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Improving Support Play
By: Paul Clarke
One of the skills and tactical elements of Gaelic Football that tends to let teams down is the breakdown of their support play at key times in matches. This may take the form of lack of options for the man on the ball, badly timed runs or badly angled runs. The net result is that all the hard work done to gain possession and work it to within sight of goal is undone, possession may be turned over and the chance to add another score is lost. Given that you have possession these are situations that are totally controllable and fortunately can be worked on in training.
My strategy here is to introduce the subject of Support Play using a drill exercise that allows us ensure that passing is accurate, runs are made at the right time and that good communication exists. Then, in the spirit of ensuring players have an understanding from a game-sense point of view we elaborate into a game situation with conditioned rules etc.
The drill can be started with one ball and will probably be initially used as a hand-pass drill, but could also be used for foot-passing. The idea is that at all times the ball is moved quickly, accurately and that passes are placed for the oncoming man to run on to. Also players get used to running at angles to the player in possession.
To increase the level of difficulty more balls can be added as required. In terms of training/energy system demands and training goals we can cater here by adjusting the amount of time spent n the drill or adjusting the size of the drill area. It is also an ideal way to practice passing with the weaker hand in a somewhat pressured situation.
In order to develop the skill further and bring the concept into a more life-like scenario I would then suggest creating a game situation whereby the onus is on good support running for the player on the ball. This is achieved by using the following conditioned game called “Changing Lanes”.
Again, depending on the number of players, energy system you are working on and time of season the size of the pitch will vary. Regardless of the pitch size, the idea is to lay down some flat markers to create “lanes” on the pitch (approx. 6 ). Players then play a match but are only allowed to pass the ball to a player in another lane and not to anyone in the same lane. This encourages movement, angled running and that players don’t get stuck without support.
The game can be made more difficult and match specific by introducing rules such as limited time in possession by any player (2 seconds on the ball),a rule that once you give a pass you must make yourself available for the return or indeed playing in complete silence to ensure that rather than standing shouting for a pass players need to move and make themselves available. Again, you are limited here only by imagination. The rules should ultimately be informed by whatever playing style you wish to adapt.
Finally, having worked on support play it is time to remove the lanes and play a normal match on a normal pitch to see how much the players have learned. Here it is essential that we reinforce the key coaching points and learnings from the previous drill and game. Breaks during short games for recovery should be used to gauge players understanding of the concept and also to help remove any “barriers”, so to speak, that they may have around this key learning area.
Paul Clarke has 12 years experience in physical performance coaching across a range of age groups and capabilities. Paul brings to the player/coach relationship a full understanding of the specific requirements of Gaelic Games players, in terms of what they need to both enhance their on-field performance on a long-term basis and to remain injury-free over the long-term also.
Paul's approach is very much centred on ensuring the player’s performance training is geared as specifically as possible to the game and positional demands and also to their development areas that they themselves have identified.
Paul find's the best results are achieved by working in partnerships with players by way of taking a holistic approach to the players overall development needs in terms of their sport and not just their physical needs.
Paul's Credentials include:
• Meath Minor Gaelic Football team. Coach and Trainer 2008-2009 (Leinster Champions 2008)
• Performance Analyst and Prehab Coach Meath Senior Gaelic Football team 2007 (All Ireland Semi- Finalists & NFL Div.2 Champions)
• Development Coach to Meath U-13 football development squads 2006
• Pre-Season Strength & Conditioing; Dublin Hurlers 2009
• Club Coach in Meath/Louth at Adult, U-21 and Minor levels.
• Personal Fitness, Strength & Conditioning coach to many club and representative players
• Unique offering of Movement Screens and Assessments. Acts as key indicator of body's weak areas and sites of potential injury
• SAQ Accredited.
• Member of Lucozade Sport High Performance Panel
• Accredited Fitness, Strength and Conditioning Coach
• Certified Personal Trainer
• Member of Nutrition & Health Foundation Physical Activity Expert Panel 2010
• Physical Performance advisor to Meath Minor Football team 2011.
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