Official TFK GAA Coaches Corner

To poorly paraphrase another coach but he said “Some people go to college for 4 years to learn how to teach and interact with children, and some people think they can just pick up a hurley and do it in an hour. There has to be one group doing it wrong”


And then some of us are simply naturals.

1 Like

Is it the people that go to college for 4 years?

In my experience most (not all) parents follow and get involved in a sport in proportion to how strong their child is. Exceptions can be if a parent has a few kids and they’ve made a decision to follow a particular kid in this particular sport so they give them some attention versus stronger siblings. Those lads are gold dust but if you have a few they are brilliant to have and make such a difference as they are less invested in how good their own child is.

It means, if you let it, better teams have more coaches and more motivated coaches. On the other hand the better teams are under pressure to win. That means kids get moved down and can lose interest. C

My experience of streaming has been good but if you have kids who have no interest in being there and are messing then they’ll disrupt the weakest group sessions so you have to be brutal and they engage and behave or they’re gone.

The strongest kids at 12 are often the kids who are most competitive.

It’s all about confidence. Build it in everything you do (not always easy) and focus on incremental improvement and it goes a long way. Putting a weaker kid in a full blown game with the best lads will often destroy that confidence but if you mix them in for drills they’ll often more than hold their own and the confidence comes.

Ultimately it’s about keeping them playing and making a few memories along the way. You do need to be competitive for that too whether it’s division 1 or division 18.


Elitism sends message that kids are good enough to pay, but not good enough to play’ – family who took club to court praises GAA on ‘competitive’ clampdown

A family who took their GAA club to the High Court after a coach organised a tournament for “elite under-9s” has welcomed a statement from the association’s headquarters that it will bring sanctions against those involved in providing any form of competition for players under the age of 12.

Sinead O’Farrell from Swords, Co Dublin, took the case against the Fingallians club after her sons were excluded from teams in the fallout from a tournament that had been organised in Newry, Co Down, for a group of young children who were perceived to have a higher ability than others.

The case was settled in the High Court in February after talks between both sides.

The GAA this week doubled down on its rules that its sports should be fully inclusive and non-competitive for under-12s.

An email from GAA headquarters at Croke Park to clubs around the country outlines that, at under-12 level and below, there is a ban on all competitions, blitzes or events that involve knockout stages or the handing out of winners or runners-up medals, trophies, awards or prizes. Keeping, recording or publishing of scores is also forbidden.

As it stands, all football and hurling games played at under-12 level or below are held under the banner of “Go Games”, which are intended to be non-competitive.

The GAA has reiterated its stance that no competitive games can take place below under-12 level. Photo: Sportsfile

This Go Games initiative has been in place for several years – and has been part of the GAA’s bid to tackle the practise of teams nurturing the best players while neglecting others.

A section on the GAA’s official website states that, under the banner of Go Games, every child gets to play in every game, and for the full game.

“Children participate in Gaelic games for a number of reasons – to have fun, to play with friends, parental encouragement,” it said. It cited a lack of fun, lack of perceived competence and an “over-emphasis on competitive outcomes, which usually come from coaches and parents” as reasons for children dropping out.

“For too long, the practise in sport has been to identify and cultivate talented players and elite teams at younger and younger ages,” it reads. “There is a tendency to nurture the perceived best and neglect the rest.”

The reiteration of the “non-competitive for under-12s” message has been welcomed by Sinead O’Farrell and her husband Jason.

“The Go Games were introduced a few years ago by the GAA to combat the problem of ultra-competitiveness whereby teams are nurturing the best and neglecting the rest,” said Ms Farrell.

“While these Go Games are very successful and enjoyed by many thousands of children around the country, including my own, competitive blitzes and tournaments are often organised even during Go Games season.

“I very much welcome this decision by the GAA [to combat competition for under-12s]. Currently a lot of training and competition is very much geared towards winning and not on the development of the process. However, I believe many clubs are already shifting away from this ethos and not prioritising winning at underage – for example, Nemo Rangers.

“I was also delighted to see this ethos in play at a recent under-10s match, whereby opposition coaches from a west Dublin team took the time to encourage children from both teams to develop their skills during the match and the children from both teams really enjoyed themselves.

“Every child who registers to play a game should be treated with respect and the ‘winning at all costs’ mentality should be stamped out.

“I hope all clubs will accept this announcement and I look forward to hearing how the GAA plan to enforce this, as rules without enforcement are not worth the paper they are written on.”

The move by the GAA to highlight the problem of elitism for very young players was also welcomed by Jason O’Farrell, who said all families pay subs for their children, and that money should be used to ensure inclusivity for all and not the subsidising of players who might be seen as more talented.

“If clubs have elitism at such a young level, the message they are sending is that your kids are good enough to pay but not good enough to play,” he said.

I’ve my under 12s running on dunes tomorrow morning at 8am before our game at lunchtime.

I’m juggling communions, injuries, sunburn, away with their parents, the game’s too far away - the list of excuses for absence is as far away from elite sport as is possible but I’m absolutely looking forward to it. I’d always have raised my game an extra 15 per cent if it’s dry and sunny. Tomorrow will be no different.

I’ve the goodie bags good and ready for after the game.


That’s calamitous for the dunes.

This cunt again

1 Like

All this talk about taking away the competitive element of U12’s reminded me of a renowned poster here who famously scored all the points in his teams U12 county final success in his youth. Imagine if that victory had essentially just been a pyrrhic one and counted as a draw.

Sure we knew at U8’s who’d really come out on top in games. I used to love analysing our U12 tables and word filtering through of how our various group rivals had gotten on that gameweek. Imagine lads going from Go Games to Leinster school finals or Tony Forristal in the space of a couple of years. Madness.


The gaa is all about elitism nowadays.

1 Like

The GAA wins by prioritising skills over competition for children

The doubters are missing the point — competition for competition’s sake won’t build skills and will only put kids off

The GAA’s Go Games system has been hugely successively in building up numbers at its age level

The GAA’s Go Games system has been hugely successively in building up numbers at its age level


Michael Foley

Saturday May 27 2023, 12.00am BST, The Sunday Times


The most newsworthy thing by a mile in the week of ridiculousness that arose around the GAA’s Go Games system wasn’t the email from the GAA reminding clubs to refrain from reworking non-competitive matches among children into proper competitions, but the fact the GAA actually had to send the email at all. If anyone thinks for a second the GAA is about to alter the ethos behind the best idea it has had in the past 20 years, forget it.

None of what the GAA said last week was new either, despite a level of noise that would make you think Croke Park itself had been razed to the ground. Under GAA rules, all children up to under-12 play small-sided games, everyone gets equal playing time, no scores are published, there are no competitions or trophies. Every last shred of research across sport tells you this approach works.

But a national argument erupted anyway. Pitted against the belief that skill development and equal playing time for all are the core essentials for players aged seven to 12, there was this idea that kids need to be exposed quickly to the reality of winning and losing as some kind of essential character-building experience before many of them are even clear on the situation with Santa Claus. What are we preparing them for exactly? War?

By every measure the Go Games concept has been an enormous success. Since the idea was first floated at a GAA coaching conference in 2004, any number of reports and analyses have shown exactly the impact. Surveys before 2004 showed huge numbers of children and teenagers dropping out of Gaelic games when matches were played as 15-a-side with subs and all the trappings of championship play.

In 2013 one piece of research from the GAA showed a 30 per cent increase in membership at the Go Games age-levels alone. The Go Games model also sits at the heart of the modern model the GAA has created. Developing skillsets together as children without separating players in terms of ability creates a sense of inclusion. If the vibe is right, the club becomes their community, their circle of friends. Whatever happens to them as players, fewer will want to leave. Get it right, and those players are the next generation of coaches, mentors, admin people, fundraisers.


Go Games is also a honeypot for new coaches. Most of the time teams are looked after by parents. Some of them have no previous involvement in Gaelic games. Go Games offers a low-pressure environment to figure out how to organise teams, focus on skill acquisition and simply deal with players, parents and other clubs.

How it impacts the adult game? One of the first counties to embrace the concept were the Dubs. That’s the Kilkenny/McCaffrey generation. Giving their kids more touches of the ball, more opportunities to develop their decision-making faculties, more chances to improve their skills and tons more games has worked out fairly well for them.

Whatever about the quality of the games at elite senior level — infected to a large degree, like this debate, by adults thinking too hard — if you ever marvel at the level of skill now on show compared to years ago, the emphasis on skill development over competition in the formative years is playing a clear role in that. But still the idea remains somehow rooted that children are being wrapped in cotton wool and taught that everyone’s a winner, baby.

It feels patronising to point out that children are just as competitive as any human being. Throw kids a ball at break time in school, with no referee and no trophy, they’ll show everyone how it should be done.

The Dubs were one of the first counties to embrace the concept, and their on-field performances from that generation have been full of quality

The Dubs were one of the first counties to embrace the concept, and their on-field performances from that generation have been full of quality



Of course they keep scores. Of course they ask who won at the end of every match. That’s the time when coaches are expected to act like adults and shift the emphasis from the outcome to what every child did well in the game, and where they can get better.

The real confusion last week was triggered by mangling the twin concepts of competitiveness and competition. Go Games don’t neuter a child’s competitive streak, but introducing competition begins the streamlining of children into various categories of ability. The best players always stay on the field. The rotating of players to make sure everyone gets a fair crack disappears. Players don’t get different stints as defender, attacker, goalkeeper or centrefielder. The developmental element is lost at the expense of something that really means nothing to that age group.

In a long social media thread defending the virtues of the Go Games model last week, Colm Crowley, a games development administrator in Cork, reflected on his own playing experience as a child and how every match for any eight-year-old is like an All-Ireland, but also the subtle difference therein. “I can tell you who I played in every game when I was U8,” he wrote. “I can’t tell you who won though.”

That’s the whole argument cornered. If coaches get frustrated with the lack of focus on competition and winning, so what? It’s not about them. “People will coach as they were coached,” Pat Daly, the genius mind who drove the Go Games concept as National Games Manager, said. That is the generation gap that coaches must strive to bridge. The name Go Games derived from the simple motto that every child gets a go. In the middle of the craziness, protecting that concept remains the most important thing.

That’s patently untrue, some might even say

More lies

Go Games aren’t woke nonsense or a sign society has gone soft - they are one of the best things about the GAA

The one thing you never have to teach kids playing sport is how to be competitive


Girls from the St Bridget’s GAA Club, Clonmore, Co Carlow and Bray Emmetts in Co Wicklow, greet each other at the LGFA Go Games Activity Day 2023 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Malachy Clerkin's face

Malachy Clerkin

Sat May 27 2023 - 05:00

Nothing changed this week. That’s the first thing worth saying about the sudden GAA Go Games brouhaha.

To anyone with only a passing interest in the subject, it might have seemed at times since Tuesday that the GAA was rolling out some big new departure, some freshly-minted revolution in the way they do things.

That’s not the case. Couldn’t be further from the case, in fact.

Go Games have been the official policy of the GAA since 2010. For 13 years, the association has been teaching its clubs and its coaches all the tenets of best practice that have been aired repeatedly this week.


Limerick v Cork: Shane Kingston can prove to be much more than a supersub for the Rebels

Limerick v Cork: Shane Kingston can prove to be much more than a supersub for the Rebels

Late Karl O’Connell point earns Monaghan deserved draw with Derry

Late Karl O’Connell point earns Monaghan deserved draw with Derry

Carlow edge Offaly to clinch Joe McDonagh Cup and promotion back to top tier

Carlow edge Offaly to clinch Joe McDonagh Cup and promotion back to top tier

Armagh scramble over the line to edge out Westmeath in close-fought encounter

Armagh scramble over the line to edge out Westmeath in close-fought encounter

For all kids up to under-12, that means small-sided games, it means equal playing time for all, it means not publishing scores, no semi-finals, no finals, no trophies. The only thing that happened this week was an email went around reminding people of the policy.

So no, this isn’t a bolt from the blue. It is not your final, damning proof that society has gone soft.

Neither is it the latest front in the culture wars, a fresh attempt by the GAA to foist some kind of woke agenda on the nation. Go Games have been a crucial – and successful – part of the make-up of youth sport here since long before you ever heard of woke.

[ ‘We nearly lost our boy due to men who needed the under-12 win to make them feel they were great’ ]

[ ‘Underage team sport is all about winning. It’s heart-breaking to see our son ignored and excluded’ ]

The second thing worth saying is that competitiveness is not a problem. Anyone who is involved in coaching kids in any sport will tell you that in a heartbeat.

Teaching kids the right way to hold a hurley is tricky. The mechanics of how to solo a football takes a while to compute in their brains. ”Near-hand tackle” is not a phrase they have any context for in the normal course of their lives so you have to invent fun and interesting ways for them to understand it.

Girls from the St Bridget’s club, Clonmore, Co Carlow and Bray Emmetts GAA club in Co Wicklow at the LGFA Go Games Activity Day 2023 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

But the one thing you never, ever have to teach a kid is how to be competitive.

Since they first realised that running was just a type of speeded-up walking, their little lizard brains have been able to process the idea of doing it faster than somebody else. And, for that matter, doing it slower. They want to win. They don’t want to lose. Human nature does the heavy lifting on that front.

At our under-8 camogie training the other night, one of the stations we set up worked on the Brick Flick. Girls in pairs, one hand halfway down the hurley, other hand up in a claw ready to catch, flicking the sliotar back and forth. Who can catch it? Who can catch two in a row? Which pair will be first to five? Now swap partners and start again.

It’s their first real foray into striking the ball out of their hand so the going was slow. You’re teaching little, tiny actions. Drop the ball onto the hurley instead of throwing it up. Keep the thumb on top, pointing down the stick. Try to catch with the fingers, not the palm of the hand. But at no stage did you have to tell any of them that the pair next door was on three catches while they were on two. They always know the score.

Sport is competitive. Not only would it be silly to deny that, it wouldn’t be desirable. But the whole point of not making scorelines and finals and trophies the focus is that once you define winning in those terms, it supersedes everything.

As soon as winning becomes a priority, life naturally gets better for the most talented kids. They get to play more often, in the positions they want to. They run on an escalator while the others do their best to keep pace climbing stairs.

But when they’re all still only learning the basics, it can’t be about the most talented kids. For a start, this isn’t Squid Game. There’s plenty of time for survival of the fittest after the age of 12.

Life in general is going to teach teenagers their fill of lessons about hierarchies and success and failure without us needing to drill it into them at the sports club they come to for fun a couple of nights a week.

Children from St Bridget’s club, Clonmore, Co Carlow, and Dromard GAA Club in Longford at the LGFA Go Games Activity Day 2023 at Croke Park in Dublin. Photograph: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

More to the point, it doesn’t work. Study after study has shown that early focus on winning is self-defeating in the long run. Go through all the sports, read up on all the systems that have borne fruit – somewhere along the way you’ll find a point at which the penny dropped and things changed.

Belgian soccer is one of the most famous examples of the past 20 years. After a poor performance at home in Euro 2000, they filmed 1,500 youth matches across different age groups and their analysis found that eight- and nine-year-olds were on average touching the ball twice in a half.

One problem was the teams and pitches were too big – it was all 11 v 11. The other was that there was too much emphasis on winning so the best players got on the ball and the others made do with scraps.

So they tore it all up and changed everything about the way they coached kids. Go through their coaching manuals and everything that’s in Go Games has a version in there as well.

They don’t allow games of more than 5 v 5 until under-8. Then it’s four years of 8 v 8 between under-10 and under-14. Critically, no league tables until under-14. By changing the emphasis from winning to retention and development, they brought through more players than ever before. And along the way, Belgium’s golden generation bubbled up.

Getting rid of cups and trophies and all that stuff for young kids isn’t airy-fairy nonsense. It’s a key building block in the developmental stage of the world’s most vicious, most ruthless professional sports. The biggest sporting organisation in Ireland would be stone mad to do any different.

There’s no end of things to complain about in the GAA. Go Games are not one of them.

A Clerkin towing the company line.

Is it a coincidence that Belgiums golden generation can’t win anything?

1 Like

Have you learned nothing? You can’t measure success by silverware or winning things.

Kev’s gone mainstream


Bump the thread lads

I did question the value of the Sports Science group when it was established by the GAA. Not because they aren’t quality people and practitioners — they are excellent. I know some of them.

1 Like

It’s all about keeping Lukaku involved and happy

Ah that’s unreal. Hon @caoimhaoin