Top Tips for G.A.A Coaches

(In association with Armagh's Enda Mc Nulty)

1. Always start with the end in mind:

Before you begin your season, before a coaching session, or before you play a match; ensure that coaches and players decide upon the key objectives or goals for the season, for the training session or for the match. It is imperative that you know what you are trying to achieve at all times. It is also imperative that the players have an input into these objectives or goals. This will ensure that players are given ownership with decisions and with their direction for the season. Lots of players and team are training extremely hard and they do not know what their goals are for the season.

2. Inspire your players and team and create an environment of positivity.

Inspire your team and players to achieve their potential in sport and in life. Inform them that the biggest waste of all in sport and life is a waste of talent. Inspire children that one day they could play senior football for Offaly in an All Ireland final, or that one day they could captain their club team to a county championship. Create an atmosphere of positivity every day you train or play. Research world wide now suggests that in order for a team to be successful in sport that the ratio of positives to negatives needs to be 4:1. Positives to negatives. If you must deliver critical messages deliver them "sandwiched" between positive messages.

3. The FUNdamentals should be developed in every single training session.

Build the foundation stones before you even consider to build more complex building blocks. G.A.A coaches have got a little carried away with the latest craze in physical conditioning or even in mental conditioning. Remember stick to getting the basics right before you move on to more complex aspects of preparation. World class sprinters do their running drills (training them how to perform the correct technique of running) in every single training session, elite tennis players practice their basic skills in every coaching session, professional soccer players continually develop and refine their skills. There fore we in Gaelic games need to go "back to basics "to a large extent and go and improve all the basic skills. Children should be coached the FUNdamentals of athleticism in every session. This simply means that children's Agility, Balance, Coordination and speed (A.B.C's). This sounds complex but is relatively simple to achieve. Use some small fun games to develop all of these together. For example games like No mans land, bull dog, catch the tails, or simple tag, ball tag can develop the A.B.C.s in a fun way.

4. FUN. Ensure that every session has a primary objective of FUN.

Integrate fun into as much of the session as possible. If the session is fun children will enjoy it more and so they will perform better. Remember that if your team is not having fun, trouble is never far away. Go out of your way to ensure that every session involves at least 15 minutes of fun. Fun results in your players being motivated to consistently turn up to training, it leads to freshness at training, it relaxes your players if they are anxious or tense. If there is a bad atmosphere at training, begin to inject fun and watch the results.

5. Perfect practice makes perfect.

The old maxim; practice makes perfect is completely untrue. Many G.A.A teams are spending approximately 6 hours a week training or playing and they can not understand why they are not developing or improving. Lots of the teams or individuals are repeating and "training" old bad habits. Only perfect practice will make perfect. Therefore encourage perfect technique over and over again. Show perfect technique on video, get one of your players to display it, or show the players the correct. Show rather than tell, as players understand much better if they can see rather than if they just hear. Use inter-county stars to inspire and to exhibit perfect practice. Ask your young players to observe Colin Cooper kicking a ball and then "mimic" him, ask them to watch Cora Staunton catching a ball and ask them to copy her, ask them to watch Henry Shefflin and ask them to copy.

6. Be wary of not pigeon holing.

Players should be given the possibility of playing as many different positions as possible during their juvenile playing days. I would go as far as to say that they should be given the opportunity to play in every position on the pitch on at least three occasions. Ajax Amsterdam has included this policy with all of their young academy players. If you are pigeon holed as full back as a ten year old, then how will you learn to shoot, how will you learn to catch a kickout, how will you learn to take a free for a score. So keep an open mind and play all players in all positions no matter what their size or shape or ability is. This also applies to senior teams, Monaghan senior football team play their full back sometimes at full forward, Tyrone have frequently played backs as forwards or vice versa. Players develop a much better understanding of the game and awareness of different roles, if they are played in different positions. This does not mean that you will try this for the first time in championship. However this policy would be very useful in preseason and in training games. Perhaps you may even experiment a little in league games.

7. The Biggest Battle within.

Did you ever really consider what sport is ultimately about? Do you think that sport is solely about winning? do you think that the ultimate measure of how good a GAA player is, is how many All Stars they have? All the leading experts in team development and mental training tend to identify that the biggest battle in sport, is within. It is the individual against themselves; ultimately this is the most important battle to win because if you win this you are in a position to win other battles.

8. Coach through World Class Practice.

Research, visit, read, meet , explore what world class practice in coaching is. In many cases Gaelic Games practice in coaching is outdated and not nearly world class. The web will provide you with great access to this sort of information. Go and do a rugby coaching course, or a basketball coaching course so that you get a different perspective on how to coach sport, so that you learn different ways to develop agility or communication on the field for example. If you want to be world class then surround yourself with world class people, information and experience.

9. Always coach what to do instead of what not to do.

If you tell a 16 year old not to drop the ball into the keepers hands then that is exactly what he will do. The brain does not understand the word not to or don't in relation to actions. It's like telling a child not to drop a ball in a drill...you will probably notice that is exactly what they will do.

10. Coach the Game not drills.

There are no drills in a GAA match. Players are not asked to solo around cones in a Gaelic or hurling match, so then why do it at training. Coach players how to improve their game rather than how to do a drill. For example coach them how to win a ball on the 14, to step inside and score a point. This is not a drill this is a scenario, and this should be the priority for your coaching. Coach them how to play full back or goal keeper, or full forward. Remember anybody can coach how to run around cones, but how many can coach ho to tackle correctly or how to win a breaking ball. Spend time breaking down a skill and learn how to coach it in a simple way. Strive every session to become a better coach, ask your players for feedback; ask them what they would like to receive more coaching on.