Steven Poacher

STEVEN POACHER – The importance of investing in coaching

THERE’S a misapprehension around coaches who offer coach education.

Some on the outside think they are experts but in fact it couldn’t be further from the truth. I have always said there are no experts in coaching: my theory is there are only coaches with experience, opinions and ideas.

Some of these coaches are happy to share these experiences to help others, because the reality is that sharing is learning. Coaching is very like teaching; sharing good practice is an invaluable tool to have, and you should never be afraid to learn from someone and to bounce ideas off each other. For me this is one of the most effective ways of learning.

I don’t think coaching should be about qualifications or letters after your name, but coaches should be encouraged to learn and value learning. Qualifications and a nice certificate can certainly help but it’s the learning along the way that helps coaches become who they are and also enhances their quality.

Learning opportunities don’t have to take a similar format as the annual coaching day I traditionally organise. They can be offered through workshops, sample sessions, interactive sessions (both indoor & outdoor), possible mentorship or even templates of individual sessions or bulk programmes.

There are a huge variety of ways in which coaches can gain the opportunities to learn, but the coaches must be willing and ready to learn. In the past I myself have headed over to professional rugby with Newport Dragons during the summer for a number of days to spend some valuable time under the wing of Bernard Jackman and getting to see first-hand what a professional set up is like. I’ve also gone over to Scotland and England and spent some time at the training grounds of top level soccer clubs, and the learning experience was invaluable.

Just at the end of last year I got involved with Ciaran Deely, the former Wexford footballer and former London GAA manager and current Coach at QPR in the English Championship. Ciaran came up with a fantastic idea of setting up a Deely Sport Science website and within that offering coaches a hugely diverse range of coach education material.

The difference in Ciaran’s website and coach education opportunities and the normal ones you would stumble across is the wide variety of fantastic material available for coaches from a hugely varied level of coaching experience from numerous sporting fields.

Just recently Ciaran, along with myself and a number of other coaches from professional sport, put together a wonderful learning opportunity for coaches.

It’s a DSS Certificate in Sports Performance Coaching and it’s suitable for coaches of all levels, all sports and genders. Within the cert there are a number of different modules you can complete ranging from sport science, coaching the individual, coaching the session, team tactical set-ups, performance nutrition, sports psychology and performance analysis. It certainly will add further strings to your coaching bow, and is well worth pursuing. More information can be found on the

Pundits and others complain about standards across the game, and point the finger of blame at systems of play or defensive football but that’s all rubbish in my eyes. The bottom line is if you want to improve standards in any sport you must have the people who are coaching the sport willing to learn a lot more, particularly at underage level.

Back in 2002, Germany did a branch review of their coaching structures in soccer and reaped the rewards over a decade later and New Zealand raised the standards of the rugby coaches coaching the games and encouraged coaches to engage in more learning. We need to do likewise.

You can also see it very clearly in our games Derry are probably the most recent prime example in Gaelic football. They’re investing huge amounts of time and resources into their underage teams and they are starting to see it bloom and will continue to do so.

Limerick in hurling started a decade ago introducing S&C into their development squads, investing in good coaching and structures, and look where they are now. Dublin have looked like they’re coming back to the pack this year a little bit but unless counties heavily invest in implementing the right coaching model from the bottom up the gap will get wider and wider.

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