Planning in GAA (Part 3)

In yesterdays post, I spoke about the Medium Term Plan and about designating different weights to the different sections. You can find yesterdays blog post here: https://gaamecoaching.com/2020/05/27/planning-in-gaa-part-2/

Today, like yesterday, we are going to break down the the previous plan into another plan which contains more details specific to the individual age group. Today we will focus on what happens in the various blocks of a given year. In yesterdays post, i gave an example of how a coaching plan for an U10 team and an adult team may differ, with more emphasis on skill development with the younger age group compared to a more holistic approach with the older group. These examples may help guide you with drawing up your own plan.

Here is a simple Yearly Coaching plan for an U10 team. Using the Long and Medium term plan, it dictates what skills we should be prioritising for the season. As referenced already, if following the plan outlined in yesterdays post, all skills in Hurling will be introduced by the time they get to U10, so we essentially are starting the next phase of their development.

Taking on board the Medium Term Plan, we have identified a number of priority skills for this age group. The Core skill as explained above is to be advanced every year. From my own basic template, an U10 player has been introduced to all skills already in the previous 5 years. At the U10 year, it is about advancing those skills. As you can see, we have identified 3 additional skills to focus on each month e.g. For February we have the High Catch, Jab Lift and Hook as additional skills to the Core skill. For the 4 weeks of training, we want to ensure that each of those skills is given some priority time. Thankfully, in Hurling and Football, for every skill there is an equal and opposite skill e.g. if i strike the ball to my partner and it is not high enough for a high catch, he may have to utilize the low catch or ball control instead. So, just because we are prioritizing a skill, we are not totally neglecting all others, they will naturally occur in the training and matches regardless. Again, each coach needs to know his/her group and their abilities to maximise the value of planning.

Juvenile teams a lot of the time are reactive in their coaching sessions. A defeat in the match last weekend will direct areas that the coach thinks needs to improve. For instance, if an opposition team win a number of puck outs by using the over head catch, the coach will try to focus on countering this activity in the next session. What you will find is that maybe one or two opposition players were very skilled against their direct opponent and the whole team then works on that activity, when only maybe 2 or 3 players need to focus on that skill as part of their “Skill Box” training. (Skill Box is a small area set up beside the training and 1-4 players may be brought in there to work on a specific skill, whilst a game or some other activity is ongoing for all other players)

As teams get older, they may use a template such as this. It caters for a number of different factors.

Some age groups will obviously have to put a greater emphasis on matches and peaking at different times of the year but for juvenile teams from U13 down, every game is as important or as not important as each other. For these groups it is easier to plan a whole campaign.

Within each teams yearly program, there are a number of separate pockets, which will allow varying development. If a team from February to April is in an indoor facility, it may limit the opportunities to develop certain aspects. Similarly, if numbers in the summer are down a high number, the plan may have to take this into account.

In every program, skill development needs to be considered, right from U5 to Adult. With this in mind, it is good to focus on particular skills in blocks of 4 weeks, especially when introducing a new skill. Coaches have a tendency to try to do a little bit of everything in training and try to cover all areas of the game. But if planned correctly, coaches would be able to put an emphasis on a particular skill at a particular time, ensuring that they get a good chance to really progress the skill. Remember, you have 10+ years of developing a player, you don’t need to have everything done in a few weeks, months or even years.

So, if using the example above for the U10 age group in February, as well as working on the core skill of striking from the hand, we want to ensure every child also gets a chance to execute the high catch to a high standard, as well as the Jab Lift and the Hook. By committing at least 5 minutes to each of those focused skills, it should allow the player to see massive improvement over a 4 week period. If on week 1, we may be working a high catch using a Bean bag playing piggy in the middle for 5 minutes. (Good line of communication with parents to make them aware of the focused skill, may also help children to practice at home between sessions). Week 2, we may progress this to using a sliotar in Piggy in the Middle. Week 3 may be playing No Mans Land using a tennis ball but players have to hit the ball high into the opponents side. This should give players the opportunity to catch lots of balls, either directly, or after 1 bounce. The tennis ball will be softer on the hand, so will encourage children to try to catch directly. Week 4 may be progressing onto using the Quick Touch sliotar which is what all U10s should be using in matches.

The benefits of using these games is that it allows one on one coaching to a large degree e.g. if playing Piggy in the middle and there are 2 weak players, the coach can be the piggy. The coach will know how much pressure to put on to allow those players execute the skill. He may also be able to coach the players and correct any technical errors in the game. As you progress to games like No Mans Land, the coach may speak to different players of different abilities. You may ask the stronger players to try to get 10 clean catches, while you may speak to the weaker player and target 3 catches after 1 bounce. Utilising your assistant coaches in areas like this is very important.

Dr Stephen Behan spoke in a Webinar last night about Zone of Proximal Development. Watch this clip from 19.45 to 24.47 (Watch it all if you can as it is very beneficial for every coach). He explains it much better than i ever will be able to, but setting an achievable challenge for skill development is very important.

For every coach, having a basic understanding of what Stephen is speaking about is crucial for skill development to ensure every child progresses at a rate that suits their abilities.

Lastly, when compiling year on year info, it is really important that the previous mentors at that age group are utilised to assist. To use their unique experience, is crucial to ensuring a smooth year. Speaking to a person today about this he said “The U16 coach who has worked his way up with this team is completely unaware of the potential issues and roadblocks he will meet at U16, such as Junior Cert, Gaeltacht, etc. If the last five U16 mentors were able to each give 3 or 4 bits of advice and that advice was subsequently passed onto the incoming U16 mentor, how much easier will his role be, as well as all future U16 Coaches?

So with that in mind, all the stakeholders need to have a part to play in designing these plans and utilising their experiences and knowledge.

Join us tomorrow for Part 4, where we will discuss Designing individual session plans.

Thanks for taking the time to read these posts and i hope they are proving somewhat beneficial.

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