Erin's Isle GAA Club

Farnham Drive Finglas
Dublin 11

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Tuesday, 23 January 2018 15:52
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Coaches Corner

This Category is intended for mentors/coaches to use as a tool they can use to assist in their task of coaching our teams

Developing Foot Speed - Turin Hurling GAA Club

Developing Foot Speed

Developing foot speed

Over the past few weeks Ronan Keane has written about 3 S’s of Physical Fitness – Strength, Suppleness and Sleep. The next few articles will focus on speed as a component of Physical Fitness. Speed is such a big area and teams at all levels tend to focus a lot on the development of speed. Speed can be difficult to develop especially if we create fear of mistakes in our players. Sometimes continually shouting “faster, faster, faster” works but often coaches and players need a greater understanding of what they are trying to achieve.

In Gaelic Games there are 6 types of Speed. 
1. Foot Speed
2. Hand Speed
3. Eye Speed
4. Mind Speed
5. Reaction Speed
6. Stroke or Kicking Speed

Top inter county players need all those six speeds to survive. If they are lacking in one or more, their opponents will exploit that weakness. Most youths have some speeds and others will have to be developed in conjunction with their coaches. John Conlon tells the story about not making the Clare under 14’s and during the winter he worked really hard on foot speed and stroke speed. The following year he captained the Clare under 15’s!

This week we will examine foot speed. Foot speed or running speed is associated with sprinting. Usain Bolt, Shelly Anne Fraser Price, Derval O’Rourke and Paul Hession spring to mind when we think of sprinting. They have running speed where stride length and stride frequency enable them to be faster than the majority of people in the rest of the world. A former Clare Development Squad hurler who is now 19 years of age is currently running 100m in 10.84 seconds. He wants to get that down to 10.20 by the time he is 23 in order to qualify for major championships. 100m sprinters run their race in 9-11 seconds. Theirs is a single sprint sport ran in a straight line. It is vastly different to Gaelic Games.

Last week The Aintree Grand National provided a huge test of stamina and jumping. These horses had to run 4.5 miles. They would not be able to win a 5 furlong race and the horses in a sprint race would have no chance in the Grand National. They are totally different sports. Sprint horses are far more delicate than National Hunt horses. Like Olympic sprinters they are lean and cannot take much punishment. They have fast twitch fibre muscles which are required for them to run at the enormous speeds needed for their sport. Grand National Horses would have slow twitch muscles as would Marathon Runners and Triathletes. 

So what are the running speed requirements of Gaelic Games? 
Let’s examine the facts. Research from Damien Young from 2008 tells us that the average distance covered in a 70 minute hurling match in Croke Park is about 10 km per player. 11% of the time a player is striding 3% of the time a player is sprinting and 2% of the time a player is max sprinting. “Players are constantly challenged to accelerate and decelerate from various positions and players are not required to run at the same pace for any length of time” The average sprint in inter county championship hurling is 7 metres and players rarely reach their maximum speed.

Children and teenagers have two windows of opportunity to develop speed. This means that their bodies react very well to speed training during these times. The first opportunity comes at about 7 years of age and lasts for less than 2 years. During this time coaches should focus on stride frequency (foot fall). Michael Flatley holds the world record of being able to take 28 steps per second. Children who do Irish Dancing at this age are developing speed. The second window of opportunity comes around the time of the child’s growth spurt (11-14 year of age). During this time coaches should focus on stride length and stride frequency. In the time between windows of opportunity for speed coaches should help to develop running technique or form. 

So how do we develop foot speed specific to Gaelic Games? Running speed can only be developed when players are fresh. If we do sprinting with our players when they are fatigued we are not developing speed, we are on stamina. Stamina is another component of Physical Fitness. Players should have a work rest ratio of 1:6 to develop speed. This means that they should rest for 30 seconds if they are sprinting for 5 seconds to develop the fast twitch fibre muscles required for our games. Gaelic Games are multi sprint –multi directional sports. Players should be challenged to move forwards, backwards, laterally right and left, diagonally forwards and backwards right and left. Because deceleration is a very important component of speed, players should have to stop suddenly without slowing down at the end of their sprint. Players should not sprint uphill but downhill sprinting can be effective to develop a new pace. 

Coaches can now buy a lot of equipment to help them develop speed. Hurdles and ladders are great to develop high knees, arm action and foot fall. Resistance bands are used to develop stride frequency. Line balls (ropes with 6 sliotars attached) are great for hurling specific speed training. It is always preferable to have players using a ball during all aspects of training. However coaches need to ensure that players are not being challenged with a difficult skill during speed training. An activity that is too challenging will cause players to slow down so this will not develop speed. Coaches are often best to ignore skill technique when focusing on speed. 

Good coaches can help players develop foot speed by taking away all fear of failure. At a recent coaching session a colleague of mine kept saying to his players “Go your fastest and risk everything” and “I don’t care if you miss the ball, I want you to go your fastest”. The players missed the ball, and fell and made loads of mistakes but at the end of the session they all agreed that they had ran faster than they ever did before in their lives. They developed foot speed

Building a house, building a team 1.

This week's Coaching Corner written by Peter Casey. 

Building a house, building a team Part I

Building a house is one of the biggest decisions a person, couple or family will ever make during their lives. It is sometimes said that the average person only gets it right when they build their third house. Unfortunately many people only get to build one house and their future well-being and happiness is often decided in the initial design and build phase.

Some couples engage the services of an architect, engineer or draughts-person to help them with their design. Others decide on the style of their house from a book of house plans, while many people choose to draw up their own plans. This design is often based on the present and future needs of the home owner. Some people would like to start building straight away without a plan, planning permission, site survey or engineers reports. Unfortunately – or fortunately –these people are bound by building regulations, and without them, the banks cannot release a mortgage.

After the couple draw up their plans, they have to wait a few months for planning permission from the county council. They also have other big decisions to make, such as what builder to use, whether to use a building contractor or to build the house by direct labour. The second option often saves money but it also requires much more involvement from the owners. During the building period the owners are often called upon to make hundreds of decisions, like choosing types of floors, doors, windows, kitchen and bathroom ware, paint colours, curtains, lights and sockets. In the end the owner hopes that the finished product will match their initial expectations so that they can live a long and happy life in their new home. 

Building a team of hurlers and footballers also requires extensive planning, time and patience. Like house building, we are often wiser afterwards and you often hear coaches say things like “if I was to start all over again, I would do things differently”. Experience often helps us to learn harsh lessons. We all would like to look back with something positive to show for our years of work and effort. We would like to see a team of skilful players with physical nimbleness and mental alacrity. Like Building Regulations, we are also bound by a set of guidelines “The Rights of the Child in Sport” and a code of ethics. It is important that these are implemented in our clubs.
A house needs a good deep foundation of concrete and steel to support the walls and the roof. Without a foundation everything falls in and the structure will not stand the test of time. The foundation for a team of players is agility, balance and co-ordination. When players learn physical literacy between the ages of 4 and 12 it is easy to add to the structure as they grow older. 

Like the house needing solid walls, players need to run, jump and throw. These skills are becoming more and more important in modern day inter county hurling and football. If we spend time developing running, jumping and throwing we will produce players with good athleticism. A house with deep foundations and solid walls is necessary to pass the test of time.

No builder would dream of putting a roof on a house before the foundations and the walls were in place. Putting on the roof is like teaching the skills or catching, passing, kicking and striking. As coaches, we are very good at putting on the roof. My first six years coaching were mainly spent putting on the roof. I didn’t know about foundations and walls and unfortunately during those days my house crumbled down every time the pressure came on. Had I used my time more wisely I would have spent longer building the foundations and the walls. I was in too much of a hurry trying to beat the team down the road. It is much easier to put on the roof once care has been given to the foundations and walls.

Every house needs at least one outside door with a key to allow people inside. Games are the key to the player’s heart. Games are what excite our players. Paudie Butler says “children need enough skills to play games and enough games to show off their skills”. When coaches run a games based coaching programme they attract more and more players to the pitch. 

Windows are essential to let in the light to a house. Without windows the house would be dull, dark and unattractive. Coaches need to plan for fun in their sessions to let in the light. Children can only learn when they are having fun. As the old saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”. Beginner coaches who find it difficult to have enough ideas for a full coaching session have a much easier job when they include a fun element in their activities and games.
Finally our house needs a fire to keep the family warm. This is where the coach is really needed. Top coaches make everyone feel warm in their words, deeds and actions. They are conscious of people’s feelings and realise that they have a duty to make their players feel good about themselves. A great coach lights the fire and everyone wants to share in the happy experience that coach has created. The coach is the hearth and the heart of the structure. 

In our primary school coaching programmes we spend the majority of our time building foundations and walls. As a result more and more children are joining their local GAA club. Once they develop initial physical competencies, they find it easier to learn the skills of hurling and football. Their clubs are flourishing as a result and hopefully, in time, we’ll all be able to look back on the great work that so many coaches are now doing and say we’ve built a solid house.