09 Aug 2022

Kilkenny GAA blueprint: Development Squads system and approach to coaching to change

Kilkenny GAA blueprint: Development Squads system and approach to coaching to change

A new approach to development squads, plus a refocus on the coaching of young players in clubs, were the key points of two information nights hosted by the Kilkenny Coaching & Games Committee recently.
More than 500 people attended the discussions, which included members of all Kilkenny hurling and Gaelic football squads from under-14 to under-17 levels as well as their parents/guardians, squad coaches and mentors.
New Age Grades
Chairman of the Kilkenny Coaching and Games Committee Pat Tynan (Danesfort) welcomed the large attendance on both nights.
He spoke of the changes in ages for competitions. Under-7 participants will be called ‘Kittens’, the under-9 players will be ‘Cats’ with under-11 participants called ‘Cubs’. Players at under-13, 15 and 17 grades will fall under the jurisdiction of Kilkenny Bórd na nÓg.
Inter-county squads will continue at U14, U15, U16 & U17 levels with Kilkenny participating in the following tournaments this year:
Two under-14 squads will compete in the Tony Forristal and Sonny Walsh Tournaments in Waterford, with two under-154 squads in action in the Arrabawn & Tipperary Tournament.
Kilkenny will also have two under-16 squads competing in the Michael Foley Tournament in Wexford while at under-17 level Kilkenny will participate in the Celtic Challenge with a squad of players from the extended 2018 county minor and under-16 squads.
Kilkenny will also participate in the minor hurling championship which, from this year, is at under-17 grade. No under-17 players will be allowed to play at adult levels in future.
Mr Tynan noted another new initiative this year, whereby all squad members are required to wear Kilkenny gear which will clearly identify their involvement with a Kilkenny development squad. This will ensure that the Kilkenny GAA identify is to the forefront at all times.
Development Squads
Kilkenny Games Development Manager, Brian Ryan, outlined his role and that of his two colleagues Sean Kelly and P.J. Ryan in helping to turn the potential of young players into talented hurlers, developing their skills along the way.
Mr Ryan identified the values of involvement with a Kilkenny GAA development squad where players are seen as role models by their club peers, with an aim to be the best they can be for their club and county. Squad involvement is ultimately geared at preparing young players for inter-county action, while improving friendship among players plus developing their social skills are key elements of the development squad system.
Squad involvement also helps to develop coaches. It was noted that the most of the individuals currently involved with Kilkenny minor, under-21 and senior teams have worked as development squad coaches at some stage.
Mr Ryan emphasised the importance of a proper games-based approach to player development, stressing the need for a balance between skill development and physical development of young players.
At the core of such development was, in the words of Mr. Ryan, “the need for all players involved with development squads to enjoy the experience”.
Delivering an appropriate games programme requires close co-operation between Kilkenny Coaching and Games Committee and Kilkenny Bórd na nÓg. This will ensure that all development squad activities are factored into the enhanced games schedule.
It has been decided to base all development squads at the MW Hire Centre this year. An invitation has been extended to club coaches to attend the Saturday morning sessions to see at first-hand how the programme is being delivered. All development squad dates will be published in due course on the Kilkenny GAA website.
Late developers are not been forgotten either. Two regional development squads (North & South) are being established this year.
Clubs will be invited to send players to the coaching sessions, which will be held at the same time as the development squad sessions. The regional programme will ensure that players who may not have been selected to date for development squads now have another route on to the squads.
Garda Vetting
Legislation changes means clubs must upskill anyone working with young players.
Under new Government legislation, ‘The Children’s First Act’, means every GAA club must ensure that anyone dealing with young players has undertaken a Safeguarding Course and they must also be Garda vetted.
Kilkenny Youth Officer, Caroline Clifford stressed the importance of all clubs adhering to the new regulations which are now compulsory.
Safeguarding courses are currently being delivered by Conor Brennan (Conahy Shamrocks) and an additional tutor, Carmel Kenny (Clara) will also commence rolling out the training in the near future. Ms Clifford noted that there was an onus on each club to organise the training with the qualified tutors.
Most clubs, she noted, should be well-used to Garda vetting procedures, although she stressed that new Officers may not be as familiar with the process.
The club Children’s Officer is the key individual overseeing the submission of Garda Vetting applications. If clubs are in any doubt as to what they should do they are advised to contact the Kilkenny Youth Officer, Caroline Clifford. The Garda Vetting form is available for downloading from the Kilkenny GAA web site.
Club personnel involved with young players (from Under 18 down) are obliged to undergo the Safe Guarding course every three years, while individuals must renew their Garda Vetting status every five years.
Learning from former Stars and other sports
The importance of the skills of the game and the need for constant practice is vital to give development squad players every opportunity to progress on to the senior hurling panel.
Former Kilkenny senior hurler Tommy Walsh addressed the meeting, encouraging young players to focus on passion, commitment and self-determination as a pathway for success.
Manager of the Leinster Rugby Academy, Peter Smyth, also gave an insightful talk on how his province develops its young rugby players. It was clear from his address that there is much common ground between the GAA and rugby in how both implement their Player Development Pathway programmes.
See next week’s Kilkenny People for more

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