The Energia Women’s All-Ireland League may be on hiatus at present, but that hasn’t stopped coaches from looking at new ways to educate and improve themselves.
All 10 clubs have been participating in an IRFU Coach Development Workshop designed specifically for Energia Women’s AIL coaches, and it’s proving a success.
“We’d been exploring over the summer what we could do for coaches this year to service their development needs and felt these would be an appropriate cohort to target,” says IRFU Coach Development Manager Jamie Turkington.
“There’s a couple of things that make it really engaging for the participants. They chose the areas they wanted to explore and we went after the experts we felt would best support their learning in the game that they coach.”
The series has just reached the halfway point in the season. They started in September with IRFU High Performance Referee Coach John Lacey and a workshop on laws and breakdown interpretation. Team Attack was next with Ireland Women’s Head Coach Adam Griggs and their most recent workshop was with Ireland Women’s Defence Coach Kieran Hallett.
Ireland Women’s Forwards Coach Steve McGinnis will look at ruck, maul and continuity before Jamie Turkington concludes the series with a look at the coaching process and pedagogy.
“The other piece is around how we format the sessions,” says Turkington. “We’re up front about the fact that we challenge the coaches and they often leave each workshop with more questions than they arrive with. That’s no bad thing – it’s identified new areas of their coaching they want to develop and understand more about.
“The workshops have been set up to share some information but then allow the coaches to break out and discuss content with their peers. It’s a really important part of the process.
Coaches are seeing other coaching and thinking about the game in a way that’s more relevant to their players.”
Coaches would much rather be on touchlines than MS Teams at this time of year, but that hasn’t stopped them from making the most of the workshops, says IRFU Women’s Development Manager Amanda Greensmith.
“It’s been a challenging year for AIL clubs,” she says. “We’ve had competitions rolled out and rolled back in again, but it’s been really encouraging to see how coaches have stayed engaged and continue to be engaged with the programme.
“It’s something they’ve really jumped on board with and because it’s online, we’ve been able to extend the offering. Traditionally we’d assemble together for three days of workshops. This has allowed us to expand and cover a more of the topics that coaches themselves have identified. It’s more accessible.
“I’ve sat in on a few of the sessions and there’s definitely an openness there, particularly in the breakout rooms. You’re hearing honest conversations between clubs who are new to the league and clubs who are a lot more established and it works both ways. There are plenty of aha moments where you can actually see coaches change their perception around aspects of the game.
“There’s a huge enthusiasm to get back out there and put into action what they’ve learned during this down time.”
Jamie Turkington says the success of the Energia Women’s AIL Coaches Workshops and the switch to online learning environments will shape what IRFU education offerings will look like in the years to come.
“The use of technology going forward will allow us to connect coaches more readily. Not that it needs to be going on all the time, but travel and time are the two biggest obstacles to coach education and coach development.
“Blending virtual classrooms with face-to-face contact will be the way forward to present coaches with development opportunities on a more regular basis.”