Planning in GAA (Part 1)

Long Term Plan

In the last post, we spoke about 4 different types of plans needed for a GAA club Coaching structure. The first step in building a Coaching plan for a group or section is to have an overall Club Coaching plan. If your club does not have one, now is a great time to start planning for get one.

What is a Coaching Plan?

A coaching plan in the past has simply been; what skills do we teach and when? But as the GAA has evolved, people are much more conscious that the GAA is not just what happens between the white lines out on the pitch. The GAA is a much more community orientated set up, with the likes of the Healthy Clubs program, Alcohol and Substance Abuse program etc. But for this aspect, we will discuss the Coaching as it refers to the coach of the team and the players within. What skills are we teaching them, not just for the sport, but also for life.

The most important thing with a Club Coaching plan is that it is a “Club” plan and not one persons plan. To get a buy in, to anything in life, people need to feel that they have a vested interest in it. Having every coach, parent and stakeholder involved in the development of a plan is crucial. John the U10 coach having an input into the plan is much better than walking down to U10 training and handing a plan to John and saying “this is how we want you to do it from now on”. John may or may not be insulted, depending on the type of person he is but if John had an input into the plan, he is much more likely to agree with the plan and follow it through.

Ideally, every club would have a Coaching Officer whose remit is to ensure Best Practice coaching structures within the club. The Coaching Officer may be the person who is tasked with designing the Coaching plan, but it would be unwise to try to do it all on their own. What i found works best is having a working group or Coaching Committee who are behind the designing and implementation of the plan, upon receiving guidance from the stakeholders in the club.

The best way to get all the stakeholders to have an input is to ask them. Ideally this would be done via an open invitation workshop or forum, where people are given the opportunity to give their opinions and thoughts. Whilst this is not possible during the pandemic, it is possible to use multiple formats of gaining opinions. This could be a webinar call, a survey, a simple questionnaire etc.

But lets presume we can get everyone who wants to have an input into the same room, what questions do we need to ask?

Essentially, it is up to each club to find their own unique values by setting their own questions. There is no right or wrong question but some areas relate differently for different clubs. By asking a question like: “What does a good club look like?” Answers might be “player retention”, “Treat players fairly”, “All kids get fair game time”, “Top class coaching”, etc. You can write down a few things yourself that you feel should be on that list.

Once you have identified what a good club looks like, you can start analysing your own club on where they are. “Are we good at retaining players? Well, the U14s only have 12 players now after having 22 at U10.” Being able to question why there was such a drop off, will allow the club and personnel involved to question how things were done with that group. Is there things they could do differently? Is there areas that the club could provide more support?

What this will enable is for Core Values to be drawn up for the club and subsequently for each section. For instance, what are our 5-7 core values for the Nursery group? What are our 5-7 core values for each of the other groups? They will differ slightly from section to section but there will be a natural progression as we move through each section. But there should be an overall theme between all the sections

I would advise to do a small bit of research on Club Coaching Plans that are available already. A lot of clubs have their Club Coaching plan freely available on their websites. Each club differs in some capacity, so it is important to design a plan unique for your own club. Identify aspects that you like from one clubs plan and merge it with aspects you like from other plans. Leinster GAA have an excellent TURAS program which should be able to guide you along also. You may just take their format and differentiate the age groups differently. TURAS has age 6 strands between 4 and 17, while i have listed 5 between 4 and 34, so each club will have a different slant. Here are my 5 and why i have them categorized as such.

1.) Nursery for 4-7 year olds: Coaching at this age group is really about ensuring that each child has a positive and fun introduction to Gaelic Games. There is minimal external games played and most of the development is done internally in the club, in the primary school and at home with family. Fundamental movements form a huge part of the development to ensure players have a solid base for years to come.

2.) Child for 8-12 year olds: Coaching at this age group is about introducing the concept of playing Matches and using the skills learned in a game environment. A maximum of 2:1 ratio of trainings to games should be used here. Same as above, the club, school and family are crucial to the childs development at these ages.

3.) Youth for 13-17 year olds: Coaching at this age is advancing to more team play and tactical awareness. Club, Post Primary Schools and peer led informal practice are important aspects here. Development Squads will come into play for some players. Being conscious of the divergence of opportunities should also be noted by coaches as Player A might be on Development Squad, School team and playing an age up in the club while Player B might only be playing his own age group, so adequate game time is even more important for these players.

4.) Young Adult for 18-20 year olds: These players are in a really vulnerable age regarding GAA. Other factors external to the GAA start to become a priority for some. Exams, College, transition from youth to adult games all can cause major shock to some players and being able to tackle these issues in a player friendly environment is proving more and more difficult for clubs and coaches. Having a plan to ensure a player finishing underage and progressing to adult games is accommodated in some team, a transition group could be put in place to ensure every player is accounted for in the transition

5.) Adult for ages 21+: Planning for adult teams can be very difficult due to each mentors own personal preferences regarding preparation etc. However, some things are within the control of the club. Ensuring adequate training and games provisions for all willing players. Integration of players to juvenile coaching etc can be discussed and planned for.

By identifying each section separately, it allows us to be more specific on certain things at certain times. For instance, Tactical prowess will have minimal importance in the Nursery section but have a huge importance in the adult section.

In tomorrows post, we will discuss the Medium Term Planning which will encompass each section outlined above and prioritising the needs for each individual age group.

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