Coaching and Life at Games Development Conference

This is, or is supposed to be at least, a down time in the GAA. A time to recharge and get ready for the seasons that lie ahead.

On Friday evening and Saturday 1,000 coaches and administrators from across the GAA came together to do that at the GAA Games Conference, sponsored again this year by Sky Sports.

There were multiple strands of presentation and conversation taking place around the many rooms of Croke Park but the common theme of this year’s event was wellbeing.

Over the past twelve months especially that phrase has developed with a much clearer focus on what it is and a realisation of its importance.

Former Waterford Senior Hurling Manager Derek McGrath was the keynote speaker, telling his story of the different ways in which life had prepared him to take on that role and how his career as a teacher had been key to what it was he imparted to his players.

The title of his talk was ‘Combining the Me and the We’, which some would dismiss as being too ‘soft’ to have a place in the world of competitive sport but a big part of the whole day’s underlying principle was how much that world of sport was impacted by what goes on in the ‘real’ world beyond the dressing room.

Sky Sports analysts Jamesie O’Connor and JJ Delaney spoke about the impact their managers Ger Loughnane and Brian Cody had on them, on and off the pitch and you were left with the clear impression that it was the impact on life rather than sport that was the most important.

Both managers, as well as McGrath, were teachers and that was obviously an impact on how they approached the importance of imparting knowledge.

There were keynote presentations as well from Tony Hanahoe and from Bernard Dunne who spoke eloquently about the transition from being an athlete to his second life beyond the ring.

Dunne is now the High Performance Director for Irish Boxing and deep in the preparation of Team Ireland from European and World Championships as well as the 2020 Olympics.

He has also been part of the most succesful Dublin football team in history as well and that idea of taking learnings from across multiple sports and multiple facets of life was another key theme of the day.

The reaction from those who attended was that this was a weekend that would stick with them throughout the year ahead, and make them better coaches and better people.

Everyone you asked had a different highlight with Liam Moggan coming in for special praise for his piece on the continuous nature of coaching and development and others highlighting talks from international coaches and picking up bits from each of them.

You’d have to say then that was job done by Pat Daly, Pat Lehane and the Games Development team of the GAA.

Exactly what down time away from the immediacy of games and results should be about.


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