47 Coaching Tips

Coaching Tips by Philip Kerr

Coaching Tip Number 1
Drills v Games
As players develop, their technique improves more
rapidly than any other part of their game. They can
usually learn to kick, catch, fist, block, solo etc.
with a fair degree of comfort. The better players
often practise these skills at home and come on
faster than those who only rely on drills in
coaching sessions once or twice a week.
What they find more difficult is to develop the
ability to make the right decision in a game - when
to pass, who to pass to, where to run, how to pass.
A coach who prepares a squad through sessions
filled with drills, is only working at one part of the
How can a drill solve problems like 'forwards
bunching' or 'lack of midfield support' or 'no width'
or 'poor use of quick frees'? The answer is...it
If a player is a poor kicker of the ball, there is work
done to solve that problem. What are we doing to
help the player who takes the wrong option more
often than the right one in a game?
Get working at games. Remember...Games =
Problems. Start solving the problems!
Coaching Tip Number 2
From Technique to Teamplay
One of the more difficult things to coach to young
players is the need to modify their individual styles
for the good of the team.
If you have spent time ensuring that players are
comfortable on the ball, it means you have worked
on kicking, catching, lifting, blocking, tackling,
shooting, evasion skills and solo running.
The most attractive of these skills to a young
player is very often 'solo running'. The feeling the
player gets when he/she can run while making a
ball spin from toe to hand is tremendous. Many
players want to use this technique as often as
So, when you step in to coach team play and take
players to another level, some see it as a denial of
the right to try out this great skill of solo running.
However, it has to be done. There are no easy
answers, but if you explain that you recognise their
position and, at the same time, remind them that
your job is to take them to higher and higher levels
of play [i.e. adding more skills to their repertoire]
you may find it easier to introduce.
Conditions, limits, modifications....whatever you
choose to call them, must be set for players to
experience the beauty of good teamwork and to
learn how passing, support running and shooting
can bring as good a feeling as individual solo
Remember.....you may only have to limit a few
players at a time, rather than impose a blanket ban
on all solo running. One trick is to take a team
aside [e.g. in a 9v9 game]and choose two of the
players from one team who must play the ball
immediately. Only inform their team-mates [not the
opposition] and let them respond to this for a five
or ten minute spell. The roles may be rotated
among the team to let all practise.
This lets you see how well two players can change
their games to benefit teamplay and how quickly
their team-mates learn to make themselves
available for passes from them.
Try it out - soon!
Coaching Tip Number 3
Cut The Queues!
One of the most annoying sights in coaching is a
long queue of players lining up to take part in a drill
or an exercise.
Who can state a valid reason for a queue of 8, 9 or
10 players [or more], each waiting in turn for two
seconds of action?
All coaches, when designing drills or exercises,
should look carefully at how the WORK:REST
RATIO pans out.
If an exercise means that a player has 2-3
seconds of movement for a ball, followed by 30-40
seconds of lining up for the next bus, there is
something wrong with the drill set-up.
Think the exercise through and divide the group or
increase the number of footballs being used - do
anything except let the queue continue to form and
the players continue to lose out!
If the drill involves jogging, a good rule of thumb is
a work:rest ratio of 1:1. Should the emphasis be on
speed, then set a ratio of 1:4 or 1:5.
In effect, this means that you simply include two
players in a queue for the jogging exercise and five
or six players maximum in the speed drill. The
numbers used will determine the work:rest ratio.
Coaching Tip Number 4
Probables v Possibles
Many people will associate this title with Rugby.
For years now, Rugby coaches and selectors have
played 'probables v possibles' games when
coaching. This simply means that they pick the
strongest team on paper and play them as a unit.
The opposition is made up of the remainder of the
Ask any top Rugby coach and he'll tell you that this
system helps in a number of ways:
Those players most likely to make up the first team
get the opportunity to play together, get used to
habits, patterns of play etc.
Those players on the 'possibles' who stand out
and catch the eye will have done so against better
Those on the 'probables' who find it tough may find
themselves replaced by a 'possible' who really
wants a place.
In Gaelic Football we tend to take a squad of 30
players and play our strongest backs against our
strongest forwards. There is nothing wrong with
this if you wish to play like v like, but it will never
give the best 15 a chance to play together, blend
and prove themselves. Nor will it give the
coach/selector a true picture of the reserve player
who shines.
So, if you are blessed with a big squad, think about
promoting the use of 'probables v possibles'. Go a
step further and always 'bib' the probables in your
own club colours. The task for every 'possible' is to
win a bib and the task for every 'probable' is to
retain it.
Coaching Tip Number 5
Develop Your Shooting from Distance
Let's assume you have a squad of 30 players and
only one pitch on which to train. You'd really like to
work on shooting from distance in a game situation
but the 15v15 set-up doesn't lend itself to it. Well,
here's one recipe!
Take out two goalkeepers and put them in goals at
either end. Set out a line of markers across the
pitch about 30m from goal. Do likewise at the other
end of the pitch. Now take your players and create
four teams - red, blue, green, yellow [7 outfield
players in each]. Play Red v Blue inside the zone
created by the two lines of markers [i.e. in the
middle 70m of a typical pitch].
No outfield player may enter the 30m zones close
to either goal. Effectively these become the
goalkeepers' areas only. Ask the 'keepers to take
kick outs as normal and let play develop. To speed
up play, the goalies should always have a spare
ball set up for the next kick-out. Players may only
score from outside these zones. Play a 10-minute
So...do the Greens and Yellows simply wait about
and get cold while this game progresses? Not at
all. If you think about it, the 30m zones at either
end of the pitch should only be used for kick-outs.
Why not set up a drill inside each zone, staying
closer to the corners than to the goals? For
example - run a tackling exercise for 4 minutes in
one corner and a catching exercise in the other
corner for the same period. The drills will not get in
the way of the game. Swap the Greens and
Yellows over, run the drills again and there's the
10 minutes used constructively.
Now play Greens v Yellows in the game and let
the Reds and Blues work on the drills. Swap once
more and you have a 45 minute session after
You'll find that the game not only promotes
shooting from distance, but also shows players the
value of ball being played quickly and accurately
upfield rather than across the park. The game also
forces players to work harder and to get the ball
into the shooting area before the other team has
an opportunity to regroup.
Coaching Tip Number 6
The Three-Part Pitch
Here is one way to develop teamplay. It also
allows you, the coach, to step back, spot where
things are going wrong and move to fix them.
Think of the pitch as three separate zones: The
first, Zone A, runs from your own team's end line to
the 45m line. Zone B lies between the two 45m
lines and Zone C is that section from the far 45m
line to the opposition's end line.When your team is
in possession, watch carefully what happens in
each zone.
Priority in Zone A is 'KEEP BALL', with the
emphasis on keeping possession through close
passing and plenty of support play.
Once in Zone B, the focus changes to 'SET UP'. In
this area a player should aim to use the ball
quickly and directly to set up team-mates who are
inside the opposition's 45m line. The ball must not
stay in this zone for any longer than 3-4 seconds
or for more than 2 passes.
Zone C is the 'SCORE' zone. In here the aim is to
get into position to either go for a score or to
directly assist a score. Aim to reduce the passes in
this zone to no more than 2 before a shot is taken.
NB. It does not matter which player is in which
zone.....the task remains the same.
Coaching Tip Number 7
Spot and Fix
Find the player with no technical problems in his or
her game and I’ll find you a leprechaun in return.
All players need specific technical coaching at
some time during their careers. Granted, this is
best done at an early stage [e.g. between the ages
of 7 and 11], but the reality is that coaches deal
with many older players who still have problems
with kicking, catching, tackling, blocking, evading,
lifting, fist passing etc. that were probably not fixed
years ago.
If you coach, then you should be able to ‘spot and
fix’ faults in technique. To ignore such problems is
tantamount to saying….’He never could do it and
he never will’. Let’s hope you’re not the coach who
recognises the problem, but prefers to work on
physical fitness instead – there are plenty about!
So, how do you fix once you have spotted?
The secret lies in the phrase ‘Head, Hands, Feet
for Better Technique’. If you watch a player
perform a technique [e.g. a shot for a point] you
must look for head position, hand position and feet
position during the execution of the technique. This
sounds so complicated and yet it isn’t.
Take the example of a player kicking for a point
with his right foot. More often than not, he misses
to the right of the posts. Some coaches may try to
solve the problem by asking the player to ‘aim left’,
but that is like asking a golfer who slices to aim
down another fairway so that the ball can curve
back. Better to look for the following –
HEAD…is his head up as he kicks? This will cause
the player to lean back and push the ball further to
the right.
HANDS…is he dropping the ball two-handed,
cross-handed or is he holding the ball too far from
his body?
FEET….is his standing foot pointing nowhere near
the target? Is he playing the ball off the outside of
his boot?
Think about coaching through HEAD, HANDS,
Coaching Tip Number 8
Gaelic Football's Lost Tribe
Is it not time that we rethought the role of halfforwards?
Flavour of the month is to by-pass this group when
attacking and employ them more and more as
defenders who track back to block opposition
attacks and close in to look for breaks from
midfield.More than any other group, we need halfforwards
to help the team keep its shape
A centre-half forward should be a creative
player...one who orchestrates, who has great
passing ability [preferably with both feet] and who
has a tactical brain.Wing half-forwards must be
blessed with both stamina and pace, for they are
link players who have to fetch, carry and support
more often than any other group.
So, how about looking at your own team! Have you
a playmaker pulling the strings at CHF? Do your
wing forwards have the necessary characteristics
to take them through a game?Or have you simply
created three extra defenders who help the
defence and watch long balls fly over their heads
at such a rate that a Derby horse would do well to
get up in support?
Oh...and one more thing they should be able to
Coaching Tip Number 9
The Three Second Game
One of the traits a good player has, is the ability to
look up when in possession and scan the area
ahead. He/she is scanning in order to make the
right decision.
It is this very decision-making process that we, as
coaches, must help players to speed up. Too often
we simply admire the player who appears to have
an innate ability to receive the ball, scan and make
the quick and proper decision. This allows us a
'get-out clause'....the most famous one in
"You can't teach that....it's instinctive. You either
have it or you don't."
Not so! You may not be able to coach players to
the very high standards set by the instinctive
footballer, but you can certainly close the gap and
improve both players and team when doing so.
One of the easiest methods is by running the
'Three Second Game'. This simply means playing
a match or a backs v forwards game and
introducing the rule that allows each player a
maximum count of '3' on the ball.
To highlight this, the coach should referee the
game and think "1, 2, 3" when a player receives
the ball. Should the ball be played on the count of
'2' then the coach begins again as the next player
receives the ball. Should any player still be in
possession after the count of '3', a free may be
awarded to the opposition. The same count
applies to the free kick.
The 'Three Second' approach has proved much
better than the traditional 'one toe-tap, one bounce'
game, for many players took this too literally and
made sure they got in a toe-tap and a bounce
before scanning for possibilities. Counting to '3'
forces more players to look up first and, indeed,
leads to more team-mates making better-timed
runs for passes.
A few coaches decry such conditions, saying they
do not mirror the real game. The same coaches,
however, never seem to be able to suggest an
alternative way to help speed up decision-making.
They still prefer to hide behind the call 'You can't
teach that..it's instinctive'.
Which type of coach are you?
Coaching Tip Number 10
'Increasing the Traffic'
Many drills and practice exercises on the pitch are
excellent, but often they do not mirror reality.
For example: A coach may run two or three drills in
different areas of the pitch, all involving passing or
catching or solo running or lifting etc. and all
happening at the same time.
Small groups of players take part in each and
there is always plenty of space in which to work.
This is fine up to a point.
If coaches took two different drills, let players get
used to them first and then moved the cones to
superimpose the exercises one on top of the other
at different angles, this would allow players to
practise skills and techniques while others moved
among them and around the same area.
Players who can learn to cope with 'increased
traffic' in a smaller area will be able to carry this
through to a game, where there are team-mates
and opponents getting in the way of passes etc.
Go on...try it!
Coaching Tip Number 11
Double or Quits
Here's a game from Derry's coach, John Morrison.
He could have kept it to himself but he chose to
share it, so that others may try it and benefit from
If you want your 'free' takers to practise in a
realistic environment, where they've been running
in the game, making tackles, breaking tackles,
passing, shooting etc,. and if you want to recreate
a degree of pressure on the 'free' taker, do the
Set up a practice game between two teams on a
full pitch or near enough a full pitch [teams from 10
v10 up to 15 v15].
Before the game starts, scatter five or six flexible
fleximarkers [not the domes!] in an area between
the 13m line and about 40m from goal. Do likewise
at the opposite end.
Play the game as normal until one team gets a
score from play. Now let a 'free' taker choose
which marker to shoot from and let him take a
'free' from that spot. If he scores add this point to
the original one scored from play. If he misses,
take away the original point.
If he scores, remove the marker from that spot.
This forces him to choose another marker next
time. If he misses, leave the marker there, so that
he'll have to take a 'free' from that spot again
sometime later in the game [i.e. pressure]
To ensure that the game flows and there is not a
lengthy delay as the 'free' taker prepares, have at
least two footballs behind the goal. Let the 'keeper
set up a ball ready for the kick out, while the 'free'
taker is getting set. Once the shot is taken, the
other ball should be kicked out.
Think about it. The 'free' taker has the added
pressure of doubling the score rather than the
double whammy of missing and wiping out the
original one that earned him the 'free'.
Try it. It works a treat!
Coaching Tip Number 12
Where is the 'Extra Man'?
How many times have you seen a Gaelic football
team earn an 'extra man' and still lose? How many
times have you seen the same happen in soccer?
Unfair comparison? - team size different? number
of players different? These are only smokescreens
behind which a coach may hide.
Fact - When opponents lose a player, they will
reorganise and this reorganisation will determine
who is left free on our team. So, for the first few
minutes, our coach cannot claim to nominate the
'extra man'.
Fact - The player left free is, more often than not, a
defender. This comes about when opponents lose
a defender or a midfielder or a forward. In the latter
case there is little or no reorganisation needed. If
they lose a defender or a midfielder, they will
withdraw a forward to plug the gap. In either case,
our side is left with a spare defender.
Fact - Few, if any, coaches prepare for playing
with an 'extra man', so decisions are often made
on the spur of the moment, rather than with any
Fact - Players must know and have experienced
the various options re. using an 'extra man'. So,
whatever strategies you devise as a coach for
such an eventuality [e.g. playing the 'extra man'
wide on the wing to receive passes, doubleteaming
on a particularly dangerous opponent,
patrolling the area along the 45m line, acting as a
3rd midfielder to mop up loose ball etc.] must be
practised if you want it to work rather than just
hope it will work.
My own preference is to practise using the 'extra
man' wide. Opponents find it much more difficult to
mark width rather than depth. It tends to stretch
them much more and gaps begin to appear.
Playing the 'extra man' wide also provides a
release player for others on the team. Players are
not lulled into a false sense of security about the
'extra man' covering for them if they mark loosely.
What's more, if the opponents move a player to
mark this 'extra man' after while, the response is
simple - move the new 'extra man' wide on the
other side of the pitch. Believe me, it does work
and it has worked!
Whatever you decide, make sure you practise it.
Gone are the days when any of us can afford fill
sessions with endless drills and without reference
to the 'what ifs' that appear in a match!
Coaching Tip Number 13
Silent but Deadly!
Here's a simple idea for use in either small-sided
games or full practice games, best used for short
periods at a time [e.g. 5 minutes]. One of Ireland's
top coaches, Brian McIver [Ballinderry's All-Ireland
Manager], uses it regularly.
Rather than point out the advantages of such a
game, I'm going to leave them out. Let's see first if
any coaches and players will post their own
thoughts on the Derry guestbook re. the
Here are the rules:
Start the game as you want to play it, be it a smallsided
or full-sided one, be it on a shortened pitch
or not. Let the game run for a few minutes to get
the flow going and then introduce a single rule. NO
SPEECH ON THE PITCH! That includes...no
calling for passes, no reminding team-mates to
mark opponents, no speaking to the referee, no
issuing instructions of any kind.
Should any player break the 'no speech' rule,
award a 'free' to the opposition.
Remember...impose the rule only for short periods
at a time [e.g. five minutes on, five minutes off].
The concentration required and the frustration
endured will prove too much for some and the
game will lose its zest.
You may decide to tell players beforehand your
reasons for running such a game or you may
decide to let them find out for themselves.
So, think about it and start posting your thoughts.
Coaching Tip Number 14
Caution - Ladders in Use!
A word of warning to all of those coaches who
have been swept away by the craze that is 'Ladder
Work'. Without doubt, ladders have their place in
coaching. They are useful tools to aid the
development of fast footwork, balance and
However, such is the interest in this approach, that
some coaches are overdoing ladder work. Will this
lead to a generation of footballers who are both
nimble and evasive, but have forgotten the
absolute need to develop long strides instead of
short ones in order to break a tackle, complete a
good lift and make ground more efficiently?
Last year I watched a player jink his way about the
pitch, looking busy at all times. It wasn't until I saw
him up against a long-striding opponent or two that
I realised he was busy going nowhere and that the
speed of his footwork was doing nothing for his
pace over the ground. Only sustained work on
lengthening his stride improved his effectiveness.
Coaching Tip Number 15
Your Session Checklist
How good is your coaching session? How well
does it address the needs of your players, be they
8, 18 or 28 years of age?
Here's one suggestion for a checklist...a guide to
follow when planning a coaching session.
In every session you should be working to
Forget the idea that there should be whole
sessions with no ball involved. Design your
sessions to include each of these four elements
and the players will not only develop more quickly,
they'll enjoy doing so.
Working on TECHNIQUE means seeking to
improve each player's first touch on the ball. First
touch is often only applied to receiving the ball, but
if you think about it, first touch covers all
techniques - a better kick pass, a better block, a
better lift etc. You must be prepared to help
players to develop the correct techniques and
never let bad habits linger.
ATHLETICISM is an umbrella term for all physical
fitness work. You may be able to develop this
using the ball or you may have to set aside a
specific part of a session to work on it. Whatever
the case, there is little reason to work on it in a
forest, on the roads or on a mountain - do it on the
pitch...but not to the exclusion of everything else.
SPEED OF THOUGHT is the part of any session
that frightens coaches. Many tend to steer clear of
it and argue that it's something that a player either
has or hasn't. No chance!
All you have to do to develop speed of thought is
to set appropriate conditions on a drill or a game
during the session. Do you want your midfielders
to release the ball earlier? - put a two-touch
condition on them to help develop the correct
instincts. But don't just do it in one session and
never again. Repetition is the key - even for 10
minutes of every practice game.
Just think about ways you'd like a player to change
- then work out a method to do so in practice -
simply hoping for it after a chat will not work!
TEAMPLAY - Does your team have any game
plans? How often do you practise them? Do you
simply talk about them and expect players to act it
out? Think about it - does a director of a play
simply hand out the script and put the actors
straight onto the stage in front of the audience? -
rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
So...look at your next session - have you included
work on these four elements? If not, do it now!
Any questions? - post them on the guestbook.
Coaching tip Number 16
Kicking the C or Kicking the J
A few years ago I met Dave Alred. Dave is Johnny Wilkinson's
Kicking Coach. He was running a coaching clinic in Limerick and
a number of us got the opportunity to try out some of his ideas.
One of these was directed at 'free' takers, be they from rugby or
from Gaelic football.
He suggested that many players swing their kicking foot around
in an arc after they have stuck the ball; or at least they think they
do it AFTER they have kicked. In actual fact, the arc has started
BEFORE the ball is struck and it can cause problems with the
direction and flight of the ball.
Imagine a left-footer who has this problem. He will trace the
letter C in the air with his foot. The bottom of the C is where the
swing starts; the middle of the C is where contact is made and
the top of the C is where his foot ends up; quite a definite arc.
Alred suggested that the best swing would trace the letter J in
the air. Now for a left-footer you must imagine the J to be back
to front. The swing starts at the hook of the J; contact is made
as the J straightens and the foot ends up at the top of the J. This
gives the kick a correct follow-through.
I watched Dave Alred apply this theory with top Gaelic players
from Munster and Leinster. It had a significant impact on their
So, if you're a 'free' taker...try kicking the J rather than the C.
Coaching tip Number 17
Tackling with your Feet!
A foul, I hear you say...and indeed a foot block or a sliding tackle
or a foot in when someone is lifting the ball is a foul.
But we're looking at how few players use their feet properly to
get in position for a successful tackle and dispossession.
You must have seen the player who makes ground to catch an
opponent, only to lean forward from the waist [while still running]
to reach for the ball.
You must also have witnessed the player who stands flat-footed
in front of an oncoming opponent, only to be knocked offbalance
at the first contact.
And finally...what about the player who rushes in to the tackle
and is easily rounded by a deft side-step or feint?
To remedy these situations a coach must look first at the
footwork of the players who tackle poorly. Run tackle drills of
course, but ask players to focus on staying balanced and
flexible, to concentrate on good footwork to get them in position
to win the ball back. What takes a boxer into position to throw a
punch or to evade a punch...sharp footwork.
John Morrison talks of the four Ds in tackling.....DELAY [the
player], DENY [him space], DISPOSSESS [him of the ball] and
DEVELOP [the next move]. To do the first two, think FEET!
They'll take you where you want to go.
Coaching tip Number 18
The Plight of the Two-Footed Jumper
It sounds like the title of a weird Hollywood movie, but it's just
another problem we have to address in coaching.
We've all seen them. The players who run to the point where the
ball will drop from the sky, get there a second early, stand with
both feet on the ground and jump straight up to make the catch.
Now let's get something clear. These players do catch the ball at
times. However, they generally jump about six inches off the
ground instead of sixteen inches and they they make a vertical
leap rather than one that takes them along a path to meet the
ball in flight.
So...problem spotted..how can we fix it?
Here's one tried and tested way. If a player was faced with a
leap across a stream or river, he/she would never run to the
edge of the bank, stop briefly and take off two-footed. The jump
is led by one leg, and the leap is not only across but up, to gain
extra distance.
Apply the same process to the high catch at midfield and you
have the template. Set up the river, using two lines of
multimarkers. Decide on a realistic width for the river [test the
jump without the ball first].
Coach stands midstream and either holds the ball above head
height [for younger children] or lobs the ball [for older players].
As the players get used to the exercise, the idea should be to
widen the river and work on technique through HEAD, HANDS
and FEET positions.
Head - Watching the flight of the ball
Hands - Reach long with the arms, W shape with hands to catch
Feet - Plant one foot and drive the opposite knee up to give the
lift [a natural jumping action to cross a stream]. Land running
with the ball.
And when players need reminding during games, tell them to
Coaching tip Number 19
Freeze Frame
What are you doing to improve your forwards' concentration and
ability to switch roles quickly and win the ball back when the ball
is lost to the opposition?
Here's one to try. Imagine the situation in a game where
forwards have been in possession and in attack mode. Each
forward is looking for space and trying to get away from
defenders. Suddenly the ball is lost near the opposition goal and
their backs can counter. Why are these backs usually able to
build reasonably easily as they move out of defence? Answer -
because the forwards find themselves in no man's land, are slow
to react and tend to watch the ball.
Choose one half of the pitch. Set out 6-8 multimarkers, as if they
were forwards in various attacking positions. Pair off defenders
and attackers and ask each pair to stand at a marker. Then tell
the defenders to take three big steps away from the
multimarkers. Leave the forwards where they are. You now have
a FREEZE-FRAME situation, a moment captured in time.
Start the ball in the goalkeeper's arms. To begin the play, let the
goalkeeper throw the ball in the air and catch it. The game is
now on.
Forwards must work out how best to close down defenders and
win the ball back before the backs work it out and over the
halfway line. Forwards must learn to switch from attacking mode
to defending mode faster and faster until it becomes instinct. In
other words, these mini-game situations will only work if you, the
coach, are prepared to run twenty of them rather than just one
or two. Players can take up positions again in a few seconds
and the exercise can be run again and again. Practice makes
Coaching tip Number 20
He's fit...but not 'match fit'.
How many times have you heard someone say of a
player.....He's fit, but he's not match fit.?
What does it mean? How can we be sure that a player is match
fit? What can we do to get players match fit?
Match fitness can only come through playing games.
Unfortunately, some have taken this to mean that a player
needs to wait for a competitive game against another team
before he can work on his match fitness. This is not true.
As I have said already, the only way to get match fit is to play
games. If the right game is played in training then the coach can
not only bring a player up to speed in terms of match fitness but
can also set the limits for all players.
You see, match fitness is about how quickly a player can make
a decision, how well he can react to a situation, how aware he is
of the play around him. It has to be founded on physical fitness
[particularly sharpness] but it is a 'brain' thing more than
anything else.
When you hear people say that a player can't cope with the
speed of the game, it doesn't mean that he cannot run as fast as
the other players. It means his thinking, his reactions and his
awareness are not as sharp as they should be.
So....what can coaches do?
The best games are based on the clock. Try playing a game,
with normal rules except for the condition which allows each
player a maximum of 3 seconds on the ball. Just count 1,2,3
when a player is in possession. This is better than calling for one
toe-tap and/or one bounce. The best way to play this is to use
one coach to referee and another to run the 3 second rule and
blow only when this is broken.
If players really respond, cut it to 2 seconds. You will really only
be able to do this after a number of weeks working on the
Another way to use the clock, is to decide on a certain number
of seconds during which a team may score. Imagine the keeper
kicks the ball out and a player gathers the ball at midfield. The
coach/referee calls out a countdown......10, 9, 8 ,7 etc. The team
must shoot for a score before 0 is reached. If the opposition
wins the ball, the coach decides on the number from which to
start the countdown [e.g. the opposition wins the ball only 45m
from the goal. The coach needs to speed up their play, so he
begins the countdown from 5.]
There are many modifications to such games...all based on
working towards match fitness at speeds where opponents
cannot hope to compete.
Coaching Tip Number 21
Corners Don't Count
For all those players who win the ball in the midfield area and
look up before delivering a telling pass, I have a
message....corners don't count and crosses don't work! Next
time you see that forward scurrying towards the corner of the
pitch, screaming at the top of his voice for a pass, ignore him.
Let him run...the team may need his run to take a man away and
open up the opposition defence...but the team certainly doesn't
need the ball to follow him. Should the passer give the ball into
the corner, it usually takes at least two passes to get it out of
there and into a scoring position. The time taken allows
opponents to filter back and defend en masse.
Sometimes the player in the corner is bottled up and tries to
manufacture a cross [ get to the by-line and cross it!] which
stuns everyone in the square, ends up missing them all and rolls
harmlessly over the far touchline. The most successful attacks
are still those where the ball is worked into the area between the
stop-nets as quickly and accurately as possible. Play it wide, of
course, but switch it back inside before the 20m line to increase
your team's chances of scoring.
How do you work this into your drills and games at training? - let
me know!
Coaching Tip Number 22
Off the Laces Please!
Whatever age group you coach, whatever standard your players
have reached, I'll guess that you've seen many of them bear
down on goal, reach 20m out and still screw the ball wide.
Let them practise at a coaching session and, odds are, many
will continue to kick the ball wide from this position.
Shooting technique is vital for increasing a player's scoring
average. The answer to this particular problem is quite simple -
but it isn't stylish, so players don't like it.
Players love to get into this '20m from goal' position and do one
of two things - play it off the instep [a la soccer free kick] or
strike across the ball with the outside of the boot. Both look
good, both make the ball swerve, both will get scores, but
neither will ever beat "TOE DOWN, HEAD DOWN - OFF THE
To practise this technique set out three or four lines of
fleximarkers that bear down on goal from different angles. Each
line should be 10-15m long and finish approx. 20m from goal,
pointing right at the centre spot on the bar.
Ask a player to run tight to a line and shoot "toe down, head
down - off the laces" when he/she reaches the end. Make no
mistake - if you start this with seniors, it will take them ages to
change - but they can do, if they really want to. Start with U8s
and U10s and you'll really reap the benefits.
Good Luck!
Coaching Tip Number 23
'Work to Rest' Ratios...a Vital Balance
The third batch of Level 2 coaches from across Ulster have just
completed their course. Among the many things discussed was
the danger of burnout for certain players. These players are
often the better ones and, as a result, they are pulled every way
by club, county and school demands. What goes unnoticed is
the amount of work demanded of these players.
Take the case of a 17 year-old who plays McRory, County
Minor, Club Minor and Club Senior football. Which of his four
coaches will be the first to contact the others to plan a common
approach to training? Which coach will recognise that the
player's health is at risk if he must play a full part in all training?
I suggest that all four will acknowledge the risk but few will be
prepared to do anything about it!
The same experienced coaches are, no doubt, fully aware of the
importance of WORK:REST RATIOS when running a coaching
session. These same coaches know that if they work on
stamina, they usually afford players a ratio of 1:1 [e.g. work for a
minute, rest for a minute] to allow for proper recovery. Similarly,
they know that if they work on speed, the ratio has to change to
as much as 1:5 [e.g. work for 5 seconds, rest for 25 seconds].
So, how about planning for recovery in the 'bigger picture'? It's
time coaches got together to find out what demands are being
made of the top young players, made decisions for the players'
good and reaped the benefits as a result.
Coaching Tip Number 24
Think how you mark!
Teaching your players to think about how a direct opponent
plays the game is a worthwhile thing to do, but a difficult one to
practise. Here's one approach that helps players get used to
reading other players. Who knows what advantages it may bring
in a competitive match.
Pick two teams for a practice game during training. Before the
throw-in, call aside one or two players who have been matched
against good opponents. Ask each player to work out some
things about how his/her opponent likes to play the game.
Ask the players to focus only on one or two aspects:
Does your opponent usually fist pass or kick pass the ball?
Does your opponent kick with his/her left foot, right foot or both
Does your opponent usually pass the ball immediately, take a
bounce or toe-tap before deciding or does he/she usually run
with it?
As the game develops make a note of what your own answers
are to these questions. Stop the game after 10 minutes and call
both players over to check their answers. See if they match
Now ask them to concentrate on one aspect of the opponent's
game and do something to counter it.
Make no mistake, this is a long-term coaching strategy. Players
will find it tough, but it will make them better footballers.
Coaching Tip Number 25
Working on Width
If a squad of U10s made up of players from Primary 4, 5, 6 and
7 can master the principle of play that is 'width', then there's
hope for Gaelic Football.
To introduce any principle of play you may have to create a false
situation on the pitch - one which the purists [or is it the
dinosaurs?] will trash as soon as they hear of it.
Next time you pace up and down the sideline, calling for players
to stay wide, think about the next coaching session when you'll
force the issue with the use of a couple of lines of multimarkers
Before a practice game, run two lines of markers along the
length of the pitch, each line creating a five metre wide zone
between it and the sideline. Pick your teams [Greens and Reds]
and take one player from each to act as a 'LINK PLAYER'
running inside these zones. The green player works in one
zone, the red player works in the other.
The rules of the game are simple. Play a normal match, but
insist on the following: if a team takes possession of the ball it
must use its link player at least once during the move towards
the opposition goal. At no stage may the link player be tackled
and at no stage may he move outside his/her zone.
The Link Player may only move to receive a pass and play the
ball within the count of '3' back into the game proper. This offers
a great opportunity to practise diagonal passing and support
It also shows players the value of width and allows them to
practise it without direct opposition, until the notion of how to
play 'link' beds in.
Good luck!
Coaching Tip Number 26
Attack and Break!
A simple message for all coaches this week -
Make sure you work regularly to get your players to attack the
ball when going for it and to break the tackle when moving
forward with the ball.
To let players away with waiting for a nice bounce, stopping
when faced by an opponent or trying to kick through them will
only lead to a generation of average footballers in our county -
don't let it happen...always work to make them the best we can!
Coaching Tip Number 27
Pay the Price
What about a game to allow defenders to work on tackling
without fouling? What if the same game gave forwards the
incentive to get closer to goal and even draw 'frees' from the
Let's say you have 21 players; set your pitch from the far '45 to
one set of goals [i.e. approx. 75m in length]. In front of the goals
create a large semi-circle of multimarkers. This must start on the
end line, 20m from the left post, arc out to 30m in front of goal
and then arc in to finish 20m from the right post on the end line.
Play 11v10 with one team made up primarily of attackers and
the other of defenders. The goalkeeper plays for the defenders.
Start each play with a kickout. Let the forwards attack the goal
when in possession. Only points count.
Should they shoot and score from outside the semi-circle, they
are awarded 1 point. A score from inside the zone earns 2
points. A 'free' scored from inside the zone earns 3 points.
Defenders must work to keep the scores to a minimum, so they
must make sure they do not commit fouls inside the zone and
that they mark tightly enough to keep down the number of 2
point scores. Defenders can earn scores for themselves, by
winning the ball and working it up the pitch to cross the far 45m
line while still in possession. The coach can determine how
many points should be given.
Try it...show defenders that if they are too rash and lack
organisation they will pay the price!
Coaching Tip Number 28
This is a method of spotting potential future stars for
professional soccer. It is used by scouts and those who wish to
sign the young players who may make it big. So what has it to
do with Gaelic Games? We can use it to encourage players to
T stands for TECHNIQUE....I stands for INTELLIGENCE.....P
stands for PERSONALITY.....and S stands for SPEED.
Three of these always seemed sensible and were easily
understood. Scouts looked for players who had good technical
skills, made quick and proper decisions on the pitch and were
fast, both in reaction and speed over the ground.
But what exactly did personality mean? Did they reject players
who were sullen or quiet or dull or loud or volatile? No! It seems
they determine personality as a 'willingness to learn from
mistakes and an openness to new ideas'.
So, if you know of any player who simply wants to play his own
game and has no 'personality', tell him to find one quickly - his
future in Gaelic Games depends on it!
Coaching Tip Number 29
A Moving Pivot
How many of us set up drills and exercises that involve a pivotal
player? This is the person who, in a line drill, stands in the
middle, receives a kick pass from a player, feeds it back as the
same player runs by and then turns to wait for the next pass
from the opposite end.
Acting as a pivot does mirror the game, but only if the pivotal
player builds movement into his/her role. There is little or no
point in standing still at any stage when playing this part. To let
players do so, will only lead to them copying it in a match. A
pivot should always keep on the move, mimicking the movement
from a match when he/she is jogging or walking about, while
being marked by an opponent.
The pivot should do this as he/she weighs up the situation and
decides when to change pace and move to receive the pass and
return it. In a game there will be a brief window when this is
possible, so in a drill it must be the same.
To sum up - never leave a standing pivot to dig a hole in the one
spot on a pitch. Keep that player on the move, even when the
ball is not being passed. Then build in a change of pace for the
pass. Try it in your next session. The game demands it and so
should you!
Coaching Tip Number 30
Kick It - Run It
Last year I took part in a coaching course in Cavan. I ran this
game with U-12s and U-14s. The key to it is really to let the
players experience the problems and work out the solutions for
themselves. If you decide to use the game, do not be tempted to
give players the answers. If they think it through themselves,
they'll learn to use their ideas in a game proper.
Create a mini-pitch [approx. 40m x 25m]. At one end only, set up
goals using cones or posts.
Choose two teams of four players each. Start one team in a line
across an end-line. Give the ball to the other team and start
them from the end-line that has the set of goals, but with only
three of their players lined across it. The fourth player does
goals to allow a 3 v 4 situation to develop outfield.
On the whistle, one of the three kicks the ball high and long
towards the opposing team of four. Both teams advance quickly
to meet each other. The team of four should now be in
possession of the ball.
The four must work the ball past the three to get in a shot for
goal. A score is only awarded if the ball is kicked low into the
goal [on or close to the ground]. Should the three win the ball
back, they simply work it out to the far end-line.
After each play, the teams switch roles, rotate goalkeepers and
start again.
Not much to it! So it seems. Quite a boring game then!
Not so! What happens is that the team of three will win the ball
back and score more often than the team of four. This is not due
to any slick move on the part of the three, but on poor use of
players by the team of four.
You, as the coach should let these situations develop for a
while, before taking the four aside and suggesting that they
come up with a better decision re. how they use the extra player.
In no time at all, the game will switch in favour of the four.
Remember...let them make the decision...and let them think of
new ones each time so that the opponents cannot counter.
With regard to contour-moves, you may also find that the three
will sort out some defensive ploys themselves. So much the
better. Everybody develops, everybody wins and you get a taste
of what players can do for themselves [with a little coach input,
of course]. Good luck.
Coaching tip Number 31
Don’t do drills, teach situations.
I picked this up from an Aussie Rules website - we can use it
Never underestimate the ability of young players to learn,
especially if you as the coach have been able to convince them
why this is the best choice. Don’t just tell them that they must
make a specific choice because you as coach said so. Explain
to them why it is best to make a certain choice. You as coach
must be able to back it up with evidence.
This doesn’t imply that we complicate the game for young
players. We set the range of options relevant to their age and
technique level. We can stimulate and challenge young players
especially those that have flaws in their technique that often
detract from their enjoyment in performance. Decision-making
means relating to team mates, that is one of the primary reasons
why we play a team sport like Gaelic Football.
Coaching tip Number 32
What can you add?
When a manager or coach has to leave players out of a team
and resign them to a spell on the bench, he often finds it difficult
to explain why they haven't made the team. Those players rarely
find themselves in the mood to listen anyway, for most believe
they should start.
Come the time for a substitution, a coach calls for the sub to
warm up; then he generally gives a few instructions before the
player takes the field.
Should the change be one that is tactical rather than as the
result of injury, the substitute might well be asked "What can you
add to this team, that the first-choice player could not?"
Such a question may not lend itself to an immediate answer, but
it does focus the new player and remind him that he must not
simply replace someone, but must work to retain his place by
'adding something to the team'.
Perhaps this little reminder will serve to motivate those who can't
wait to get off the bench and onto the field.
Coaching tip Number 33
Here’s a game to focus players on working harder to turnover
the ball during play. It is particularly useful for coaches who are
keen to improve forwards’ work rate when the opposition has the
Play normal Gaelic rules. Set up a pitch to suit the number of
players. Run a line of fleximarkers across the halfway line.
To win one game in a mini-series [e.g. best of five] a team may
either score four times or turn the ball over twice inside the
opposition half.
A ‘turnover’ is only awarded for an interception during play, a
tackle that wins possession or a block that leads to possession.
If a team manages to turn the ball over, play does not stop;
rather it continues until the next break in the game [e.g. score,
wide, free, sideline]
So, a team that finds itself 3-0 down in scores and with 1
turnover earned, may still win the game if one of its players
forces one more turnover in the opposition half of the pitch.
Such a situation will also highlight the need for defenders to
make sure the ball is not lost inside the defending half of the
If players respond by working a tight fist-passing game, they
may find that this leads to even more opportunities for the
opposition to turn the ball over.
If they decide to simply kick the ball into the other half to avoid
the turnover, it invites another attack from the opposition team.
The right balance must be found between keeping possession
and delivering a telling pass into the other half for a teammate.
To those who complain that the scoring team is being unduly
punished, remember…the game is deliberately designed to
force a higher work rate from attackers when opposing
defenders have the ball. Forwards are being given an incentive
to win the ball back.
Coaches are free to change the ratio of scores to turnovers [e.g.
to win, a team needs 3 scores or 2 turnovers].
Coaching tip Number 34
A game to try as part of a series:
Choose two teams [e.g. 7v7 up to 15v15], bib them and adapt
the size of the pitch to suit.
The game is normal Gaelic football with one twist. To win the
game, a team must score 3 times consecutively [without their
scores being interrupted by an opposition score]. Should the
opposition score before 3 consecutive scores are taken, any
scores earned are wiped out and the opposition are now
deemed to be winning 1-0.
e.g. Team A scores a point and then a goal. They are now
winning 2-0 in scores taken. Team B scores a point. Team A’s
two scores are wiped out and Team B leads 1-0.
The first team to reach score consecutive times wins the game
and goes 1-0 up in the series. Run the series to suit [e.g. series
is over when one team wins five games].
A modification of this involves delaying the ‘wipeout’ element
until a certain number of scores has been reached.
e.g. Teams play first to get five scores on the board, but
‘wipeout’ rules only apply after 4 scores. So, both teams keep
playing and scoring as normal until one reaches four scores.
Should this team manage a fifth without the opposition scoring
first, it wins the game. However, should the opposition score, the
four scores are wiped out.
Why bother play this game? It focuses players much more and
leads to a higher degree of intensity. Players are keener to
defend, to find space, to shoot sooner and to turn the ball over.
Coaching tip Number 35
One piece of Gaelic game analysis suggests that winning teams
keep up an average of at least one score for every three times
they take possession of the ball in the opposition half of the
pitch. Anything less often spells defeat.
This game is designed to simulate such conditions and force
players to work to keep up the scoring rate.
Set up a pitch to suit numbers on each team, and then run a line
of fleximarkers along the halfway line.
Play with normal rules.
Point out that each team STARTS with a score of 3.
For each time that a team attacks [i.e. takes possession in the
opposition half] and does not score, 1 is taken off the starting
score of 3.
The first team to have its score reduced to 0 loses that game
[usually one of a series of games set by the coach].
If a team scores before the 3 becomes 0, the rate is maintained
and a new ‘3’ is awarded.
Team A misses with its first shot and has its score reduced to
The next attack from Team A is turned over and the score is cut
to ‘1’.
Team A now has one last chance to score.
Team A scores on the next attack. The team’s score is set at ‘3’
again and the game goes on.
So, each time a team scores, the score is reset at ‘3’.
Try this game and see how it focuses players. At first you may
find it leads to a lot of tight fist passing as players attempt to
keep possession. However, they should learn quickly that such
a method of play will allow the opposition to regroup and spoil
attacks more easily. Soon they’ll find that a more direct style of
play [with quick support to front players] is best.
Coaching tip Number 36
A game that only takes effect for one team
when in the opposition half [or for forwards in
a backs v forwards situation].
Set out two lines of fleximarkers [not domes]
running from the half-way line to the end line.
Both should be approx. 20m in from each
The lines create 3 channels [wide channels of 20m each and a centre channel of 35-
40m on normal pitch].
The rules are simple. Should the attacking team have possession in any of the two
'wide' channels, the player on the ball must switch play into the middle channel
rather than give a pass down the wing.
The game is designed to ensure that any attack does not end up in the corners and
that the main thrust is through the centre. This does not mean that players should
pack the centre channel. Players may move freely between channels to create
space, but the ball should be played from wide to centre as much as possible.
Coaches should only inform the attacking team of the ploy so that defenders have to
work it out and counter it. Coaches must also convince players of the need to make
decoy runs into these wide channels in order to draw defenders out of the scoring
Coaching tip Number 37
Opportunities v Time
A top coach who guided his club team to an All-Ireland
championship in the early nineties, regularly switched or even
substituted players during the early stages of games. When
asked why he didn't let players have more time to settle before
he acted, the coach answered: 'Time has little to do with it. I only
count opportunities, not time.'
His idea was simple yet brilliant. If a player had four chances to
win the ball and lost out on three, then he had to be changed
before his confidence was shattered altogether. It didn't matter if
these opportunities came in the first five minutes or over the
period of one half of the game.
The same coach maintained that it was vital all players were
aware of this practice. They had to know that a switch was not a
way to say 'You're not good enough' , but a chance to remind
them that 'this is not your day in that spot...let's start again
somewhere else'.
So, if you are a coach who prefers to make changes based on
'time', think about looking for 'missed opportunities' instead.
Remember to make sure your players know and understand the
idea and see if your tactical work on the line improves.
Coaching tip Number 38
Hit the Crossbar!
If you coach our youngest gaels, those who play with a size 3 or
size 4 football, you may have noticed that many tend to kick
pass the ball anywhere between ground level and 10 metres
high. Coaches will always try to reduce the number of low daisycutters
or vertical bombs that these young players kick. We all
want to see the perfect kick that is played over 20-30m, reaches
no more than 3m at its highest point and can be caught by the
receiver, either on the full or after one bounce.
But how can a coach get through to players who can't quite
grasp the idea of 'head down, toe down' and can't execute or
even begin to imagine that perfect kick pass?
One way that clicks with some of them is the idea of 'hit the
crossbar'. Take aside a few players that are having difficulty and
run a short, fun competition from the 13m line. Each should try
to hit the crossbar of the main goals as many times as possible.
Now remember, few will hit the bar more than once, but most
will eventually strike a ball or two that gets close.
When these players return to drill work or even games, remind
them that a good kick pass is like hitting the crossbar. The same
technique that they use in the competition will enable them to hit
better kick passes. All they have to do is be brave enough to try.
Coaching tip Number 39
Kick for Position
Here is a small-sided game to try. It is simple to set up, easy to
run and with one slight modification, it can help young players
[or older ones] learn the value of forwards playing deep and
leaving space to run onto a pass from midfield or defence.
Choose two teams [6 players in each].
Each team will have 1 goalkeeper, 2 backs, 1 midfielder and 2
Set out a pitch area to suit age/skill level [e.g. U12s might play
on a pitch 60m x 30m whereas seniors might need an 80m x
45m one].
Use cones or poles for goals at either end.
The only scores that count are shots that beat the 'keeper when
hit along or close to the ground.
Divide the pitch into two halves, using a line of fleximarkers.
During the game backs and forwards may not cross this line.
Only midfielders may cross [this helps them work on supporting
Add one more rule before you start the game.
All passes across the line of markers must be PROPER KICK
Coaches must insist that players do not simply work the ball
close to the line and tap a five metre kick across the line].
How does this help? Forwards will no longer hug the halfway
line waiting for backs to work the ball out and offer a short fist
pass. Each team has only two forwards. Running from deep
allows the midfielder to get up in support. The game also forces
forwards to make lateral and diagonal runs, watch the play
closely and change pace to win the ball.
Without the line and the kicking rule, the players will bunch,
forwards will run away from the pass [like wide receivers in
American Football] and midfielders will not work as hard to
Try it, stick with it and rotate the positions to let everyone
experience playing different roles.
Coaching tip Number 40
The Lazy Ball
Into modern Gaelic football has come the scourge that is called
the low ball. Don't get me wrong, now. I'm not advocating a
return to the sky-high balloon kick that gives those at ground
level ample opportunity to have a picnic before the ball re-enters
the atmosphere.
I'm complaining about the grubber-style pass along the ground
that a player uses to thread the ball through to a forward who
has made a break towards him. The player who bursts out like a
train [with defender in tow] is given a pass that is well-nigh
impossible to gather cleanly. It may have been tucked neatly
under an opponent's block, but the receiver has to change pace,
direction, stance and even his mind to collect such a pass.
This type of pass comes originally from rugby, where it is used
to slip the ball between defenders for a team-mate to run onto
and score - and there lies the difference. The receiver in Rugby
is moving with the ball player. Our forward is coming to meet the
Enough of the complaining - what about a solution?
I call this pass 'The Lazy Ball', because the kicker is doing the
minimum to evade his opponent and make space for a pass.
Players must work hard on evasion skills that throw an opponent
off balance enough to be able to get a good pass away to the
If coaches made these demands and sought to cut out this lazy
ball, we might get more fluid attacks and fewer blasts on the
Watch for the lazy ball in the next game and think about
changing it!
Coaching tip Number 41
Fitness Testing.
Before the new season, think about the types of fitness tests you
use for your players. Remember, our games are 'multisprint';
therefore they call upon the anaerobic energy system more
than on the aerobic system.
Put simply, this means they are not filled with long runs lasting
several minutes; rather they are punctuated by runs of up to 20
seconds, short breaks [walking etc] and quick bursts of less than
6 seconds duration.
However, before you dispense with the longer runs, remember
that they do have a role. The aerobic energy system [heart and
lungs - using oxygen] is vital for recovery between these short
bursts on the pitch - so it must be well developed.
The more developed and efficient the aerobic system is, the
shorter a player's recovery time will be between bouts of hard
work on the pitch.
So, do not dismiss the longer runs pre-season. Make sure they
are done on grass [not on roads!], use a proper test to check
fitness levels and tailor your training to suit the results [i.e. what
will you do with a player who scores 3000m+ in the Cooper Test
as opposed to a player who scores 1900m?]
Now you can check the internet for the protocols associated with
the Cooper Test.
Coaching tip Number 42
Poor Shooting - A Matter of Angles and Passes
How many times have you watched a player run towards goal
with the ball and, without pressure from an opponent, make the
shooting angle narrower and narrower as he gets closer? {I
have deliberately omitted ´she´as girls tend not to make this
The bad habit is borne out of the desire to clip the ball off the
instep and curl it over the bar. It does work at times but, more
often than not, such a kick ends up as a wide or a ball dropped
into the goalkeeper´s hands.
Give footballs to players before a coaching session or a match
and you´ll see plenty of these clipped, curling shots sail over the
bar from different angles. So why the difference during the game
Well, add pace and the pressure of time on the ball and the
execution of this type of shot changes dramatically. Few players
can maintain the necessary balance when in full flight, so very
often the result is a horrible slice or a skied shot that drops into
the hands of the goalie.
Now for a possible solution to the problem; a solution that must
be embedded in our youngest players, for trying to get senior
footballers to change is like attempting to turn back time.
I mentioned earlier that girls tend not to make this mistake. So,
what does a female footballer do rather than narrow the angle
for shooting? She turns towards goal while still in possession
{and breaks a tackle if necessary}, then she PASSES the ball
over the bar. Quite literally, she will strike the ball off the laces
while on the run; more often than not the ´pass´will become a
The message is, then, if you want to increase your
players´shooting success, you must make sure your youngest
footballers take a leaf out of the female book; and, during the
exercise, as a sop to their masculinity, throw in a few tackle
Coaching tip Number 43
No Straight Ball!
Try this game with your teams.
Only play it for about 10 minutes at a time and point out
beforehand that your intention is to force players on the ball to
look left and right for a pass and to encourage those who want
the ball to move left and right to receive.
The ball must not be passed into the corners of the pitch [dead
space] but players may make decoy runs into these areas.
So, a player in possession may not play the ball straight up or
straight down the pitch. Every pass must be diagonal or lateral:
All support runs likewise.
Played at its best, this game will lead to the ball ending up in
front of goal, with players constantly running to support or to
draw opponents away from the action.
It may be used with teams as young as your top U10s or as
experienced as your seniors.
Coaching tip Number 44
Make Room - Move the Ball!
The 'average' player is identified by a number of traits; not least
among these is his/her tendency to 'take too much out of the
Take a few minutes to watch the better footballers on your team
[or on the opposition team]. They will often win the ball, make
room and move it on.
Such players looked so composed, they exude confidence and
yet they are often missed in favour of the mazy solo runner who
contributes little to teamplay. This is especially prevalent at
Work your players at each level to ensure they can use a variety
of ways to make room [e.g. one sidestep, one feint, one swerve,
one checked run, one break of a tackle etc.].
Bring the practice into games and reward those players who
work hard to learn the skill of making room and then moving the
ball on [be it as a pass or as a shot].. and say goodbye to the
mazy solo artist!
Coaching tip Number 45
Striking A Balance
Take time to watch some footballers as they strike the ball for a
point. Those who score more often than miss from different
positions are a rarity.What sets them apartfrom the rest? One of
the secrets of success is balance. Each of these players is as
balanced after the kick as before.
Rugby coaches always emphasise the need for good balance
while kicking the ball. It should be the same for us in Gaelic
football. Those who take 'frees' from the hand and have a poor
scoring rate might want to follow one of the most successful tips
from rugby:
" Before striking the ball imagine that after you have taken
the kick, you
must finish squarely on a gymnast's balance beam. The
beam is only four
inches across - just wide enough for your boot. This will
keep your upper
body from swaying or tilting and you will be less inclined to
look up too
soon. Your kicking contact and accuracy will improve with
As I've written in many other coaching tips - go on, try it!
Coaching tip Number 46
Progress or Regress
For those of you who coach our youngest gaels, think carefully
before you break for the winter. Calling time at the end of
September and resuming again in March, will mean for some,
little or no activity for up to five months.
Granted, quite a few will fill the gap with other sprots and
activities, but few will hone their gaelic football or hurling or
camogie skills during the close season.
If you're lucky enough to have access to a hall or gym or leisure
centre, why not devise a weekly programme for players based
on developing both sides?
There is no better way to work on left and right sides than to use
a rebound wall in a hall. Coaches can spend time in a confined
area and with smaller numbers, checking technique through the
'Head, Hands, Feet' method and preparing children for the
forthcoming outdoor season.
The secret is to identify groups of no more than 20 and to
ensure that the coach to player ratio is at no more than 1:5. And
remember - it's a coaching group, not a creche!
Coaching tip Number 47
The Two Ts of Possession by Paddy Flynn from St. Pius X
At any one time in a gaelic football match, there is only one
member of a team in possession of the ball. That player may
have lots to focus on and little time to do so.
The onus is on the ball player to maintain good technique -
catching, soloing, kick passing, fist passing, shooting etc.
Of course, the same player must develop good decision-making,
but the best decisions are often the result of sharp thinking by
his/her team-mates. Each player 'off' the ball should be thinking
and working on things like: -
Am I in the best place for a pass? How can I give my teammate
an option? Can
I create space for others? Am I calling for a 50/50 ball?
So, if you intend improving teamplay...push the two Ts at your
Technique ON the ball...Thinking OFF the ball.
Once players get the message and put it into practice, teamwork
will be the winner!