Coach Education Will Empower you – by Steven Poacher

In Jim Mc Guinness’ book, “Until Victory Always”, in the chapter labelled 2014 there is a great abstract when he is talking about his time at third level education in Tralee, Jordanstown and then his masters in Sports Psychology in Liverpool John Moores. Jim talks about at the end of those years, he was left with an unbreakable conviction in the power of education. He went from someone who didn’t lift a book to someone who loved reading and just wanted more information. For me though this abstract is my favourite,

“Education empowers people. It can actually make you a different person – more rounded and cultured and self-confident. If I ever met someone in those years who mentioned that they were thinking of going back to school or college, I would do everything I could to try and convince them to.”

I can relate to that paragraph above, because during my career as a teacher now for over 20 years I have consistently hammered the same message to current students and the regular phone calls or messages you would get from past pupils. I remember my own father, who left school at 14 to become a welder, a profession he thoroughly enjoyed, but his advice always stuck with me, education adds strings to your bows, get as much as you can. I would have studied my masters in sports psychology back in 2001 in Bangor University in Wales, I had enrolled in the course and was ready to start but the opportunity of full time teaching employment came about and I took that path instead and one I don’t regret.

Coaching is exactly the same, it’s an education, it’s a journey.

There can be a misperception around Coaches who offer coach education, some on the outside think they are perceived experts but in fact it couldn’t be further from the truth. I have always said, in my honest opinion there are no experts in Coaching, my theory is there are only coaches with experience, opinions and ideas, some of these coaches are happy to share these experiences to help others, because the reality is that sharing is learning. Coaching is very like teaching; sharing good practice is an invaluable tool to have, you should never be afraid to learn off someone and to bounce ideas off each other, for me this is one of the most effective ways of learning and the drum I have consistently beat is the best resource we have as coaches is each other.

I don’t think coaching should be about qualifications or letters after your name, far from it but coaches should be encouraged to learn and value learning. Qualifications and a nice certificate can certainly help but it’s the learning along the way that helps coaches become who they are and also enhances their quality.

Learning opportunities can be offered through workshops, sample sessions, interactive sessions (both indoor & outdoor), possible mentorship or even templates of individual sessions or bulk programmes. Here at Deely Sports Science, there are a huge variety of ways in which coaches can gain the opportunities to learn, but the coaches must be willing and ready to learn, that’s critical. In the past I myself have headed over to professional Rugby with Newport Dragons during the summer for a number of days to spend some valuable time under the wing of Bernard Jackman and getting to see first-hand what a professional set up is like, also over to Scotland and England and spent some time at the training grounds of top level soccer clubs, the learning experience was invaluable.

Just Saturday past I organised and co-ordinated my annual coach education clinic in St Joseph’s Boy’s High School in Newry, it was a phenomenal morning of learning and sharing. Over 400 coaches travelled from all over Ireland to our day which has now become one of the largest and possibly the best Coach Education event on the island and the feedback was just sensational, coaches from Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Mayo, Galway, hordes of coaches from Donegal, in all there was 24 different counties in attendance, it was so refreshing to see the thirst and hunger among coaches for learning and growing.

Benny Coulter opened proceedings with his session, “Setting the tone in the Warm-Up”, Benny used the group he is working with, the current Down U15 squad and the standard and quality the lads produced in the demonstrations was absolutely top notch. Benny showed a variety of games, drills that focused the body and mind, with concentration, communication and presentation the key messages. Multi directional play with increased traffic, using peripheral vision, handling, catching, kicking, decision making all part of the day.

Up next was former AFL and Down Star and current Down U20 coach Martin Clarke.

Martin’s theme “Getting a handle on the ball” was very unique and looked at different methods you could use to help develop an elite first touch. Everything Martin focused on was about pace, speed of play, speed of thought, speed of reactions and speed of handling. The variety and simple complex of the drills Martin brought from his time in professional sport was a real eye opener for coaches and showed how we could all incorporate more time before, during and after training to really enhance this part of our player’s skill levels.

Ciaran Mc Keever, the current Armagh Senior Football Coach concluded the day with his theme, “Conditioning the mind and body through Small Sided Games.” Ciaran’s four games, playing through the lines, GAA Scoreboard, Create the Overload and the counter attacking game focused on so many key coaching points but also showed coaches how easily it is to condition players with the ball in the hand, because ultimately we are looking to create thinking footballers but most importantly players who can make critical decisions when tired or fatigued and Ciaran certainly took players out of their comfort zone, physically and mentally.

Pundits and others complain about standards across the game, and point the finger of blame at systems of play or defensive football but that’s all rubbish in my eyes, the bottom line is if you want to improve standards in any sport you must have the people who are coaching the sport willing to learn a lot more particularly at underage level! Just like the Germans did in soccer back in 2002 when they did a branch review of their coaching structures and reaped the rewards over a decade later and New Zealand did in Rugby years ago, raised the standards of the coaches coaching the games and encouraged coaches to engage in more learning! Limerick in Hurling started a decade ago introducing S and C into their development squads, investing in good coaching and structures and look where they are now, Dublin lost their title this year to Tyrone, another county who have always heavily invested in underage and coaching structures, there is a top 4 in football starting to solidly emerge and gain yards and unless counties heavily invest in implementing the right coaching model from the bottom up the gap will continue to get wider and wider.


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1 Comment
  • Terence McWilliams
    Posted at 11:49h, 29 October Reply

    Who is responsible for coaching the coaches at clubs the required skills necessary for delivering the appropriate coaching programmes to the various age groups.
    Who plans the what ie content to deliver when ie most oppertunine time, how to deliver the what & know why?

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