A coach or trainer or manager of a team is to put it simply, a teacher who must first of all know his subject matter, and then his or her pupil or student. Finally he must be able to teach, and naturally the younger the players the harder it is to teach them. It is very important for the coach to be well up or versed in the sport or game his is teaching, and know all he can about the game. That is why seminars, courses, clinics, videos and books on the subject are so important to give interested coaches a chance to gain valuable information on their subject. The coach does not have to be a great player himself. In fact some of the finest and best coaches have only been mediocre players themselves, for being so, they know the limitations of their students, and are able to stoop down to the level of their players especially and slower and less gifted ones.
In dealing with young athletes, it can be very helpful on occasion, to use the Old Irish Formula Of Triads e.g: 1. No Cuss (an old English word meaning no cursing), No Fuss, No Muss (an old English word meaning no messing); 2. Catch, Kick, Combine; 3. Fair, Firm, Friendly; 4. Be there, Beware, Be Fair; 5. Get Ball, Clear Ball, Place Ball; 6. Speed, Skill, Strength; 7. Desire, Discipline, Design (Plan); 8. Respect, Reverence, Responsibility; 9. Information, Explanation, Demonstration; 10. Long, Low, Lively (Keep ball in play). There is a whole alphabet of such triads and any coach can make up his own or use some catch phrases that the youngsters can grasp rather easily.
We spend hours and hours practising these basic skills, and only at the end of practice do we play a game where we put into the game, conditions what has been taught beforehand. Moreover we interrupt the game time and time again, to call attention to mistakes made, or maybe to point out a better method of doing things. Every player is involved both in practice and in the game, and players are sent in, and taken out repeatedly, so it never gets boring. Moreover these players get used to this, and when a competitive game arises, they are never upset when taken out.
Fun must be the prime object of both practice and games and if this is kept uppermost in the coach’s mind, games will be a joy for the kids and a delight for the coach. Our method is a very simple one. We spend four months indoors and are blessed with a lovely and spacious gymnasium at our disposal at St. Cuan’s College in Castleblakney. However, any room or even a barn will suffice for practice. Then we spend four months outdoors and finally we have four months free, when the children usually play in the parish competitions or if good enough to play for the parish in the county competitions. Of vital importance is equipment. We use up to twenty balls mostly of the playground variety, for both hurling , football and camogie. Indoors the players use sneakers or tennis shoes and for hurling and camogie we use tennis or sponge or plastic balls plus the helmets.
In conclusion a few more tips for coaches to think about: “Never cut a kid from the team as they usually cut themselves”. “Speed is the name of the game”. “Keep your head up and look where you are going, and you will never have to keep it down”. “Do not make any excuses for bad hops or bounces or passes, anyone can catch the good ones”. “Do not criticise referees, they cannot be as perfect as yourself”. “A player who can only hit a ball with one hand or kick a ball with one foot is only half a player”. “Passing, hitting or kicking a ball behind a team mate is like locking the barn door after the horse has gone out”. “Respect is earned and it comes by respecting other players, coaches, referees and parents”. “No child was ever ruined by being overpraised”. “Praise in public but correct in private”. “Always be positive and never be negative”.
A good coach must be an astute teacher, a clever psychologist, a practical philosopher, and a shrewd tactician. A good coach teaches well the fundamentals of the game, so that the youngsters have the foundation for developing their capabilities to the fullest in future years. He teaches them to strive for excellence, to enjoy success and to accept failure. A good coach builds “character”, a poor coach creates “characters”.
Written by Fr Liam Kitt.
Galway GAA Annual