SONY DSCI was recently at a coaching seminar hosted by Leinster GAA. The focus of the seminar was to improve the player’s skill on the ball in a game situation (technical proficiency or skill acquisition).

The talk was given by Ed Coughlan, the current skills coach with the Dublin Hurling Team. Throughout the talk he focused on game based sessions to improve a players ability on the ball as opposed to the more traditional drills sessions. If you think about a drill where player A kicks/strikes to player B, player B gathers and repeats; in that situation there are no variables, no players C to Z in the way. Yet from our drills we expect players to preform in matches situations without any match practice. We wonder why the player didn’t notice all the free space in a particular zone of the field or why the player didn’t notice another player running off their shoulder or more than likely, there was no one running of the shoulder as the player hadn’t moved (still standing at the cone).

So with all that in mind, we must move towards game based sessions. The sessions don’t have to be full matches. You can use target games, court games, field games, part invasion or full invasion games. The Dublin County board sell a brilliant book called Give us a Game, in this book there are over 200 games that can be played during any session

In my opinion, once we move to CCC2, part and full invasion games are the way to go. A nice example of this would be the conditioned Blitz we recently hosted. The main focus of the blitz was on hooking. During the blitz, players started to look for hooks where normally they wouldn’t even consider it, players chased their opponents solely with the purpose of hooking them.

But I also know that drills may be needed to hone in on a particular skill. This is where Ed Coughlan comes back in. He introduced the idea of having skill corners as part of your session plan. The idea is that you have games running (with whatever skill your are working on being conditioned into the game) and have small sections of the pitch marked out as skill corners.

These areas should emphasise the skills being focused in the game. When going to the skill corner it should be sharp and sweet and you should try to get the game going quickly again. Another alternative could be that you notice a player making the same mistake, he/she could go to the skill corner (you need several coaches) for a one on one with the coach for a minute or so. If you are interested in this concept and wish for me to assist you with the set up, give me a call.

It is worth noting that Ed Coughlan pointed out the following regarding game based session in another talk he gave.

Games based sessions:

  • Enhance Spatial Awareness
  • Improve Decision Making
  • Develop Skill Acquisition
  • Boost Anticipation

I would like to add one to this list. The payers enjoy session when they are game based and if we want them coming back each week we need our sessions to be enjoyable.

The Irish Examiner did an excellent article on Ed Coughlan. It is worth a read and can be opened via this link.