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.