Coaching camps can be hugely beneficial

posted 13 Apr 2016, 01:37 by Skerries Harps   [ updated 13 Apr 2016, 01:43 by Anthony Weldon ]

(Article by Steven Poacher from Gaelic Life 7-13 April 2016)

Over the Easter holidays I was kindly invited down to the Skerries Harps club in Dublin to coach at their unique and superbly well-run Easter Coaching Camp. It was a brilliant initiative co-ordinated and organised by some of the Skerries underage coaches including lead figure on the day Stephen Fitzgerald. Stephen and his club colleagues must be commended on the superb three days of coaching their young players received. In total 12 guest coaches attended over the three days, including Dublin senior players Johnny Cooper, Cormac Costello, former player Bryan Cullen, Dublin Ladies manager Greg McGonigle, former London inter-county player Colin Daly and their own role models from within the Skerries club, former u-21 Dublin player Al Fitzgerald along with last year’s Dublin ladies’ captain Lyndsy Davey. The structure of the three days never changed. There were over 100 youngsters at the camp ranging from ages 12-17; the groups were split evenly into three core groups. Each group had three sessions a day with three different coaches and after lunch each day, finished with a short talk and a question and answer session, which was very informative and beneficial.

Day One: The themes the coaches delivered in the pitch sessions were communication, defending, tackling, team play, building attacks from the middle third, creating scoring chances and movement. On Day two the themes coached were athletic development, kick-passing, defensive midfield play, effective handling and score-taking. I was invited to come along on the third day and was asked to deliver a session labelled ‘learning through games.’ After a game related warm-up, we moved into a small-sided transition scoring game, with the emphasis on switching effectively and efficiently from defence to attack and vice-versa. Transition play has become an enormous part of the modern game and the teams most efficient at it are the likes of Tyrone, Dublin, Donegal and, more recently this year, Cavan. Following that we played a punt pass overload game, which ultimately finished with a score into two different goals. This game developed kicking into space but also encouraged players to make and find space.

We then finished off with a larger conditioned game with multiple rules like a three-second back up rule, three-second touch rule, 10-second score - all games which encouraged the players to become thinking  footballers. Before every game I explained the rules and conditions twice and then let the youngsters play, during the games we grouped up and they give me feedback, then they give each other feedback and then we played again. After every game I called the young players in and questioned them, all the answers coming from them.

It’s critical in the learning process that the youngsters understand for themselves what went right or what could have been improved. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day working with the young boys and girls who were so receptive and willing to learn and it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to be involved. On the same day Johnny Cooper delivered a session on individual defending, last year’s Dublin ladies’ captain and manager Lyndsy Davey and Greg McGonigle worked with the young female players on getting the basics right and small-sided games.

The day was completed with a question and answer session with the young players taking some valuable information away as Johnny Cooper give a great insight into the workings of a Dublin inter-county senior player and the lifestyle they are expected to live. At lunch, while I was propelling sandwiches and buns down my throat, Johnny was eating his fruit, sweet potato, chicken, omelettes and recovery shakes- the extreme discipline it takes to be the best on show for all the young aspiring athletes.

Any club looking to raise the standards and level of coaching within their club for their young players could take the Skerries model as a great example. Agree on a couple of days when the schools are off, find some role models within your own club, get them on board, design a structure for the day and what themes you’d like to cover invite some coaches and players in to deliver them and away you go. Youngsters at that age are like sponges, they absorb information and when you can provide them with the calibre of coaching they received at Skerries the learning experience will be priceless.