What kind of players are you developing?
As a coach, you have a duty of care to ensure players get a chance to develop to their full potential. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do this to 100%, I don’t think anyone has the complete solution. I, like most other coaches experiment and try new things to adapt and improve from our gained experiences.
An excellent analogy I recently came across was the “Computer Gamer Coach”. This the is the coach who stands on the side-line and tries to control what his player does, the same way he would do if playing a sports game in the Xbox, Playstation, Sega Megadrive or whatever version the kids of today have.
The “Computer Gamer Coach” talks through and tells the child what to do at every opportunity so that he can maintain a grasp of control over proceedings. We all know the type (I’ve been guilty of this before) “Kick it long”, “Take him on”, “stay with him”, “Make a run”, etc. We are all aware of the clichés. Maybe the coach is correct in 100% of his communications, maybe he is not. Where the problem comes with this type of coach, is when he is disconnected from the game and when the players progress to other teams with other mentors.
Like a person playing FIFA or some EA Sport game on a gaming console, when the controller is disconnected, the players stop moving. If children go through years of been told exactly what to do in certain situations, they become programmed to obey and expect these demands. When the demands stop, the children, like the players on the computer screen when the controller is disconnected, they do not know what to do. They have never learned to think for themselves. They have never been in this situation and do not know how to react. They are never given a chance to learn to succeed or fail for themselves based off their own decisions and experience.
Therefore, it is very important that in training sessions, you must ensure that the children are developing their Decision Making and Team Play. If a child is being put in a situation in training where he is forced to make his own decisions and become a problem solver, when the same situation arises in a match, he will know what to do, without the prompting from the coach. These are the type of players who enjoy playing and are more likely to stay playing GAA long term. The intrinsic value of being allowed make their own decisions on the pitch, is very empowering to the players and can lead to a massive sense of ownership for the players, regardless of age.
How do you do this? Games Based Training sessions. Minimise “Drills” and replace them with Games, Exercises or Activities. The child has a chance to learn every time they go to the training ground, the Coach dictates whether the child can avail of a learning opportunity or not. Every component of your training session can be designed and adapted to provide greater learning for the players. The challenge for you is to make this happen.