Coaching Basics

The following is a very short snippet from my latest book "Strength and Conditioning For Gaelic Games". 


.... Coaching is a skill that takes years of refinement and practice to get right. I really do believe though a lot of what we do is about our voice, our presence, our body language and our confidence.

I have seen players really take to certain coaches, that technically might not be brilliant, but they just have a presence and a confidence about them.

Walk into a room of county players and it can be a lonely place if they think you are not up to the task. If you are shy or not prepared, you may find yourself not taking too many sessions in the future.

Not all of us are natural showmen – what can you do if you are not naturally the outspoken type?


Firstly, nothing beats knowing what you are on about:


While this book is a great starting point, it should merely be a stepping stone for you to get better as a coach by 1) attending courses, 2) reading books 3) listening to podcasts and 4) visiting other coaches.

A well prepared session plan is also a great thing to do, don’t get bogged down with fancy excel spreadsheets, a nice note book will do the job.

Get your plans down on paper and keep it neat. Plan to review and compare your session plans as you go forward.

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t. I remember trying to teach a club team Olympic lifts once, it was a disaster! I didn’t have the equipment, the space, the time or quite frankly the athletes to do this well.


Secondly, nothing beats you actually being able to perform the exercises you are about to teach.


You really can’t bluff this. My rule is to be successfully able to perform one perfect rep of each exercise I want to coach. Its scary how your athletes will lift just like you lift.

Early in my career I identified that I couldn’t Olympic lift so I booked lessons of the best guy around, Harry Leech in Capital Strength in Dublin. The experience I garnered from an expert in the field helped me become a better coach in this aspect of my armoury.

Think outside of the box if you are a coach and pay to learn off someone better than you - it will give you confidence as well as knowledge and you will thank me for it.


Thirdly, refine your cueing style: 


After attending some EXOS certification courses that were held in DCU by S&C coach Nick Winkleman (Now the IRFU Head of Performance) I really upped my game with actual physical cueing.

Nick explained the science behind external cueing versus internal cueing. It was a real “ah-ha’ moment for me - when I think back to school the best teachers I had could take the most complicated formulas or equations and  make you learn them as a game, using a rhyme or a funny anecdote.

My athletes will tell you I use several cues that get a laugh - “pull you shoulders back like someone starting a bar fight” is one of the ones I can commit to print!

Why is this important? If you really are into fitness, physiology and Sports Science, you’ll know what a Quad, a Lat, a Scapula and many more semi-technical terms are - your average athlete simply won’t have a clue.

Stories from the trenches: Ask the middle of the road player.

There is a lot of talk in GAA circles now about measuring training loads through RPE scales (rate of perceived exertion). This is a great tool for a county team with a team of interns but what about a club team?

A good rule of thumb is to ask the player on your team that is neither the most dedicated or the laziest - grab the person that is that middle level. Ask him or her how tough training is and you’ll probably get a truthful reflection.

If you ask the most dedicated person you run the risk of them just saying it’s always easy.

(Be sure to ask this person their opinion in private - if other players can hear they might lie as no one wants to admit a weakness in front of their peers).

..... End