CORK GDAs have had to improvise hugely in the wake of the Covid-19 virus which has curtailed all sporting activities on a global scale.
This outbreak has presented huge challenges for all, but the GDA’s have risen to the task considerably as they continue to educate coaches and ensure players continue to train.
Colm Crowley who is the GDA for the Mid Cork region is proud of the response of his colleagues.
“We look at this as a unique opportunity to help coaches upskill, in a non-traditional format. 80% of our contact hours as a GDA is covered in primary schools, post-primary schools, development squads and club development through various guises such as monster blitzes, coaching workshops or courses.
"When all of that is gone, we have to alter our outputs to take into account the new restrictions placed upon everyone,” revealed the child initiatives co-ordinator.
The various GDAs within Cork have joined forces in a bid to come up with alternative plans to ensure the players are kept occupied and their skills are being developed while all sporting activities are curtailed.
“As a collective, we are meeting twice weekly on video calls to plan ahead.
"In the short term, we are going to start sharing weekly skill challenges for young players to try at home.
"We are reviewing our internal structures in areas such as development squads and games programmes. From a coach education side, we are launching weekly webinars while the pitches are closed.
"Along with this, we hope to have some coaching podcasts, as well as running foundation courses and emerging coaches workshops also.”
The weekly webinars will feature specialist advice from experienced GAA coaches every Wednesday evening and they are open to all players and coaches alike.
“The webinars will be held in conjunction with GDAs or other Cork personnel who will give a unique look into a specific area.
"We will cover a number of topics over the coming weeks ranging from planning warm-ups to athletic development and maintaining a strong mental health at this time.
"We will hopefully have a topic that will benefit all angles of GAA coaching at this tough time.
"The feedback has been hugely positive. There is an appetite for learning from the coaches. Social media has been a big help to the GDAs now more than ever.
"It is the main way that we can interact with the masses and get information out.”
The various coaching drills and skills uploaded on social media in recent weeks from inter-county players and GDA’s alike have been very well received from players, club members and parents alike.
The challenges have enabled the players to remain active and improve their skills.
“Paudie O'Brien and James McCarthy are tasked with that department going forward. Paudie Crowley with Carbery GAA is also proactive in this area. He has lined up a few Cork players to do the challenges.
"We are conscious that anyway we can encourage kids to pick up a hurley or football is a good thing. These challenges seem to really engage them and it is unbelievable to see their skills on display.
"It is vital for young kids to stay active. For older players, it is important for their own mental health and well-being as much as anything.
"The past few weeks have been such a lifestyle change for everybody. It is important that they put in place a structure and routine for their days to help stay in a positive and healthy mindset.
"Barry Corkery appeared on our webinar soon to discuss this. Barry has vast experience.
"It will be great to hear his thoughts on how best to help with this side of things. With the extra time available, it is a chance to really put some time into their own game from a physical and technical standpoint.”
Colm, who is coaching the Killeagh senior hurling team this year along with his father, is loving his role as a GDA for the Mid Cork region following a number of years working with the Dublin County Board.
“I am into my sixth year in Cork. I am assigned to an area stretching from Crosshaven to Barryroe in the south and up to Laochra Óg and Grenagh in the north, so a large strip touching a lot of Carbery, Carrigdhoun and Muskerry.
"The clubs are very proactive. Each club is really maximising their own abilities with some great people involved.
"This then passes over to both primary and post-primary schools. Most clubs have a really positive relationship with the schools in their area.
"We would spend most of our time with the first years in schools and we try to ensure that every child who wants to play, gets an opportunity.
"We just hope that every child who goes into a secondary school and wants to play GAA gets an opportunity to wear the school jersey at some level.
"Developing good people who play and stay with the GAA is becoming more and more important for all clubs and coaches, which can only be seen as a positive.”