An interesting question posed recently to me was “How important is your 1 hour training session to a child’s actual development?”. And it got me thinking.
Let’s just use Joe Canning as an example and make a few presumptions on his actual make up as a player.
Environments that influence his development:
– Home: Time spent playing in his free time with siblings, parents and friends.
– Primary School: Time spent playing hurling in PE, lunch breaks, before/after School.
– Post Primary School: Time spent playing and training on school teams, puckinh around with friends.
– College: Training and playing at a high level.
– Club: Weekly/Biweekly from 5 onwards.
– Representative level: Playing on county teams and squads.
It is clearly evident that there are 4 key environments where a person will develop as a player, the Home, Educational setting, the club and for some the county set up. But, depending on where a person is born a few of these settings are down to luck. Out of the 4 listed, theoretically all of them are beyond the control of the individual.
For instance, if Joe Canning was born in West Galway, would we have ever heard of him as a Hurler? Would he have received the same opportunities in the education settings to develop as a hurler, would his club have been able to offer him the culture and expertise in Hurling coaching, would he of been afforded opportunities to be on development squads?? So, it was a bit of luck he was born where he was? Or would it matter?
The first environment listed is probably the least prioritised by coaches and the GAA, the Home. You do hear coaches encouraging kids to practice at home “Hurley, a ball and a wall” and encouragement of parents to practice with their sons and daughters. But is there any way we could actually give parents adequate support to do this?
Children could, in a very lucky environment play 2-3 hours of organised hurling or football on a weekly basis between Primary school and the Club, if they are lucky. Is 2-3 hours of organised practice each week going to be enough to develop a player, if they do nothing else? Probably not. Johan Cruyff said “I trained 3-4 hours a week at Ajax when I was small, I played 3-4 hours a day on the street. So where do you think I learnt to play football?”. So, with this in mind, how important is it that children do actually spend their spare time playing hurling or football or whatever other code it is they wish to play?
Parents who encourage and provide an environment for children to play, is probably more important than the training they do in the educational setting and in the club setting. Or is that an incorrect hypothesis?
So with this in mind, is it possible for you, the coach, to engage more with the parents, give them a sense of belonging and responsibility to the child’s development, upskill them to be able to play with their child and correct technical aspects, encourage more play time at home, get them to take an actual interest in the training and skill development aspects. If you think this is possible, then what are we going to do to make this happen?
Whilst it may not be the role of the team coach to execute such ideals for our utopian view, maybe clubs could take an active role in putting in place steps to embrace parents more into each child’s development. If your child spent an hour a day playing any sport or activity with friends and family, that would go a large part to ensuring they get a chance to develop fully in all sports. Is 7 hours a week of encouraging your child to play, have fun, try something new going to hurt, I don’t think so. If your child doesn’t have siblings to play with or friends close by, you will have to be that person to play with. You never know, you might enjoy it.