Youth sport across the nation returned on Monday with communities flocking to their local clubs yearning for social interaction.
Gaelic Games provide a wonderful outlet to help us connect and form life lasting relationships, with a role for everybody within the club. Coaches have a duty to facilitate the needs of those in our community willing to volunteer. The GAA’s slogan “where we all belong” is most apt and should never again be taken for granted. Before we cast aside people on the sidelines, let’s examine these practical suggestions towards engaging more adults, especially those with little or no coaching and playing experience.
Fáilte – Every country needs a Taoiseach to keep tabs on all things business, and underage sport is no different! Whilst coaches are planning an upcoming session, a handful of parents could be tasked with player check-in and welcome. This is an excellent method of settling nerves and tracking attendance over time, which is useful to monitor potential dropout. Why not create an information catalogue which can be handed over to the successor coach, this detail could include records on hand/foot dominance, school location or favourite skill.
BBC – Fellas outside Croke Park proclaim “hats, scarves & headbands”, coaches need “balls, bibs and cones”. No sporting expertise is required to organise bibs into respective teams, balls for each game, and cones to mark out playing areas. Subtly, we can engage parents who are waiting around regardless, whilst their children play. Simple tasks are the entry point into the coaching journey. Therefore, coaches have no excuse to delegate and share this workload with those willing to lend a hand.
TLC – Younger players crave attention when under our care, meaning huge responsibilities are placed on coaches. It’s impossible to supervise all children at all times. The nature of coaching children is chaotic, and occasionally accidents occur. “Boys don’t cry” or “that’ll be better before you get married” isn’t conducive with compassionate coaching, however the whole session can’t pause whilst tears are shed. Therefore, the presence of parents is imperative to provide a pat on the back, a virtual hug or even scold the “bold hurley”.
Cabhair – “Coach will you tie my laces” is often said on the field and is common whilst we’re in the middle of a demonstration. There’s coaching alone in tying laces and helmets or sourcing a missing hurley or mouthguard. Every elite sports team has a kitman or logistics person, so find your gal/guy and make use of the readily available help. Simply announce it at the start of every session, Person X will do ABC.
Teorainn – Parents love their children, and children love their parents. They love nothing more than sharing experiences together. Why not create a playing area using parents as the boundary cones? Players will be like new-born calves when they return to fields, high on life and the return of sporting freedom. Sidelines and grids will be the least of their concerns!
The application of these roles may alleviate the demands placed on coaches and promote an inclusive environment catering for “as many as possible, for as long as possible.” Happy coaching!