I am interested to see what kind of a review will take place by the Mayo County Board and I suppose equally fascinated as to who will have the responsibility for carrying out this review. If it was done properly, I believe it would highlight significant shortcomings in our GAA structures locally. If addressed professionally it could present a great opportunity to highlight a number of issues that need to be changed, and if changes were implemented then the review would have served its purpose and be a good thing. We surely now realise that we are breeding players who are not delivering on the big stage. We are producing players that continuously look for excuses and opportunities to apportion blame on others. Of course players are not blameless, but we must look at the system that is producing our inter-county footballers. The review should scrutinise the performance of our county board officers. Someone should take a close look at their roles and benchmark their performance since taking up office. After all players and management are benchmarked by their progress or lack of on the football field. It is as we know a result driven business. For these and other reasons I would suggest that an outside agency, ie, one removed from the local GAA scene should be tasked with conducting the review. However the summer season just does not seem like an appropriate time to conduct interviews and carry out an investigation into what is wrong with our current system. It should be carried out during the winter months, when people have a little more time to discuss issues. I am aware that at least six counties have conducted reviews in the last year, so the template is out there already. Incidentally one of those counties that initiated a review of its current practices of the preparation of its inter-county players was Cork, not a county where you would perceive there to be a problem. But that is an important point too; reviews should be ongoing and not just conducted when there is a problem.
What needs to come out of the review
So let us assume this review does go ahead, what would I like to see come out of it?
I have noticed a huge inconsistency in the levels of coaching in the county. Invariably we have a lot of very interested parents that get involved with under age teams. I am not underestimating their enthusiasm, but if we are to improve we must ensure that coaching at all age levels must be player centred, coach driven, and service supported. Experienced /qualified coaches must be deployed across all ages (ie, youth level should not be the default entry grade for inexperienced coaches ). Coaches must strive to and be supported in creating a positive, dynamic, and consistent training environment for all, with a planned approach to training and progression.
Physical fitness /conditioning should be progressively introduced into training programmes as appropriate, but it needs to be structured and monitored by competent, qualified personnel. I would insist that the County Board should have a monitoring structure to prevent player overuse, managed through a player co-ordinator or welfare officer.
Player education and development should be supported by sports science and lifestyle inputs such as nutrition, injury prevention, mental preparation, and strength conditioning and performance analysis. I would advocate a tracking system to monitor player progress. This would be achieved by issuing individual player log books and training diaries, with players encouraged to take ownership of their training and progress. Fitness tests (every six weeks ) with access to independent experts would also be essential. A mid season evaluation and an end of season report of progress with recommendations compiled by qualified coaches would be good.
I would like to see a club coaching and games co-ordinator appointed/selected in every club. This person would be responsible for ensuring a rewarding progression for all its players and to ensure quality coaching sessions are provided. An additional responsibility might be to forge close links with the local national and secondary schools.
The introduction of just some of these recommendations would require an investment, and to ensure greater transparency in this area, I would recommend that we should have clearly defined cost centres and revenues streams (eg, from summer camps ) as part of a new quality control system. We need clear channels and procedures in place regarding coaching and games budgets (eg, processing of requests and allocation of spending ). The allocation of specific coaching and games budgets (as per clearly defined cost centres ) should be anticipated and agreed (with treasurer ) on a quarterly basis, and finally coaching and games accounts would be audited annually. This would be a start, as I feel we must get things right at club level before we see an improvement.