Steven Poacher

Steven Poacher – Children need to play with a ball

Cormac McAnallan's camps are a fine legacy for the late Tyrone footballer

Cormac McAnallan’s camps are a fine legacy for the late Tyrone footballer

Recently I have noticed a number of different summer coaching initiatives pop up in the media all for various reasons.

Among those that I have seen advertised is the Campa Chormaic in memory of Tyrone great Cormac McAnallen, a camp with an emphasis on the Irish language in the morning and Gaelic games coaching in the afternoon – and it has been hugely successful for a number of years now.


The Camp Jmac in Down (finished up last summer) was a Gaelic Games coaching camp organised by the St John’s club in Down in memory of one of their young players who tragically lost his life in an accident, one I was privileged to coach at for a number of years and another that was hugely successful.

On top of this we have clubs up and down the length of the country organising their own coaching camps with invited county players and guest coaches throughout the week.

Then we have our Cul Camps, along with our county development squads and the Ulster elite camps in Jordanstown.

When I think back to my teenage years, which wasn’t that long ago, I can never remember such a volume of opportunities for a young player to experience expert coaching on such regular occasions.

We spent most of our summers playing multiple sports but the majority of our football coaching we got came from our kick-around at the local school, pitch or out on the street where we learned all the basic skills through our own rules and by playing mini-games. The same level of expertise and opportunity was definitely not available as it is so readily now.

The fact that the above courses are an opportunity not to be missed – they are well-structured, well-organised, have excellent coaches and are extremely beneficial to the young players.

There is no doubt a young player will certainly benefit from attending these days and all the initiatives should be lauded. Young players in their teenage years should be like sponges, looking to absorb as many coaching points and tips as they possibly can.

Any coach who is delivering a session at these camps should not consider doing anything without a ball, physical conditioning should not be an issue, and these camps should be about refining and improving the skill levels of our young players and more importantly their game sense.

Therefore the majority of the sessions at these camps should undoubtedly involve small-sided games. Small-sided games or conditioned games can be 3v3, 4v4, 5v5 or even 7v7 depending on numbers or space. A little bit of skill refinement is fine but the young player should experience as much game time as possible.

Probably the biggest advantages of coaching young players through small-sided games are the regular number of decision-making opportunities that arise! Standing on the sideline as a coach you are really powerless once the game starts, you are relying on thinking players who can make decisions in the game for themselves and this type of player can be developed through small-sided games in training.

Small Sided Game’s allow more 1v1 opportunities, 2v1 opportunities, they allow the players to create angles, attack and defend, restrict space or time and create and exploit space.

Players also perform a greater number of game-related skills. There is no problem doing a little skill refinement at the start of a session but in small-sided games there are more passes, catches, shots, block balls and pick-ups than a 15 aside game would allow the player, and in less time also! This can be applied to all codes of Gaelic Games, not just football.

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