The Paudie Kissane column: Rigid drills will never help players reach optimum performance levels

The Paudie Kissane column: Rigid drills will never help players reach optimum performance levels
Jack Canning of Galway scores against Cork in the minor final. Both teams were well drilled and enjoyed great seasons. 

AS we reach the business end of the season the discussion and focus on performance, development, fitness, coaching goes up another level. 

Whether it be club or county people are continually seeking new methods and knowledge.

What is it that might give one team the edge over another? Some teams are winning while many have lost but why? It’s fascinating but ever evolving and that is the beauty of sport.

Naturally, enough people look to the successful teams' progress to find clues to success. The population or finance card is still the first reason provided for the Dublin footballer’s success but it’s never that straight forward.

Jim Gavin gets much of the credit for Dublin’s success and rightly so but obviously, this is a bottom up approach whereby there is the systematic development of players from youth to adult level.

While not privy to the finer details of this development, it is obvious Dublin are first of all creating the right environment for developing players starting at club level.

Dublin ace Jack McCaffrey. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Dublin ace Jack McCaffrey. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

This is not an easy task, as modern young players will have different values and behavior depending on their background and influences at home, school, and online!

Technology while great in so many ways, has had a negative effect on many young players' motivation, fitness, and concentration. This can lead to a stagnation in performance, injury, and some cases drop out from the sport.

The coach while not controlling young players can still do many things, which can help change a players application and performance for the better. This should be club-led to have the greatest impact.

It was this club approach that led to Alex Ferguson having so much success at Manchester United. The same high standards, hard work and humility were required from academy to senior level. Many of the staff had previous connections to the club, which aided this process over a longer period of time.

When players attend training they must know they have a choice to make. Just by turning up to training guarantees you nothing and players shouldn’t be rewarded for just turning up. Attending training on an ad-hoc basis or by displaying poor behavior at training can have a negative impact not only on the individual but also others in the panel.

The coach has a role to ensure the player attend training. This comes down to session design and delivery. It’s not about keeping players happy or striving to be everyone’s best friend. Rather it is about setting up training to appropriately challenge the players with different tasks. Improve the team’s decision-making with different games and scenarios.

Most players respond to this type of environment. I say most, as in some cases no matter what you do, some individuals will always break your heart!

If players are coming in every night and doing the same drills with limited decision making and no purpose behind it, some inevitably will drop out. Rather though than just provide variety for sake of it, players need to know the purpose behind things. They need to see the value in training properly and it’s not just about playing the competitive games.

Explaining the purpose to players can be a challenge in itself. Players may not buy in 100% and we might not get the desired transfer to match day, as the coach may not fully know why a certain conditioned game is been used in the first place. Certain drills still have a place at the right time but we must know why they are being used.

This hit home recently when discussing different training methods with an inter-county coach. 

If you don’t have a clear rationale or understanding for choosing a certain game or drill then you must question why use it in the first place! Going through this process can only help a coach’s knowledge and session design going forward.

The commitment to training is then the player’s choice. The player must be held accountable for their behaviour. Players must be reminded at the beginning as to the importance of focus and attention to each part of training. How much concentration and mental effort is going to be used to ensure the maximum is got from each session.

Each session must be seen as an opportunity to improve and players must realize that nothing worthwhile comes easy and that requires hard work. No point complaining about poor results if you haven’t the hard work put in.

As mentioned players naturally like to problem solve so as coach’s we must refrain from over-coaching. Initially, let players come up with the answers themselves but then guide them to the desired outcome if required. This requires a coach to spend time planning the session and knowing what questions they might ask the player before and during the session.

By constantly talking or roaring to the players throughout the session does not equal good coaching. There can be a time and place for it no doubt but you want to empower players to make their own decisions. On the day of the game the coach can’t make the decisions for the player. We must create sessions to prepare for this.

Create the right environment and progress can be made. This requires commitment by coaches on a session by session basis. Actively displaying and reinforcing the right standards through their interactions and behaviors with the players. 

CONTACT: @paudiekissane

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