“Innovation is simplicity on the far side of complexity”
I have never worked with the top athletes in the game or poured over feedback from wearable GPS or countless hours of video analysis.
I have never taken a team through the nuances of breaking down a blanket defence or the importance of transition play both physically and mentally in the heat of battle. I would, however, describe myself as a specialist coach.
My area of expertise is in developing children’s love of the game and helping to teach the skills necessary for children to be able to participate in Gaelic football.
I began coaching as a water-boy with an intermediate club. Two years of filling water-bottles and washing jerseys later I had listened and heard enough to strike out on my own as a minor manager. It was on a wet night during a championship defeat that I found my purpose in life. A parent and fellow coach in the club approached me to inform me I should take off our wing-forward as he was f*#king useless. I found myself asking if indeed the player in question didn’t possess the required skill-set Who was to blame?
Had he not presented to the club 12 years previously as a child eager to learn the skills of the game? Over the next 4 years while continuing to coach both in clubs and primary schools I began the process of speaking to coaches at all levels within the game, visiting clubs, attending blitzes and development conferences, speaking to primary school teachers and most importantly speaking to children and finally the Spoton Football was born.
The SpotOn football is a first touch football with markings to show a child where to hold the ball and where to strike it to perform a kick or handpass. It is a very simple idea and concept but 6-year-olds understand simple and this innovation of a simple football and concept resides very much on the other side of complexity.
For me coaching children is all about getting children to fall in love with the sport. Being capable and seeing tangible improvement plays a big part in this process. Nobody enjoys not being able to do something!! Fun games and a friendly environment also play a huge part in keeping children involved.
The widespread emergence in recent years of player development pathways are a very welcome advancement as they help coaches understand what a child is capable of learning at what age. We hear a lot about player load at senior level but we don’t consider the mental load for example of introducing a 6-year-old to kicking technique this week and a different coach introducing hand-passing next week. To teach a child maths one would not dream of giving a leaving certificate maths paper to a six-year-old and tell them to just attempt one question as they are only six. And yet We see the footballing equivalent of this time and again.
At the core of my coaching philosophy is the question What can this child learn? How much I have to teach is irrelevant!!
I have the utmost respect for all coaches. It is a thankless task 99% of the time. But We all do it for that 1% where a child kicks a point or gives a good pass and they look over and give you the thumbs up and that look on their face of pride and achievement, that is where magic lives.
What I have developed is a football which simplifies the learning process for children, a website Spotonsports.ie which simplifies the teaching process for coaches and parents and an innovation that will potentially bring a lot more magic into all our lives