John Mitchels GAC reaping rewards of Britain GAA coach education
By John Harrington
The second edition of Britain GAA’s coach education and volunteer training programme which is currently being rolled out will have a transformative effect on the clubs that fully embrace it.
That was certainly the experience of Liverpool club, John Mitchels GAC, when they took part in the first edition last year.
Realising they didn’t have enough available coaches with the required qualifications – Introduction to Gaelic Games Award, Child Safeguarding, and DBS vetting – to enter all their teams in the All Britain Competition prompted the club to focus on training up new coaches.
“We grabbed the bull by the horns and in the off-season signed up to Britain GAA’s Coach Education and Volunteer Training programme,” says John Mitchels Coaching Officer, Declan Toner.
“I spoke to volunteers and parents of the kids who were willing to help out in any capacity at all and 11 of our club members went on the training course in Liverpool so we got a great response.
“Those people would have varied from those with no background at all in Gaelic games who wanted to learn, and there was some who were familiar with Gaelic games who wanted to up-skill and had maybe done the foundation course and wanted a refresher to learn different skills and techniques in terms of how to build up a rapport with the children themselves.
“There’s a confidence aspect to coaching. People are willing to coach, but sometimes they don't have the right skills or know from a communication point of view how to speak to the children.
“The opportunity to have the programme was great for ourselves. Off the pitch it has helped us and that has had a knock-on effect to on the pitch because we're now fielding teams U-7 right up to U-17.”
Upskilling new coaches has also had an immediate impact on the numbers of young children that John Mitchels have recruited and are retaining at all age-groups.
“What we previously would have found is that kids might come for a few weeks and then drop out again,” said Toner.
“But by having more coaches now and the coaching style that we've brought in with them, we've made it more engaging for the younger players. There’s now a greater games aspect to our training sessions and so more fun for the younger players which is something we would have learned from doing the course.
“How you coach a six-year-old may be different to how you coach a 12 or 14-year-old. It’s about about building up a rapport and that's something that perhaps I personally didn't even consider as much as I should have previously.
“The course also gives you more confidence as a coach and that spreads out then to the children and to the parents.
“It isn't just somebody who is turning up and getting the kids to run about, they're implementing something they've learned. And it’s not just about teaching the skills of the game, it’s about improving the social aspect of it too.
“We're in a good place and the future looks bright. We're reaping the rewards of having more qualified coaches. Now instead of having one or two fully coaches per group at underage level, we have multiple coaches for each age-group.
“The confidence that it brings to the coaches and then to the kids themselves is fantastic. It also means we can split the groups of players into different stations at training sessions and move them around to work on different aspects and play small-sided games and that sort of thing.”
With more and more young players joining the club, the next priority for John Mitchels is retaining them all the way along the player pathway so that more and more home-grown players graduate to the club’s senior teams.
“Traditionally a lot of Irish people would come to Liverpool for study or work and we would get a lot of players who come over to us,” says Toner.
“But the goal for myself and for the club is to have a more sustainable model where we put a big emphasis on underage coaching and bringing through home-grown players.
“We want to get more and more homegrown players into the Junior and Senior football teams. For me, that's what success really is. Success is the kids coming back week after week and being members for life. So that's what we're trying to do, build on that success in increasing our numbers at underage level and bringing them through to senior level.
Included in Britain GAA’s Coach Education and Volunteer Training Programme are:
Club Leadership Development Programme Webinars
Introduction to Coaching Gaelic Games Courses
Level One Child Awards
Coaching Children Workshops
Safeguarding & Protecting Children Courses
Childrens Officer & Designated Lead Training
Code of Behaviour Workshops
GAA Referee Foundation Courses
Full details of the programme can be viewed and downloaded below.