DUAL CAREER – SOCCER & STUDYING IN IRELAND

Text and pictures: Stephen Clark

My EU Job Shadowing project took me to the Galway Technical Institute, located in the center of Galway city, Ireland. It is one of the leading colleges of Further Education in Ireland. The project involved observing the teachers and coaching personnel working on the Elite Soccer – Performance & Coaching degree.

COACHING & LECTURES

Professional level Coaching was held three mornings a week at the local training center. It was led by the course leader, a UEFA Pro license coach,and his Spanish assistant,the class of fourteen was made up of players from semi-professional clubs in Galway and surrounding districts. The coaching content was similar to that of Jyväskylä’s Sports academy,but it was interesting to learn how the emphasis was put on specific coaching points, and how the players communicated with the coaches and each other. Monday’s training was in preparation for a midweek national school’s game against Waterford that GTI won 4-2, and so progressed to the semi-final stage. The game was played at a fast tempo, with no lack of skill or effort on display, qualities that I will endeavor to develop in my own players. The students had a very positive attitude to training and lectures, coaches and teachers are able to feed off this enthusiasm, and this makes the whole experience more rewarding and enjoyable for both coaches and players.

Lectures were held in the school’s main building,nearby classrooms and at the training ground. Course content consisted of Modules in Soccer Coaching, Sport & Recreation, Exercise & Fitness, Sports Injury Prevention, Sports Anatomy & Physiology, Nutrition and Communications.

The Soccer Coaching module was led by the Irish Football Association’s Regional Development Officer and on completion enables students to plan and deliver appropriate practices for 6-12 year old soccer players. This module I believe should definitely be incorporated into the Finnish football academy program!

As part of their Health Promotion project, students were assigned to design and deliver a health promotion program. While sitting in on the final fifteen minute visual presentation, I was reminded how important oral communication and presentation is. If Finnish players are required to plan and take responsibility for their own training sessions, they will develop a greater self ownership and confidence which will then hopefully transfer into the games.

The Exercise & Fitness module required the students to design a six week fitness program. The class I attended was held in a nearby gymnasium. While students experimented with various fitness apparatus relating to what they were planning, the course leader held brief individual discussions with the students regarding how their project was progressing. This bought home to me how in my own work how important coach/player communication is, in all aspects of their football and academic development.

QUALIFICATIONS

On completion of the one year course students gain qualifications in Sport, Recreation & Exercise. An FAI Coaching Qualification, and Qualification as a Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor.  Players have graduated to play professional football in Ireland and England, and in the semi-pro ranks.

CONCLUSSION

This was an invaluable experience in term of my development as a teacher and coach. Galway GTI’s program is organized and presented very professionally ,and I would like to make a return visit in the near future.

Teacher/Student communication skills,course content, presentation skills, and stepping out of your comfort zone are just a few of ideas that arose from this visit.

I certainly think that some of the theoretical modules should be added to the sports coaching program in Jyväskylä, or why not the whole course be added to the curriculum at Gradia Vocational Institute!

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