A Busy 2 Weeks in October

CardiffLooking back on the first two weeks of October and it has been a busy time with a variety of activities. The Welsh Team Championship in Cardiff was a great experience for Mair and James getting to play in a team event, playing new opposition as well a bit of “foreign” culture and making new friends. I don’t know whether is was an “economical” success as it was expensive and I think we would have all preferred a few more matches, but I got to see my mum and nephew and the atmosphere in Cardiff with the World Cup Rugby in town was great.

I look forward to the Monday sessions in Goleen at the moment. We have very few playing but I do have three very young lads (7yrs-8yrs) and with the older ones experienced enough now to train away on their own with a few drills I feel I am making some very significant progress with these youngsters. Last season we did have some problems as we had a few emotional outburst but I have restructured some of the “competitive” aspects of training, toning it down considerably and using the “divide and conquer” theory has appeared to be successful so far. They are very much driven by wanting to win all the time and getting upset when they don’t but the focus is now on personal goal setting and they are progressing well with the “learning to train” stage.
One of my highlights so far this season may seem insignificant but I have a player Niamh in my Special Olympics group (in fact I have 2 Niamhs!), 2 years ago she was unable to hold a bat but would sit and watch every week till I finally encouraged (persuaded!) her to try to take up a bat and give it a go. I found the lightest bat I could, a plastic one with a narrow handle and she was just about able to hold it against the ball. With some tinkering on how to hold it I finally got her to push the ball along the table, which had no net. Over the next few months I added the net and she would work away on one of the tables with a catching net going through box after box of balls, which she obviously enjoyed as I never had to persuade her to get on the table. She eventually joined the main group in a game of what we refer to as “Superstar” a service game, where you try to serve into a target box on the other side of the net and the first to 5 wins. Last week she won for the first time and did a lap of honour, no mean feat in itself as she is not very mobile having some major physical problems. She high fived everyone she could find and had the broadest of grins for the rest of the session. This week our second Niamh, who is in a wheelchair won her first game of “Superstar.” These may appear to be small achievements when compared to Munster and Irish Titles but for me as a coach they give me as much pleasure and possibly more in regards to my own personal motivation than the medals and trophies of our elite players.
Last Wednesday I finally managed to persuade one of the girls from my Gaelscoil session to attend the Bantry TTC session and we now have 6 girls in our little group. I didn’t manage to persuade Trinity to come along to the Munster Development Session in Kinsale over the weekend but she is potentially a good U11 prospect and the same age as Suki which might help bring them both on. I do think it is important to establish a group of girls as in my experience they train better in a group situation.
On Sunday I went along to help out at the Munster Development and Performance Sessions in Kinsale. This is the first session delivered under the new Munster Performance Strategy and was in some doubt as the Munster Performance Director resigned their position at the last minute. They were elected at the end of last season and we had hoped for a performance strategy to be outlined months ago. A planned camp last month was cancelled and with no definite plans on the table it looked like we were heading for yet another year without any type of program. Thankfully the Munster Chairman Alan Hurley stepped in to take on the role temporarily and I agreed to assist and with the help of Amy Lou Hayes I think we managed to deliver a really good camp for about 40 players. Mair and James were unable to make it but Niall O’Driscoll, Erik Olsson, Jasmine and Suki made the trip up and I think they both enjoyed it and benefitted from it.

This week I have Mair with me doing the first week of her transition year work experience. We had a trip up to Hazelwood College in Co. Limerick on Monday with the launch of the new Munster Kick Start program. It was a 6am start and we saw the sun rise over the mountain on our way through Gougane Barra. There were three secondary schools taking part with 50 players in all. It was a solid 6hrs of coaching which is enough to tax anyone but Mair did really well and was a definite asset. I managed to get home just before my local Community Council meeting so it was an exceptionally long day and tiring.
Yesterday I was back at CoAction with Mair helping out and it was a good session with loads of activity, Mair really seems to enjoy working with the Special Needs crew and they love her as she is always smiling away.


Then we were back to my Schull Community College session which was a little disappointing after an increase in numbers last week we had very few. One of the 1st year Spanish exchange students, who is in the school for a year, appears very keen and learns quickly, even after one session he picked up the hook serve very well and he will be an asset for our School B Team.
I was back then to Skibbereen for a session at the Abbeystrewry Parish Hall where I had my first session there last week with 7 youngsters. The hall floor is quite badly bowed and the 3 tables are very poor but I remember the first year at the Gaelscoil in Bantry when we had a dirt floor, no roof and no electricity and now we have it all. I have offered to lend one of my tables to the club and they are talking of putting in a new floor at some stage so we will soldier on. The kids are very keen, mostly to play matches but I have managed to do some work on their serves and I tried out multiball this week with Mair looking after the other two tables. I think this is likely to be a “slow burner” but from little acorns……..
I am taking Mair to the Bantry Club session today and she will also have the Gaelscoil Bantry Session before the end of the week, The Friday evening session has had to be cancelled as it is prize giving night at Schull CC and most of the kids will be going there. Thursday evening is parent teacher’s meetings so it will be a rush to finish in Bantry and get back in time. The juggling between family and work life will continue.
Mair and James have been selected for the Irish Junior Squad up to Christmas and Mair is very keen to give it a go. With James snowed under with his Junior Cert. year he will have to make a decision as to whether he will be able to do both, never an easy choice but he is a responsible lad and whatever he chooses we will support him.
So that’s a couple of weeks in brief! We have the West Cork Munster Ranking at the beginning of November to work towards and I am hoping to get a few teams together for the Munster Schools League as well, so “drive on Owen” as they say round here.