Coach in earnest

I was recently watching Daniel Barenboim play Beethoven on television and was reminded of the impact he had on me as a pianist just over 30 years ago.  I had recently completed my music exams and heard the maestro play the piano at the RDS (at considerable expense for a student).  However rather than being inspired to practice more I was left with the feeling of ‘what’s the point?’ – what he does and what I do are poles apart – and will remain poles apart.

Last Saturday I had the privilege of listening to Paudie Butler present his thoughts on coaching kids to a group of about 60 coaches in Kilmacud Crokes – my own GAA Club in Dublin.  He told a great story about the day our great poet, Seamus Heaney, finally decided to go home and be a poet (or, in Irish, a ‘file’), in earnest.

This time I listened to someone with whom I could relate – because he admitted to making so many of the mistakes I have made myself.  He spoke of the mistakes he felt he mad bringing up his own kids and how he wished what he now practiced with his grandchildren he had practiced with his children.

He laid down the challenge to each of us in the room: the privilege it is to work with children and the requirement that we coach in earnest.  He also challenged us to get our thoughts right – the importance of being positive and looking forward to each session and each interaction.  That if you do have this positive attitude you will enjoy it and everyone will benefit a great deal more.

Even more interesting for me – this time I found Barenboim less intimidating and more inspirational – I am enjoying trying some hours on the piano again. The gap has probably grown – given my lack of practice/ playing for 30 years, but my attitude and expectations are different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GAA and coaching – playing to learn

Àttended the GAA Games Development Conference at Croke Park on Saturday 11th January. Excellent conference and excellent facilities.

The Conference focused on coaching children – as against youth or adult.  And the presentations stuck with the theme and presented a number of interesting ideas from a range of different perspectives.

Paudie O’Neill and Jodie O’Connor reminded us of the different focus at different age groups:

  • Child: Play to Learn
  • Youth: Learn to compete
  • Adult: Compete to win

This is not to say that all adult sport is about ‘play to win’ – but rather to remind us that with children we need to remember: they are playing to learn (not to satisfy the appetites of adults or clubs for wins and silverware).

They reminded us of how disappointed the likes of Paudie O’Shea, Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara have been when left out of teams – this is not something we should be visiting on kids who are playing to learn.  We need to avoid any potential exclusion of kids at training or on match day.  And Go Games provide us with the perfect environment to ensure everyone is equally involved.

Having had kids play in Croke Park – through the bunscoileanna competitions – I have had the great joy of watching them play.  Have also, unfortunately, seen the huge disappointment for kids, parents and grandparents when their team gets to Croke Park but the kids do not get to play. Surely we need a way to use the Go Games format to ensure all get to play on the Croke Park days?  Otherwise schools risk winning the cup and losing the child.

Made reference to a recent article by Gary Lineker about pushy parents and their net contribution from the sideline to the development of kids (when the kids are playing to learn).  They don’t get it.

For those of us who are encouraged to stream kids at an early age their advice was clear: ‘Don’t try to predict the stars’.  (Mickey Whelan was even more direct later on: there should be no hierarchy amongst players before the age of 12).

And finally, a reminder for coaches: If you want to correct something: use the sandwich model: praise, correct, praise.

Excellent presentation by Paudie O’Neill and Jodie O’Connor.