COACH education is a subject very close to my heart and it’s a huge passion of mine.
As a coach I never want to stop learning, in fact I have a small black notebook that I carry everywhere with me. The majority of my week seems to be spent in a car, so therefore the book very seldom leaves the car.
I would regularly get an idea or see something in a game or a session that I feel might help improve my own coaching or the quality of the training sessions I deliver, and I would scribble it down in the black notebook.
I really enjoy challenging players at training, I like to take players out of their comfort zone without actually taking them out of their depth, but you need to be brave as a coach to try this and be willing to embrace and encourage new methods or ideas.
I feel that I have sounded a bit repetitive over the last few weeks in this column but I cannot stress enough that this is simply the best time of the year for a coach to learn.
I picked up a couple of little coaching nuggets recently while watching a basketball session, a soccer session and a rugby session from some reasonable high levels teams in those particular sports, but also from reading some books recently in school.
Even one little idea could possibly ignite three or four from that in your brain because all coaches have a creative brain. However, for me, the greatest resource we continue to have as coaches is each other.
During the week I travelled to Clogher in county Tyrone to deliver a pitch-based session on a ‘games-based approach to training’ and the beauty of the evening for the 40-plus coaches in attendance was that it had been tailored to suit coaches at all levels of the game, from u-10 right up to adult senior level. It offered coaches a world of ideas to take back to their own training sessions.
The session included approximately 10 different games, including some fun games, focused games, transition games and conditioned games relevant to all ages.
Some of these games I have actually ran at u-12 sessions and I have used the exact same game – with a little adaption – at senior inter-county level.
The session included some break ball games, kicking games, scoring games, spatial awareness games, transition games and games to improve conditioning levels so the coaches got a huge volume of ideas. I have to say the young u-16 squad from the club proved to be excellent contributors considering the wild and wet conditions.
When speaking to the coaches in Clogher on Monday evening, I said to imagine the game I was demonstrating as a tree. What grows from trees? Branches, so they should be trying to branch out three or four more games from the actual game they are seeing.
Also the question was posed to me quite regularly, “Stevie could we use that at senior level or could we use that at u-14 level?” The answer is simple, of course we can use any game at any level but you apply the STEP principle. That is space, time, equipment and players.
So at underage level if running a scoring exercise, the space might not be 45 yards from goal but maybe 30 yards, the time might not be 90 seconds but maybe 45 seconds, for equipment you might have more balls in play and you may use more or less players depending on your numbers.
This is a fabulous time of the year to upskill yourself or other coaches within your club just before the pre-season kicks off. Now is the time to load yourself and others with fresh and innovative ideas.
I am looking forward to heading back to Tyrone to work with a couple of clubs in the next few weeks and I am delighted to have been asked to present a pitch session on ‘transition play’ at the Meath GAA coaching conference at the start of next month which promises to be an excellent day’s learning from some brilliant presenters.
I am always a great believer coaches that if you attend a coach education session, day or evening and pick up one small thing which will aid your own coaching it’s been a huge success!