Kids now are overcoached, post lockdown we must let the play flow at training

Too often now every pass or shot is controlled by the coach or parents from the sideline at matches
Kids now are overcoached, post lockdown we must let the play flow at training

Training for underage players returns from April 26 but have coaches learned during the lockdown? Picture: Larry Cummins

AS we are now more than one year into Covid, everyone is tired of the lockdown and this so-called new normal.

For those involved in coaching and sport, we have to ask ourselves did we use the lockdown to our advantage?

Did we as coaches use the time as a restart button? Did we question our methods? Did we look at how we deal with all players, not just the good ones?

I could go on. But you get the point. 

Did we as coaches use this downtime to develop our skills, change our mindset and rediscover our love for the sport and why we coach in the first place? I have.

Fr Mathew's basketball team supporters Craig Daly, Colm Doherty, Ger Daly and Kieran Doherty, in pre-Covid times. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Fr Mathew's basketball team supporters Craig Daly, Colm Doherty, Ger Daly and Kieran Doherty, in pre-Covid times. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Just because there were no gyms or pitches available to use and no sessions to organise, plan and run, they were lots of ways we to use this time to improve our skillset.

I know there were lots of webinars for coaches and zoom calls to players, but have we done enough in these difficult times to make sure we as coaches and our players, come back as different, more rounded coaches and players?

I was passing the Fairfield last week when I saw a bunch of boys playing a soccer match. I pulled over my car to watch for a few minutes, and what I saw was boys having some fun, just running up and down the field playing away.

No referee. No coach telling them what to do. They were playing freely. It was a joy to see.

However, more importantly, they were making their own decisions and learning from their own mistakes.

I drove on a couple of yards, and I saw some boys, and girls playing basketball on the outdoor court at Popham’s Field, and it reminded me how things were when I was growing up in Gurranabraher. We had no gyms, no soccer or hurling pitches to go to every day, so we played freely without interference on the roads where we lived.

There are always debates on are the players better today or were they better years ago?

Honestly, it’s a bit of both, as in today’s world players are definitely more athletic, however, the players from yesteryear were more streetwise.

Players today have better facilities, and all sports methods are more modern, however, the players from years ago were tougher, and were better decision-makers that made them smarter.

Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

We had to think our way through games. No one told us where to go and where to stand. We learned that from watching the older boys and girls on the road. We learned the hard way, through the school of knocks.

Sometimes as I watch the sport that I played as a youngster, the basketball coach or soccer will be making all of the decisions for the players, whether it’s a basketball game or soccer match, every pass or shot is controlled by the coach or parents.

Looking at those kids last week what I saw is that the kids were having fun, learning on their own initiative.

Now I come to my point.

Are we as coaches and managers taking the fun out of the game for our players with our instructions and desire to control everything?

When we played all these ago there were no mobile phones, iPods, even if you had a bicycle it was used for going to school not to go cycling up and down the footpaths on your road. We had to do something else to entertain us, so we played ball at everything opportunity.

In today’s world, I think kids are over-coached. That’s not a direct pop at coaches as I have done it myself as a young coach.

In basketball today coaches keep telling me about small-sided games, however, we were doing that in the outdoor courts in the Cathedral School, Blarney Street School, or at the basket that Christy O’Neill and Tony O’Connell put up on Bakers Road (where you needed an invitation to play as there were so many youngsters should show up to play).

SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS

Again my point been is that we trained once a week with our coaches, and then we played on the street for the rest of the week.

If you were fouled in those days you jumped back to your feet as quick as you can because if you fell out they were plenty of kids would take your place, so if they was no blood there was no foul. That might seem harsh in today’s world, but it never did us any harm in those days.

Another point is that it’s very important to let kids express themselves in training or in games at a young age.

It gives them the confidence to play, and make the decisions for themselves whether its on a court or a field.

I know a lot of coaches are working away with their players through zoom, and watching webinars, however, this was a great opportunity to access yourself as a coach or manager.

See where you could improve.

Again are you giving too much information to the kids? Are you playing every pass and every shot at games for the kids?

Do you speak to the kids in the right way?

The one thing this pandemic has given me is time to think about how I coach. I hope you have done the same.

Then this period of time without live sport will not have been a waste of time. But a missed opportunity.

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