Planning in GAA (Part 4)

In yesterdays post, i spoke about Short Term Planning and about designing appropriate content for particular times of the year. You can find the post here:

In todays final section, i will discuss planning for the here and now, the next session/s. For juvenile teams who only get together once a week, it is about designing a single session, whilst for older teams who may train 2/3 times a week, there are a few more things to consider.

I will use an U10 Hurling session as the sample for explain. Taking into account the plans that are gone before us, it is very easy to plan for an individual session. If there is no Long, Medium or Short term plan, planning a training session can become a little haphazard. If following the plan below for an U10 team, i will explain how you may go about planning each session.

If we were to take a session in the first week in May, we have 4 skills to prioritise in the session. Strike from Hand under Pressure, Breaking Ball, Solo and Tackling. Thankfully, some of these skills are related. With one player soloing, an opponent can tackle, so we can technically work on both skills in one activity.

So, imagine we have a 1 hour session with 16 players, this is how i might plan it.

As noted from our Short term plan, the priority for the session was 1.) Striking on the Run, 2.) Tackling, 3.) Soloing and 4.) Breaking Ball.

With each activity, i ensured that at least one of those skills was going to be practiced. The warm up focused on striking the ball on the run. As previously stated, in GAA for every action there is an opposite reaction. So if a player hits the ball on the run from one side of the goals, the player on the other side will use one of these skills: 1.) Over Head Bat, 2.) High Catch, 3.) Chest/Low Catch, 4.) Ball Control/First Touch, 5.) Stopping a moving Ball, 6.) Jab/Roll Lift and will also probably improve their anticipation of a breaking ball (if someone else gets first contact when it comes over to their side), will learn about judging the flight of the ball, will improve awareness and peripheral vision etc. The benefits of using a game here instead of a straight line drill is, it allows the coach to see every player executing the skill and the coach can assist the kids who need help without interfering with everyone else playing. It also allows kids to have multiple ball contacts throughout the activity as opposed to sharing one ball between 4 or 5 players. So, as you can see, by executing and focusing on one skill, lots of other supplementary skills will also improve.

For Game 1, the main focus is soloing the ball initially and also every player will eventually become a tackler. Same as above, lots of other supplementary and associate skills will also be improved. The reason for using the coach for the start of this activity is to ensure every player gets a chance. Usually, the weakest players will be eliminated first, which in turn will mean that the players who need the most practice, end up getting the least amount. The coach could allow 4 or 5 runs over and back before anyone loses their ball, ensuring every child practices the skill under a little pressure initially to build confidence.

Game 2 is again a game that focuses on multiple of the skills needed. By the coach throwing up the ball, the first 2 players will try to win it or make a positive contact on the ball. The other 2 players will then engage in trying to win the breaking ball, if it is not won clean. The player who gains possession must then try to run as far as the cone before striking on the run towards the goal. By having a coach with each group or between every two groups, the coach can ask questions of the players e.g. “John, where should you be trying to stand in relation to your opponent”, you would hope that a question like that may trigger some thoughts with the players on where they need to position their bodies etc.

Game 3 works again on numerous factors. First, from the throw in, there will more than likely be a breaking ball. The player in possession will more than likely have to solo the ball to get into striking range, so the opponent will be working on their tackling. The player in possession will probably have to strike the ball on the run also. By making it 1 vs 1, there is maximum game movements involved. Each player when outfield is constantly engaged in the game. By putting the scorer into goals, it ensures the strong player doesn’t dominate the activity and gives every player a chance outside on a regular occasion.

Game 4 is a mini blitz where they play 4 vs 4 on a small pitch. Coach can set constraints such as when you have the ball, you have to try to solo past your opponent, which will increase the number of solos and also increase the number of tackles in the game. This may be the condition for only 1 of the 3 games though andthe coach may change conditions for each game. These small sided games will also allow children learn about team play and also about positions etc. Regular rotation of positions and roles will allow the players to gain a greater understanding of the importance of each other on the pitch to help develop team work.

A fun cool down activity such as cross bar challenge or penalties etc is always a nice way to finish the session.

I hope that you can see, how having a Long, Medium and Short term plan makes your life very easy as a coach to make individual session plans. When you have identified the skills to focus on, it is very easy to work in 3-4 activities that focus on them. But as spoken about in previous posts, start building the house, here:

Build step by step challenging the players to keep progressing onto the next level. If you have not seen Part 3 of the planning, i would advise to watch the link to Dr Stephen Behans presentation about Zone of Proximal Development.

For younger teams in the nursery, Physical Literacy skills may take up one or more of the activities, where as for older teams, depending on the time of year, one of the activities could be based around creating scoring opportunities or set plays. Each age group in unique and each team is unique, so it is important that coaches plan for THEIR team and to benefit their strengths and weaknesses.

I have a number of session plans available on dropbox for various levels and ages, feel free to check them out for yourself, they are at the bottom of the link here:

Thanks for taking your time to read through the last few posts and i hope that they will help you with your coaching going forward.

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