Coaching the Block Down in Football and Hurling

The Block Down in Football is one of the harder skills to coach effectively. There is a fear factor for children and there is a safety factor that coaches need to be conscious of.

A simple method of coaching the Block Down is to break down the skill and coach elements of it over a large time frame, so rather than being told to “just block him down” we can now give children gradual instructions to build up their technique and confidence over several years. Children can start at stage 1 from as early as possible and progress with ability throughout the year/s. 1 minute of this every week at training will lead to competent and confident skill execution from the children.

How to Coach the Block Down in Football:

  • Stage 1: Child kneeling down with a ball in their hands. Child bounces the ball on the ground and as the ball in coming back up, they push the ball down and hold it into the ground.
  • Stage 2: Child standing up with ball in their hands. Child bounces ball on the ground and as the ball is coming back up, they bend down, push the ball down and hold it into the ground.
  • Stage 3: Child stands beside a coach who is standing up and holding the ball. The coach solos the ball and the child try to trap the ball onto the coaches’ foot by pushing the ball down.
  • Stage 4: Child stands beside the coach who is standing up and holding the football. The coach stands 5m from a wall/net and gives a light kick. The child leans in and blocks the ball onto the coach foot.
  • Stage 5: Child is now competent and confident at blocking down the ball

3 Key Teaching Points:

  1. Keep the eyes on the ball
  2. Keep hands close together
  3. Step in close to the kicker

 

 

The Block Down in Hurling is one of the harder skills to coach effectively. There is a fear factor for children and there is a safety factor that coaches need to be conscious of. If teaching children to strike the ball from their hands, they also need to coach the Block Down so children’s safety is not threatened in Games.

A simple method of coaching the Block Down is to break down the skill and coach elements of it over a large time frame, so rather than being told to “just block him down” we can now give children gradual instructions to build up their technique and confidence over several months/years. Children can start at stage 1 from as early as possible and progress with ability throughout the year/s. 1 minute of this every week at training will lead to competent and confident skill execution from the children.

How to Coach the Block Down in Hurling:

3 key teaching points are:

  1. Step forward and place back knee on the ground
  2. Hold the hurley at full length with both hands and thumbs facing up the hurley
  3. Keep Hurley facing up, at full arm’s length in front of the body.
  • Stage 1: Get Children to practice this technique as in the diagram below blocking an imaginary striker. Coach to spot and fix technique. Simple exercise such as “1,2,3 Block” at this stage all the children perform the technique, then go back to ready position to perform again.
  • Stage 2: Children working with a coach each (or coach with 2/3), Coach swings very easily and child steps in and blocks. Coach keeps eye on technique and spot and fixes. Encourage children to block the swingers tape on the Hurley. The Tape of the opponents Hurley should be their target for the Block Down. (Blocking the Tape is a safety aspect to start with, as the child gets competent and wiser, they can progress to blocking the ball)
  • Stage 3: Coach uses Foam Ball (child will not fear foam ball, so technique should remain good) and performs a light strike (pass ball 10m). Player steps in and blocks tape of Coaches Hurley.
  1. Stage 4: Coach progresses to striking sliotar slightly harder, alter for individuals at coaches discretion.

What kind of players are you developing?

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.

#BetterCoachingBetterPlayers