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Connacht GAA Provincial Games Development Manager Cathal Cregg.
Connacht GAA Provincial Games Development Manager Cathal Cregg.

Connacht GAA optimistic about Provincial Club Support Programme


By Cian O'Connell

The response to Connacht GAA’s Provincial Club Support Programme has been very encouraging.

In the province 34 clubs from five counties participated in the project which is designed to build self sufficiency and sustainability within clubs.

Player development is one of the key areas with four phases involved in the process which is facilitated by full-time coaching staff in the province.

Initially an assessment of the coaching and games taking place within a club takes place before identifying what will be the areas of focus.

At least three objectives must be stated ahead of the provision of practical coaching assistance prior to assessing and reviewing what has been implemented.

“It is a new concept, it is a good one that we are trying to push at the minute with the clubs,” explains Connacht GAA Provincial Games Development Manager Cathal Cregg.

“The layout is that on the first night you try to get in as many people from the club as is possible. You do a SWOT analysis of coaching and games in the club.

“The vision is to create and make clubs self sufficient so that they don't have to pay outside coaches.

“Basically it is to identify, upskill, value, and retain your own volunteers within the club, use the finances to the best of your ability and build community pride. That is what the vision of it is.”

So at the outset what can clubs expect on the opening event? “Two of our full-time, who are all tutors will facilitate the club,” Cregg says.

“Depending on the number you have in the room, they are broken up into groups of maybe five or six. They all do a SWOT analysis, what each group thinks are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are in the smaller groups.

“Then it is brought forward by the facilitator, who brings it to the top of the room. All of the groups feed their information in to come up with one collective SWOT analysis for the club.

The Corofin team before the 2018 Connacht Senior Club Championship Final.
The Corofin team before the 2018 Connacht Senior Club Championship Final.

“From that then the club has to identify three to five coaching objectives that they have to work towards for that year.

“It might be something like club - school link, it might be to set up a nursery programme, it might be to run Super Games Centres to get more games for their Youth players. That will all have been thrashed out with the weaknesses and opportunities.”

Cregg acknowledges that clubs throughout Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Galway, and Roscommon have benefited from the programme so far.

“It is very good and it gets massive engagement with the clubs,” Cregg states. “It can be an education for some people within the clubs, who realise that there is more going on than they thought was going on.

“I know some of the stuff that comes up might be about coaching in the schools, but that coaching can be going on in 10 week blocks. Some people don't actually realise what is already happening in the clubs. The club-school link could be going on for 10 years, people mightn't realise it if they hadn't a child in the school or whatever.”

The initial work carried out in the early phases is critical according to Cregg, who believes that each club can adopt their own strategies.

“That is the beauty with the SWOT analysis, the full-time people aren't coming in telling the club what to do,” Cregg remarks.

“The club is figuring out what they are good at, what they are bad at, and what they need to do. They come up with their objectives, they work at them then rather than us telling them what to do. They have a greater understanding of what works well and doesn't in their area.

“After night one they decide what their coaching objectives are. They can decide them on that night or they can come together on their own on another night to decide their objectives.

“That depends on how the first night goes. From that first night they get a coaching session with the tutor or full-time staff.

“It is a practical coaching session based around the coaching objectives they have set out. If they had said we want to set up a nursery the full-time staff will come out to demonstrate how a nursery programme should be set up with the coaching.”

So when do the coaching staff return to assist the club, who will have stitched a plan together following the opening visits?

Connacht GAA Secretary John Prenty.
Connacht GAA Secretary John Prenty.

“The third night is an assessment and review of the programme,” Cregg replies. “That is with the Games Manager from the county, the tutor, and the coaching officer. More people might come into that from the club.

“That is where they sign off on how they have been getting on with the key objectives, have they completed them, and where they are going from there? In between that if they need more assistance from the full-time staff they will get it.”

Obviously the programme varies from club to club, but how long does it take for projects or approaches to be implemented? “From the first night we say their objectives have to completed or well advanced within six to eight weeks,” Cregg comments.

“If you did it in January, you might have a Go Games Programme that mightn't start until April or May time. You mightn't have it completed after the six or eight weeks, but you might have all the processes in place in March to hit the ground running in April.

“The assessment is done probably by April time, depending on the club. The staff might have to go back later on in the year to sign it off depending on what the objectives were.”

Connacht GAA supplies a grant to those who complete the course, but Cregg stresses that is only part of the attraction for those seeking to improve with building and maintaining structures viewed as pivotal. “Once they have completed the three nights and the Games Manager, tutor, and coaching officer are happy the objectives have been met, we give them a grant valued at 1,000 euro,” Cregg says.

“It isn't cash, but if they want to run a Foundation course or Award 1 or Award 2, or our strength and conditioning course we pay for them to go on the course.

“A lot of the objectives would be about not having enough coaches so the money goes towards that. The feedback from our full-time staff is the clubs don't mind too much about the money, they are not really chasing that. They are just really happy to get a structure in place.”

The plan for Connacht GAA is that every club in the west will become involved at some stage in the future. “We hope that within five years we will get around to every club in the province,” Cregg acknowledges.

“That is the plan. We have a plan in place to bring out a club support document which would be rolled out the following year.

“You wouldn't have to get a big group together, it might be just the club coaching officer and the full-time staff who would follow up on maybe participation rates, what are your activities in the key areas like camps, academies, club-school link, and who is responsible for the different areas.

“It is really just following up what you've done the previous year, but it just isn't as time consuming for everyone in the club.”