Since Crossmaglen retained their All Ireland title the other week, there has been a clamour in the GAA pages of the papers, led by the likes of Paddy Heaney and Joe Brolly, for a back to basics approach to coaching gaelic football. For back to basics read ‘fellas that kick the ball’. Hence the name. Football.
Typically the point is made that coaches nowadays seem more concerned with the number of cones they can us in any given session; how intricate their drills can be and how impressive their repertoire of small sided games can be.
The prevalence of ultra defensive systems has been blamed on coaches and the way they prepare teams. The over use of handpassing likewise blamed on coaches for running small sided games that focus on working on small congested areas. It's all their fault allegedly. I had one county player complain to me that his manager wasn't defensive enough, so it's not always coach led.
The mantra is small-sided games, conditioned games, conditioned small-sided games…! For me the basis of coaching is looking at what is going on during a game and taking a problem solving approach. If that leads to unconventional ideas then so be it. If there is no relation between the coaching ground and the bigger picture then it is a waste of time.
In 'Gaelic Life' I read every week in wonder Beefy Morrison’s cryptic sports psychobabble about various theories he has on coaching teams. A highly popular coach with a penchant for interesting and sometimes off the wall ideas (reference the Antrim squad and the skip if you don’t believe me) his actual on field achievements may be open to question. I suppose he and Micky Moran did get Mayo to an All Ireland final but the next move was out the door.
All of these points have their merits, but in coaching terms, every coaching career starts with the first step. I remember being placed in charge of an Under 14 team and panicking in front of parents as they stood looking at me expectantly for some pearls to fall from my lips. By mixture of bluff and bull I made it through the wilderness, as Madonna would say.
Now I look back in horror and wonder how I managed to carry off sessions without planning. Now a typical session would be written down and planned in advance. That’s all very well when you have the wherewithal to attend other coaches’ sessions and beg, steal and borrow their drills. I’ve been at it for about seventeen years now, and I still magpie drills and ideas wherever I can get them.
I was therefore intrigued at the very idea of Elevate Sports Solutions Gaelic football coaching Cards. This is clever idea indeed. They have packaged together 52 coaching drills covering attack and defence, passing and skills in a deck of cards.
The cards cover equipment required, number of players used, number of balls and the main coaching points to emphasise. For any level of coach it offers a fair number of nuggets. Yes there are drills we all know and love/detest. There are also enough new ideas to make shelling out £14.99 on the pack money well spent. The package also comes as a handy App for iPhone and android phones, available via iTunes.
The deck of cards doesn’t deal you a hand on how to play Crossmaglen or how to unlock the Donegal defensive system but as an established or wannabe coach there is enough there to keep you in ideas.
And ideas after all, are the mother and father of innovation!
For more info, go to: www.elevatesports.co.uk