THESE are really difficult and uncertain times we are facing, not only
as a GAA community but a global community.
Everyone is in the same situation and nobody is exempt from it.
Everywhere you turn all you hear about, see, read is constantly about
Covid-19 and sometimes it can actually leave you feeling very down and
The great release we have always had in difficult times has been
sport. For me and the majority of readers here, our beautiful games
have always helped in times of need.
Some of the best friends I have in life have come through the GAA,
even recent friendships stretching the length and breadth of our
wonderful little island.
Just yesterday we had a staff meeting in St Joseph’s, Newry to examine
what the implications of the next few months could be, and of course
high on the priority list was the well-being and education of our
We discussed the measures we would be putting in place to ensure they
continue as best they can with their studies, especially those
youngsters at a critical junction or crossroads in their educational
As a PE teacher and GAA coach, obviously I understand the challenges
faced with exercising at this time but you can do so much on your own.
You could set up a garden circuit or a home circuit, there’s skipping,
walking, jogging, and of course all you really need to find is a wall
and a ball!
The coaching benefits for using a wall and a ball are enormous. For
starters it can be used all year round, hail, rain, snow or blow, and
particularly at winter time when the weather is inclement.
All our games can be accommodated on the wall – football, camogie,
hurling and handball. The wall will improve reaction time, decision
making if working with a partner, players’ timing, first touch and
exposure to working on the weaker side with no risk of failure to the
player. That helps build confidence and self esteem.
It can be used for a warm-up before and during games, also before
training or simply to deliver a complete skills session or even
specifically used as a unique goalkeeping session. I have actually run
full sessions as recently as a few weeks ago in school when the
weather was inclement.
The aim of the session was ‘maximising touches and minimising the
time.’ All the players, approximately 25, gained about 50-plus touches
in two or three-minute drills off their right and left sides.
All skills were covered, the hand-pass, kick-pass, the catch – high,
low and chest – reaction drills, rebound drills, and much more.
I always try to get the players to target 500-plus touches throughout
the session concluding with some small-sided games. As a coach you can
help provide that opportunity by ensuring the ratio of ball to player
is at least one to two minimum.
When you consider the average player touches the ball during the game
approximately 16 times and maybe only for 25 seconds, it emphasises
the need for all your touches in a game to be of a high quality.
I always encourage our youngsters in school to find a wall and a ball,
it’s all they need to practice their kicking, hand-passing, striking,
left and right, and all the while improving their first touch on the
rebound. It also helps refine their hand eye co-ordination.
I remember all the fantastic summers I spent hammering the gable wall
of my parent’s house with an O’Neill’s ball, a tennis ball, a
basketball, a soccer ball. I got hours and hours of contentment, no
Playstation, no mobile phone, no Twitter, no Facebook, just a wall and
They definitely were great days and maybe during these really
difficult times some of our youngster may just reignite the thought
that it really is the simply things in life that count. Stay safe and
don’t forget to wash your hands!