The Limerick brothers think their new games-based GAA coaching website makes sense

LIMERICK senior hurling coach Paul Kinnerk plans his training sessions around a game-based approach.

Just like any walker, others are eager to learn from flag bearers.

A new GAA coaching website does just that.

Run by three brothers from Limerick, Stephen, Peter and David Lavin, offers an avenue for GAA coaches, from children to adults.

“We’re not saying it’s the only way to do things, but we strongly believe it’s the best way,” said former Limerick footballer and pitcher Stephen Lavin.

“We came from the old school of things – to the cone and back and we just think there’s a better way and people will enjoy that way a bit more because it’s more interactive. These are games with a goal – all skill-based games that we think are better than having everyone lined up behind a cone,” says the Adare man.

All three brothers worked at Limerick Underage Football Academy where Paul Kinnerk is the Head of Coaching.

“The three of us worked at the academy and it’s not that Paul (Kinnerk) would give you stuff but he would give brilliant feedback on the sessions. Initially we were thinking of a book as a resource for people and then it was Jim Donovan (former Limerick footballer) who suggested a website that people could sign in. We already had a couple hundred games of our football work and then this software called Tactical Pad made it very easy to creating animated videos to show how games work.”

Now coaches of all skill levels can log into the website, find the skill they want to teach, select a game, print it out, and share it with other coaches before practice.

“It’s just trying to make the sessions a little more enjoyable. You have parents who are getting involved now and I would say it’s an investment in your kids. They want to be up to their kids and want their kids to succeed and these parents are often extremely enthusiastic but don’t have a whole coaching experience behind them. It’s just a resource and the real learning is in doing it and thinking about it,” said Stephen.

No wonder all three Lavin brothers are teachers.

“It’s a bit like school – is there a plan in place and is there progression, do you teach them a little bit more every year. It’s not strict because the focus should be on fun and enjoyment but at least they are learning they are both about learning what do you do in teaching to make sure their learning is good well it’s is the same in coaching The parallels are huge – the pitch is a learning environment Children as young as seven years old can learn so it’s all about how to introduce them and what we want them to learn. So you think about what you want them to learn and then come up with a session that helps them with that. In the classroom, we call it guided learning,” describes Stephen who is director of education at Scoil Naomh Iosaf in Adare.

“It’s a resource for someone fairly experienced in coaching someone who’s just starting out for the first time. If you want to teach U7s to run, it’s right there on the site, if you want fun co-op games, it’s right there on the site. If you want to play a certain way, you have to train that way. If you want to attack a certain team a certain way, well, you have to train that way.

He continues: “There is massive movement towards this narrative. The counter-argument would be that the players don’t have the skills to make the games, but we would be confident that if you play these games properly, the skills will be learned in the game. There are hundreds of games out there and it’s not just about hurling or football, but about the physical development of children”.

“I was probably 20/21 when I started coaching at the club and I was exactly the same as the coaches who coached me – everyone was lining up and coming out with drills. When I watch back now I think Oh my God “But that’s how I learned and it was good then, but now I feel like it’s so much more kid friendly.”

There is a financial commitment to the website.

“Coaches have to be prepared to step into uncertain waters. It’s very easy to get kids to stand behind a cone and get them to go out and pick up a ball and then back in. If you make it through different games maybe you’re going to have to think a little bit more and maybe it’s a bit more a trial and error process people might be reluctant to adopt it but in the end, they are much better coaches and also have a much better time people are working they have kids and have to cook dinners and do homework and now they have to sit down and plan this session but maybe they would rather just go and do what they know Take some time to familiarize yourself with the website and if you feel comfortable it literally takes two minutes so create a whole session, print it out and share it with the other coaches,” he explained.

“It’s about taking the difficulty out of planning for coaches and giving them a lot of resources.”

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