can help in this case, especially where training and competition schedules overlap
  • Provide flexible schedules to accommodate the demands of study, and/or work
  • Carefully follow the progress of each player, offering encouragement and advice where necessary
  • Provide quality training equipment and facilities

The Transition to adult Gaelic Games

Teenagers are in a phase in their lives where there is a distinct change from the fun filled environment of childhood play, to a more structured type of organised training and competition seen at adult level. Coaches should always maintain the enjoyment factor in sport, and many teenagers will attempt to keep this through trying something different, some tricks or touches that they have developed through individual practice.

Some of the problems associated with the progression to adult Gaelic Games include:

  • Adult training regimes imposed on less developed teenage bodies and minds
  • Player skill levels may not match the demands of performance in adult situations
  • The player may not be sufficiently developed cognitively to understand and implement the coach's instructions - especially when dealing with Team Play issues
  • Coaches may question the player's commitment and discipline as they struggle to come to terms with the more demanding nature of teenage play over childhood play.

Coaches may find that they become disillusioned if they do not adequately take notice of the above issues. Coaches must be prepared to change their expectations in response to accelerated growth and emotional development.

Coaching Adults:

Being a coach to adult hurlers and footballers can be a difficult job. By this stage, players should have developed physically, psychologically, socially and emotionally - special consideration in this regard should be given to teenage players playing on adult teams.

Coaching adult players places unique demands on the coach. The motivation to play differs slightly from that of children. Players remain involved in Gaelic Games because of:

  • Enjoyment - Gaelic Games are fast and fun games, often high scoring
  • Skill - Gaelic Games are considered very skilful games
  • Social recognition - As well as being skillful, Gaelic Games are seen as being physically demanding and tough games, where courage and determination are important. Showing proficiency at such games can lead to a player developing high self esteem, and be recognised amongst their peers
  • Possibility of success - Many players continue to participate as they have aspirations to play at higher levels - whether that be at adult Club level or Inter-county level.
  • Coach - The coach can be the most important factor in whether a player continues to play at this stage. Situations where the coaches’ goals and players' needs can lead to players becoming disillusioned and dropping out.
  • Participation - Low involvement through poorly designed training sessions or through a lack of games is one of the most serious causes of drop out. Being pigeon holed into one position, especially one seen as a less glamorous one can be an issue here.
  • Training and games - Games can be fun, but if training is dull or set at too high a level players can lose interest quickly.

Adult players

Have conflicting commitments -
Work, financial and family commitments might impact on the ability of adult players to commit to all requirements

Display independence - Players often want to display a higher level of independence and want to be part of the decision making process

Pressures from 3rd level - Attending 3rd level schooling places additional pressures on players, in terms of playing for additional teams, and attending to their college work

Some practical considerations that a coach can make for adults to assist them include:

  • Where training and competition schedules overlap
  • Provide flexible schedules to accommodate the
  • demands of family and work
  • Carefully follow the progress of each player, offering encouragement and advice where necessary
  • Provide quality training equipment and facilities

Minors playing in adult Gaelic Games

Teenagers are in a phase in their lives where there is a distinct change from the fun filled environment of childhood play, to a more structured type of organised training and competition seen at adult level. Coaches should always maintain the enjoyment factor in sport, and many teenagers will attempt to keep this through trying something different, some tricks or touches that they have developed through individual practice.
Some of the problems associated with the progression to adult Gaelic Games include:

  • Adult training regimes imposed on less developed teenage bodies and minds
  • Player skill levels may not match the demands of performance in adult situations
  • The player may not be sufficiently developed cognitively to understand and implement the coach's instructions - especially when dealing with Team Play issues
  • Coaches may question the player's commitment and discipline as they struggle to come to terms with the more demanding nature of teenage play over childhood play.
Coach Education:

GAA Coaching Structure Model Image

The GAA Strategic Vision and Action Plan 2009-2015 identified the immediate need to prioritise and support the development of players and coaches as key to the long-term success and health of Gaelic Games.

To create a coaching system which produces and supports the development of coaches and players, the GAA has developed a model of Coach Education has been reformatted to take account of the different playing capacities that exist between children (up to 12 years), youths (age 13 – 18) and adults (age 19+), and the competencies that a coach is required to display when working with each of the playing populations. These streams have been identified to cater for the diverse needs of children, of youths and of adults.


Quality Coaching – as part of an overall Games Development Plan - promotes fair play, builds social cohesion, self-esteem, and enhances health and well-being as well as supporting social and economic objectives.

Coaches should be committed to creating fun, safe playing environments for all of our players, regardless of age or ability level. To safeguard our players, coaches abide by the GAA Code of Conduct, have completed the GAA/ISC Child Protection in Sport Awareness Workshop and are vetted by An Garda Síochána/ Access NI.

Structure of the Coach Education Programme

The Coach Education Programme focuses on continuing education, so that coaches can improve by means of a series of specifically designed courses, workshops and conferences incorporating internationally recognised principles of best practice. These opportunities will include a combination of theoretical and practical inputs and allow for the use of digital and e-learning techniques.

The programme of Applied Lifelong Learning makes provision for coaches to continually develop their skills and to progress at a rate suited to their own development.

Coaching in the Club:

The Club is the fundamental unit of the GAA. It is where members begin their involvement with the GAA, and where they continue their involvement long after playing careers have finished. The area of coaching and games development forms a large part of the activities that take place within the Club.

All Clubs should select a Club Coaching & Games Coordinator and a Club Coaching sub-committee to oversee coaching issues within the Club. The Club Coaching & Games Coordinator position is an exciting development in the organisation of the Club. The activities and influence of the Club coaches will ensure a smooth progression for all players through the Club teams.

This section will deal with the various structures and activities that can be promoted within each Club. Within this section, it will be possible to answer a number of questions:

  • What is the role of the Club Coaching & Games Coordinator?
  • What is the Coach Education Programme and how to do we avail of assistance?
  • What initiatives and activities can I role out in my Club?
  • What type of links should the Club have with local schools?
  • Who do I contact for coaching assistance within my Club?
Role of the Coaching Officer:

The position of the Club Coaching Officer is a new and exciting position within the executive of your local GAA club. It will become one of the most prestigious and sought-after positions on the executive of ambitious and progressive GAA clubs over the next few years. The Club Coaching Officer will have at least a Level 1 Coaching Qualification.

Role
The officer will coordinate the activities of the club coaches and managers to provide a safe, smooth and rewarding progression for all its players from U8, U10, U12, U14, U16, Minor, U21, Junior and Senior through the Pathway to Elite Performance (PEP). To achieve this, the Club Coaching Officer will arrange periodic meetings of all coaches and managers as a sub-committee of the Club.

Responsibilities

  • Club School Link

The Club Coaching Officer will forge close links with the local national and secondary schools to monitor the participation and progress of all the club’s players within the schools’ system. The officer will help co-ordinate a balanced programme of training, rest and games between school and club activities.

  • Player Welfare

The Club Coaching Officer will have a key role in ensuring that players are afforded adequate rest and recovery periods between training sessions and have appropriate diagnosis and treatment of injuries. The officer should also mediate between the variety of team coaches that young players find themselves working with. Most importantly in today’s climate the Club Coaching Officer, with his committee,  should monitor the progress of all players so that they are not subjected to an over intensive programme.

  • Vhi Cúl Camp Coordinator

The Club Coaching Officer will be responsible for organising a high-quality Vhi Cúl Camp for all the children of the locality from 7 up to 13 years of age. Remember for many children, and particularly for those of new families in the community, the Vhi Cúl Camp will be their first introduction to your club. If it is a fun and rewarding experience for the child then he or she will want to continue his involvement with the club.

  • Best Practice

The Club Coaching Officer will ensure that best practice is promoted in the coaching and organisation of games at each age group, particularly underage. The Club nursery should focus on the development of appropriate skills for children aged 5 - 8. Within the 8-12 year old age group the Club Coaching Officer will ensure that the Go Games philosophy is nurtured and developed as a central part of the Club Coaching Programme. As young players progress into adolescence, the Club Coaching Officer will encourage the best players to participate in the County Schools of Excellence and Development Squads.

  • Coach Education

The Club Coaching Officer will promote the education and qualification of all coaches within the club. He will encourage all Club coaches to attend appropriate courses, workshops and seminars and receive coaching qualifications. He will support the recruitment and development of coaches within the club, e.g. by sourcing mentors etc.

  • Facilities & Resources Management

An essential function of the Coaching Officer should be to create a booking timetable of pitches and training equipment so each team and its mentors get a fair share of scarce and valuable Club facilities. This will promote an atmosphere of harmony and respect within the Club family.

It is the responsibility of the Coaching Officer and committee to nurture young coaches and to provide - but most importantly to ensure that - a consistent programme of games, supported and complimented by quality coaching sessions, is provided for all our players.



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