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Coaching deficiencies the blight of Irish soccer

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: {J}

WITH the increased number of coaching tutors working within Irish soccer it appears that the FAI is making a genuine attempt at redressing the technical and tactical shortcomings within the Irish game. However, there are still a number of shortcomings within the present structure – shortcomings that warrant redress.

The system as it stands has overcome the bottleneck that existed prior to the advent of the current administration. Coaching courses are ongoing and with hard work and effort new coaches are coming online on a regular basis. This is a great step forward. The problem with the system, though, is when anyone wants to obtain coaching badges – be he/she a former pro or a soccer dad or mum – they are confronted by what I see as a structural defect within the training process.

No matter how long you played soccer for or at what level, the ability to coach soccer is a step outside your previous experience, and requires a new and different skill set. The best coaches are the ones who can analyse the technical, tactical and mechanical way that the game is best put together.

Experience as a player is useful but not essential: Jose Mourinho, a former school teacher, no games as a pro; Arrigo Sacchi, a former shoe salesman, no games as a pro; Arsene Wenger,12 games as a pro; Sven Goren Ericcsson, no games as a pro; Raphael Benitez played in Spanish third Division. Coaches are not born, they develop, with training, experience and their own ability they learn to analyse, in the most astute way, the game they see in front of them. It is how they acquire the knowledge and understanding of our game that is important.

Player development is not about facilities, it is about knowledge transfer from coach to players. The first coaching video I ever saw was of the last Ajax team to win the Champion´s League – in that team were Davids, Van De Saar, Klivert and the De Boer brothers. They were training in a run-down gym, on mucky football pitches, on a bad astro turf pitch and were doing aerobic dancing. That group of players went on to win more European Champion’s Leagues and League and Cup titles in many other countries.

Louis Van Haal did not have good facilities but he had the knowledge to get the most out of his players. Good coaches are born scavengers as they take ideas, drills and training routines from other coaches and sports and successfully apply them, enhancing their own players’ ability and knowledge. It is the pursuit and use of this knowledge that will define the success or failure of a coach.

There seems to be a fear within the Irish coaching leadership that knowledge is power, and that the dissemination of this knowledge somehow undermines their position. Many coaches put forward the idea that they know a lot more than those who they are coaching. Maybe they do, but generally their knowledge has come from a DVD or coaching video to which they have access. They work on the theory that “in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’’. This attitude is self-serving and an obstacle to better coaching development.

The FAI has shown a complete lack of interest in diffusing technical knowledge in video or DVD format to those operating at the lowest levels of the club game in Ireland. A change in this policy needs to be looked at.

I believe that the biggest flaw in the system is the fact that all coaching courses concentrate on the methodology of how to coach. This is presupposing that all those being tested have an in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects of our game. If you want to become a school teacher you go to college and study your given subject – maths, history, physics etc. for at least three years, after which time you are well grounded in your topic.

Subsequently, you spend a year learning how to teach (coach) your chosen topic. That system makes more sense than trying to coach some prospective coaches who might only have rudimentary knowledge of the technical, tactical parts of our game. My belief is that you teach coaches what to do before you teach them the best way to do it

Prospective coaches need to be first given courses on how to run coaching sessions, working different drills, teaching skill drills and positional play. If the FAI, for time, personnel or financial constraints, cannot give prospective coaches this extra tuition at least give them more access to coaching videos and DVDs. All working coaches should at least be capable of coaching kids from six year olds right through to adulthood.

For more read page 41 of this week’s Galway City Tribune

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Ruby ready to rock again and Bob is worth a big flutter in Gold Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 06-Mar-2013

New edge to Galway hurling championship title pursuit

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A battle of talent and the ability to pull in public votes

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta



Date Published: 11-Mar-2013

Here is a question. And there is no holiday or grand prize for getting the answer. But can anyone name the people who have won The Voice of Ireland and what has become of them?

Over across the water in the UK they have The X Factor and while I hate the concept of it, it has produced a few stars even though they don’t last long in the whole scheme of things.

But The Voice of Ireland seems to generate false excitement with the winner ending up become more anonymous than they already were. And it is costing families a fortune in the process.

While the programme is a ratings winner, strangely, it has resulted in those getting through to the final stages investing huge amounts of money in the hope that they will receive enough votes to get through to the next stages.

So, suddenly, it is not about the voice or the talent involved, it is all about votes and who the participants can convince to pledge their support for them. So it is obvious that talent goes out the window.

It means that someone with half a talent could realistically win the whole thing if they generated enough support behind them. From now on, the judges will be taken out of the equation and it will be left to the public to generate income for some phone operator.

Those who get through to the live performances have to engage in a massive publicity campaign in an effort to win votes which makes this whole effort a pure sham. It is no longer about their ability and just an effort to win appeal.

While the initial process does involve some vetting of the acts, now it becomes a general election type exercise in which the most popular will win the competition and the judges will have no say whatsoever.

It is a bit like the recent Eurosong in which the judging panel across the country voted for their favourite song, which incidentally was the best of a very bad lot, but then this was overturned by the public who chose a relatively crap song to represent us.

But again, this was all down to convincing the public about who to vote for rather than having any bearing on the quality on offer. There are times that genuine talent becomes overlooked because of the need to extract money from the voting public.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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