A general view of match action during the 2019 Littlewoods Ireland Ulster GAA Go Games Provincial Days’ in Croke Park in Dublin.
A general view of match action during the 2019 Littlewoods Ireland Ulster GAA Go Games Provincial Days’ in Croke Park in Dublin. 

Silence is golden for young players


By John Harrington

Derry GAA hope that silence will be golden for their young footballers and hurlers in 2022.

They’re introducing a compulsory ‘Silent Sideline’ for all Go-Games matches which they’ll then expand to older age-groups in the coming years.

The hope is that by discouraging the practice of mentors and parents shouting instructions at children during matches, it’ll not only create a more fun environment to play in, but also enable the young players to better develop their own communication and decision-making skills.

Sean McGoldrick was part of the committee that came up with the recommendation, and knows a thing or two about developing young talent having played a key role in transforming Eoghan Ruadh Coleraine into a powerhouse of Derry football.

“The idea is that you are going to remove pressure from children and just let them play and also hope that it develops in children the ability to make decisions on the pitch and communicate with one another,” McGoldrick told GAA.ie.

“We talked about developing the all-round player. Someone who can make decisions on the field and get the head up. We're looking for the leaders coming through who can communicate on the pitch with one another.

“You're trying to create that culture from a young age and bring it through.”

All parents and coaches have the best intentions when they instruct kids from the sideline during matches, but such vocal coaching can be overwhelming for the children who want to play a sport for fun first and foremost.

“I have seen parents on the sideline putting an awful lot of pressure on their own children,” says McGoldrick.

“I've seen situations where a child could be laying left wing back and the parent goes down and stands one sideline in the left wing-back position and is telling the child when to run, where to run, how to pick up his player, and so on.

“And then when the second-half starts the parent will be on the opposite side of the fielding in line with their child again, coaching them from the sideline. So there's that aspect of it as well.

“As parents it's very hard to look away from our own kids and I do think some parents can put an awful lot of pressure on their own children. It's another reason I think silent sidelines are a good idea.”

Derry Games Development Committee Chairman, Damian Cassidy.
Derry Games Development Committee Chairman, Damian Cassidy.

Derry Games Development Committee Chairman and 1993 All-Ireland winner, Damian Cassidy, is a strong advocate of the ‘Silent Sideline’ approach and believes it will have a multitude of benefits for young footballers and hurlers.

“It’s about allowing children to make decisions and problem-solve on the pitch by themselves with the outcome that you’ll have a better player further down the line,” said Cassidy.

“It might not seem significant to casual watchers but you have coaches coaching the games and parents and spectators coaching during the game.

“If a young player is making decisions based on what is being put in their head from a person outside the wire, then it is not allowing them to make the correct decisions at the time. This has consequences down the line.

“The emphasis is now on embedding skills in players at a younger age. If that key component of decision-making isn’t embedded at that age and developed properly, then you’ll have a player who’s decision-making later on isn’t at the level you want it to be.”