Into modern Gaelic football has come the scourge that is called the low ball. Don't get me wrong, now. I'm not advocating a return to the sky-high balloon kick that gives those at ground level ample opportunity to have a picnic before the ball re-enters the atmosphere.I'm complaining about the grubber-style pass along the ground that a player uses to thread the ball through to a forward who has made a break towards him. The player who bursts out like a train [with defender in tow] is given a pass that is well-nigh impossible to gather cleanly. It may have been tucked neatly under an opponent's block, but the receiver has to change pace, direction, stance and even his mind to collect such a pass.This type of pass comes originally from rugby, where it is used to slip the ball between defenders for a team-mate to run onto and score - and there lies the difference. The receiver in Rugby is moving with the ball player. Our forward is coming to meet the pass. Enough of the complaining - what about a solution? I call this pass 'The Lazy Ball', because the kicker is doing the minimum to evade his opponent and make space for a pass. Players must work hard on evasion skills that throw an opponent off balance enough to be able to get a good pass away to the runner.If coaches made these demands and sought to cut out this lazy ball, we might get more fluid attacks and fewer blasts on the whistle. Watch for the lazy ball in the next game and think about changing it!
A top coach who guided his club team to an All-Ireland championship in the early nineties, regularly switched or even substituted players during the early stages of games. When asked why he didn't let players have more time to settle before he acted, the coach answered: 'Time has little to do with it. I only count opportunities, not time.'His idea was simple yet brilliant. If a player had four chances to win the ball and lost out on three, then he had to be changed before his confidence was shattered altogether. It didn't matter if these opportunities came in the first five minutes or over the period of one half of the game. The same coach maintained that it was vital all players were aware of this practice. They had to know that a switch was not a way to say 'You're not good enough' , but a chance to remind them that 'this is not your day in that spot...let's start again somewhere else'. So, if you are a coach who prefers to make changes based on 'time', think about looking for 'missed opportunities' instead. Remember to make sure your players know and understand the idea and see if your tactical work on the line improves.
A game that only takes effect for one team when in the opposition half [or for forwards in a backs v forwards situation].
Set out two lines of fleximarkers [not domes] running from the half-way line to the end line. Both should be approx. 20m in from each touchline. The lines create 3 channels [wide channels of 20m each and a centre channel of 35-40m on normal pitch].The rules are simple. Should the attacking team have possession in any of the two 'wide' channels, the player on the ball must switch play into the middle channel rather than give a pass down the wing.The game is designed to ensure that any attack does not end up in the corners and that the main thrust is through the centre. This does not mean that players should pack the centre channel. Players may move freely between channels to create space, but the ball should be played from wide to centre as much as possible.Coaches should only inform the attacking team of the ploy so that defenders have to work it out and counter it. Coaches must also convince players of the need to make decoy runs into these wide channels in order to draw defenders out of the scoring zone.
One piece of Gaelic game analysis suggests that winning teams keep up an average of at least one score for every three times they take possession of the ball in the opposition half of the pitch. Anything less often spells defeat.
A game to try as part of a series:Choose two teams [e.g. 7v7 up to 15v15], bib them and adapt the size of the pitch to suit.The game is normal Gaelic football with one twist. To win the game, a team must score 3 times consecutively [without their scores being interrupted by an opposition score]. Should the opposition score before 3 consecutive scores are taken, any scores earned are wiped out and the opposition are now deemed to be winning 1-0.e.g. Team A scores a point and then a goal. They are now winning 2-0 in scores taken. Team B scores a point. Team A’s two scores are wiped out and Team B leads 1-0.The first team to reach score consecutive times wins the game and goes 1-0 up in the series. Run the series to suit [e.g. series is over when one team wins five games].A modification of this involves delaying the ‘wipeout’ element until a certain number of scores has been reached.e.g. Teams play first to get five scores on the board, but ‘wipeout’ rules only apply after 4 scores. So, both teams keep playing and scoring as normal until one reaches four scores. Should this team manage a fifth without the opposition scoring first, it wins the game. However, should the opposition score, the four scores are wiped out.Why bother play this game? It focuses players much more and leads to a higher degree of intensity. Players are keener to defend, to find space, to shoot sooner and to turn the ball over.
Here’s a game to focus players on working harder to turnover the ball during play. It is particularly useful for coaches who are keen to improve forwards’ work rate when the opposition has the ball.Play normal Gaelic rules. Set up a pitch to suit the number of players. Run a line of fleximarkers across the halfway line.To win one game in a mini-series [e.g. best of five] a team may either score four times or turn the ball over twice inside the opposition half. A ‘turnover’ is only awarded for an interception during play, a tackle that wins possession or a block that leads to possession. If a team manages to turn the ball over, play does not stop; rather it continues until the next break in the game [e.g. score, wide, free, sideline]So, a team that finds itself 3-0 down in scores and with 1 turnover earned, may still win the game if one of its players forces one more turnover in the opposition half of the pitch.Such a situation will also highlight the need for defenders to make sure the ball is not lost inside the defending half of the pitch. If players respond by working a tight fist-passing game, they may find that this leads to even more opportunities for the opposition to turn the ball over. If they decide to simply kick the ball into the other half to avoid the turnover, it invites another attack from the opposition team.The right balance must be found between keeping possession and delivering a telling pass into the other half for a teammate.To those who complain that the scoring team is being unduly punished, remember…the game is deliberately designed to force a higher work rate from attackers when opposing defenders have the ball. Forwards are being given an incentive to win the ball back.Coaches are free to change the ratio of scores to turnovers [e.g. to win, a team needs 3 scores or 2 turnovers].
When a manager or coach has to leave players out of a team and resign them to a spell on the bench, he often finds it difficult to explain why they haven't made the team. Those players rarely find themselves in the mood to listen anyway, for most believe they should start.Come the time for a substitution, a coach calls for the sub to warm up; then he generally gives a few instructions before the player takes the field.Should the change be one that is tactical rather than as the result of injury, the substitute might well be asked "What can you add to this team, that the first-choice player could not?" Such a question may not lend itself to an immediate answer, but it does focus the new player and remind him that he must not simply replace someone, but must work to retain his place by 'adding something to the team'.Perhaps this little reminder will serve to motivate those who can't wait to get off the bench and onto the field.
Coaching tip Number 41
Before the new season, think about the types of fitness tests you use for your players. Remember, our games are 'multisprint'; therefore they call upon the anaerobic energy system more than on the aerobic system.
Put simply, this means they are not filled with long runs lasting several minutes; rather they are punctuated by runs of up to 20 seconds, short breaks [walking etc] and quick bursts of less than 6 seconds duration.
However, before you dispense with the longer runs, remember that they do have a role. The aerobic energy system [heart and lungs - using oxygen] is vital for recovery between these short bursts on the pitch - so it must be well developed.
more developed and efficient the aerobic system is, the shorter a
player's recovery time will be between bouts of hard work on the pitch.
Now you can check the internet for the protocols associated with the Cooper Test.
Coaching tip Number 42
The bad habit is borne out of the desire to clip the ball off the instep and curl it over the bar. It does work at times but, more often than not, such a kick ends up as a wide or a ball dropped into the goalkeeper´s hands.
Give footballs to players before a coaching session or a match and you´ll see plenty of these clipped, curling shots sail over the bar from different angles. So why the difference during the game proper?
Well, add pace and the
pressure of time on the ball and the execution of this type of shot
changes dramatically. Few players can maintain the necessary balance
when in full flight, so very
Coaching tip Number 43
Coaching tip Number 44
The 'average' player is identified by a number of traits; not least among these is his/her tendency to 'take too much out of the ball'.
Take a few minutes to watch the better footballers on your team [or on the opposition team]. They will often win the ball, make room and move it on.
Such players looked so composed, they exude confidence and yet they are often missed in favour of the mazy solo runner who contributes little to teamplay. This is especially prevalent at underage.
Work your players at
each level to ensure they can use a variety of ways to make room [e.g.
one sidestep, one feint, one swerve, one checked run, one break of a
Coaching tip Number 45
Take time to watch some footballers as they strike the ball for a point. Those who score more often than miss from different positions are a rarity.What sets them apartfrom the rest? One of the secrets of success is balance. Each of these players is as balanced after the kick as before.
Rugby coaches always emphasise the need for good balance while kicking the ball. It should be the same for us in Gaelic football. Those who take 'frees' from the hand and have a poor scoring rate might want to follow one of the most successful tips from rugby:
" Before striking the ball imagine that after you have taken the kick, you must finish squarely on a gymnast's balance beam. The beam is only four inches across - just wide enough for your boot. This will keep your upper body from swaying or tilting and you will be less inclined to look up too soon. Your kicking contact and accuracy will improve with practice."
As I've written in many other coaching tips - go on, try it!
Coaching tip Number 46
For those of you who coach our youngest gaels, think carefully before
you break for the winter. Calling time at the end of September and
resuming again in March, will mean for some, little or no activity for
up to five months.
Coaching tip Number 47
At any one time in a Gaelic football match, there is only one member of a team in possession
of the ball. That player may have lots to focus on and little time to do
Coaching tip Number 48
As AGM time beckons, we have a unique opportunity to put structures in place that will take player development to new heights.
Please consider the following questions before deciding upon structures for 2006:
" If our U10 format affords all children the chance to play meaningful games at suitable levels, can we justify continuing with the current U12 format?
" Are children being developed at U10 level, only to be ignored at U12 level?
Here is the current situation:
The GAA has now launched the 'Go Games', one of which is aimed at football at U12 level. Schools will promote the games; it is imperative that boards and clubs support them too.
A change would read as follows:
" Is it also time to move age limits for U10, U12, U14 and U16 to match those operating in schools and colleges?
" Are there advantages? [e.g. fewer, if any, examples of cheating]
" Are there disadvantages? [e.g. current age limits for Feile]
Coaching tip Number 49
A couple of months ago a top athlete was sent by a television company to buy pairs of trainers from a variety of outlets.
Coaching tip Number 50
Coaching tip Number 51
Take a look at some of the shooting drills you run. Many are probably
unopposed and are designed to allow players to develop better technical
Would you plan a long journey in your car without putting fuel in it? If you did you would not get very far. You always hear coaches say ‘empty the tank’ to get their players to give their all? How do we ‘fill the tank’ in the first place?
Gaelic players, like all athletes must hydrate themselves on a regular basis. It is important to drink enough of the right type of fluid at the pre match/session meal. One of the main problems that dehydration causes players is a loss of concentration and that’s what can cause basic errors in performance.
Often games are won and lost in the closing stages, with the opposition dropping the ball or making a sloppy pass. Proper hydration can help to eliminate these problems. In conjunction with a balanced healthy diet, all players should be taking the proper fluids.This can be in the form of water, dilute squash or sports drink.
Most players will require between 2 and 3 litres a day, which does not include the fluid lost as sweat during exercise. Remember to take you water bottle to all coaching sessions and games.
At the break in play or a change in training activity, you should drink as much as possible.
Remember thirst is a late sign of de-hydration, so get into the habit of taking fluid even if not thirsty. Within 20 minutes of the session, the bottle should be refilled with water and consumed along with a light snack.
Also, remember to get fluid on board 1-2 hours before the game/session along with the pre activity meal. You can sip fluid at regular intervals until exercise begins.
Your team is two points behind, time is almost up. You are looking around for that spark that cannot be found. All the players are cancelling each other out and there isn’t a match winner to be found.
Since all our coaches are following the same steps, preaching the same things it is very often the team with the talented performer that comes though. We call him the match winner. One example was in a 2001 game in Thurles. Kerry trailed by a point, Maurice Fitzgerald lined up a sideline kick from distance and curled it over with the outside of the boot.
Coaches up and down the country were tearing their hair out. They are preaching that players punt every ball and don't encourage what Maurice Fitz done. Are we wrong?
Our goal in coaching is that we will develop players who will play on our club senior teams and maybe go on to play for the county. We want them to be able to be fit enough to last the game, we want them to take the ball first time and break a tackle. They will also be taught about diet and preventing injury.
Why not dedicate some time in your coaching sessions for players to express themselves. In the dying moment of a championship game you may want your wing forward to drive forward evading opponents and kick over the bar, so we need to give them a chance to practice.
It is very important that we promote team play but there will always be the day when a bit of individual brilliance will be required.
In the past children played in the playground at school. They played, tag, hide ‘n’ seek etc and got all the exercise they needed. Times have changed. To compensate for this, the GAA Coaching Hierarchy began to put a huge emphasis on ABC’s at primary school level. Agility, Balance and Coordination.
So in an era where the internet, TV and video games are highly accessible, youth officers and coaches have rolled out a very well structured coaching scheme to teach kids basic movement and exercise skills.
However there is another worrying trend creeping into our game. How many players can kick a long pass accurately? How many players can catch a high ball in a ruck of players? Can they put the ball over the bar on a regular basis?
Kerry’s decision to put Kieran Donaghy into full forward transformed their 2006 season. It was back to the era of Bomber Liston, Jimmy Keaveney etc. However, for this to happen you need two things…..a strong target man who can win his own ball and players who can direct a good pass into the full forward line.
In your club U14 team do you have players who can pass the ball accurately? How many forwards in your U16 team can score regularly from play? Can your midfielders, full back and full forward win a high ball against their opponent?
There are so many other things creeping into our game. Third midfielder, two man full forward line, blanket defence, breaking ball and turnovers. The list could go on.
These can all be very useful additions to a teams armoury if they are looking for success or trying to play against a difficult opponent. But are we neglecting the basic skills of our game?
Consider the advantages of improving your long kicking, can your passes unlock a defence?
Consider the advantages of increasing your scoring rate, can you be another source of scores for your team?
Consider improving your overhead catch. Can you win more kickouts or make a match winning catch at the edge of the square?
Just something for us to think about.