Juvenile coaches are the people the GAA just cannot survive without
“IT is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly”
Theodore Roosevelt’s famous lines are so powerful, brilliant and relevant to modern life even though they were written over 100 years ago
When we get involved in coaching, there is no certainty and we can’t predict outcomes. We will meet critics everywhere but as Roosevelt says, “it is not the critic who counts”.
As clubs are currently organising their underage structures for the year ahead, they need people with faith that if they put in the time and have good methods that things will work out well for them. GAA clubs must be innovative to recruit coaches to cater for the higher playing numbers that are now attending.
Recruitment of coaches is a skill and it can be a very tough job. Many clubs are reporting big progress in this area.
Some have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled their underage coaching numbers in the past three years.
Other clubs are struggling in this area and as a result their existing coaches are at full stretch and in danger of burn out.
The clubs who are thriving in this area, nearly all have one thing in common; there is a positive mood around the place. Standards are good, expectation is high but nobody is looking for perfection.
Perfectionism is so destructive and it puts so many people off getting involved in coaching. Often in elite sport, winning and losing are so important that every mistake is scrutinised to the nth degree.
Coaches in professional sport are often put up in a pedestal that it is impossible for the ordinary person to match.
As a result of that culture, people are put off when asked to coach in a local club. They think they aren’t good enough and that people will judge them.
Sometimes they are right and people do judge. You often hear people saying, “sure what would they know about hurling and football,” or, “they never played in their life”.
The truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as the perfect coach, the perfect hurler or the perfect performance.
We all make mistakes and becoming a coach or a player is always a process.
If coaching is a skill, then it is also a learned ability.
That means that people generally get better at coaching, the more time they spend at it. People learn in lots of different ways.
Experience helps as does reflecting on those experiences, attending training courses, meeting other coaches, planning training sessions and questioning players on their experiences. Learning usually happens as a result of trial and error. We try something and it works, so we continue that method or perhaps we discard it or amend it if it doesn’t work too well.
There are great coaches volunteering in every club. They are competent and reliable. Many of them played while others never played hurling or football.
Some have great knowledge of the games while others are really good working with people. Some great coaches have lots of confidence in their own ability while others don’t believe they are any good. They need lots of reassurance..
However where would we be without these people? They spend two or three evenings a week at the pitch and attend blitzes every Saturday.
These are the people who the GAA cannot survive without. These people are brilliant just as they are. We don’t need perfect.
Fear and self-consciousness causes us to shy away from getting involved. Ronan Keane has recently started coaching “as Gaeilge” in the Gaelscoileanna in Ennis and Shannon.
I would love to do the same but something has always held me back – fear of being wrong or sounding stupid. Self-consciousness tends to put us off trying things that we might enjoy doing or be good at. We could not care about what anyone thinks, but for most people that’s almost impossible.
The great American author and researcher Brené Brown writes, “when we stop caring what people think, we lose the capacity for connection and when we are defined by what people think we lose the courage to be vulnerable”.
Coaches need to connect with their players (and parents) in order to achieve results and when coaches and players have a common purpose they are also vulnerable. Vulnerability is defined as uncertainty and risk. People who are defined by what people think can never get to that stage.
Criticism is very hard to take and negative people can cause a whole population to be self-conscious. Critics don’t make good coaches. It is much easier to volunteer in a positive environment.
Coaches are people who get the best out of other people, not people who tell you everything that’s wrong with you.
The children of Ireland need people to put their hands up and say, “I’ll coach, I’m not perfect but I’ll have a go, I’m willing to learn, I’ll make mistakes and I might fail. But If I fail, I’ll fail by daring greatly”.
As coaches we need to protect ourselves from criticism and should choose whose opinions we take on board.
As Brené Brown says, “If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on a regular basis, I’m not open or interested in your feedback”.
That seems fair enough to me.