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.