Interactive GAA booklets providing inspiration across other sports
THE success of the ‘Live, Love, Learn Gaelic Games’ series has led Michael Gerard Doherty down some unexpected roads – and none moreso than seeing his unique ideas transfer into different sporting fields.
It is just over a year since Doherty launched his interactive booklets, which are aimed at primary school children but go far beyond traditional coaching tips and techniques, focusing equally on feelings, frustrations and, most importantly, fun.
Admitting he was “going slightly into the unknown”, ‘Live, Love, Learn Gaelic Games’ has turned out to be a huge hit with the GAA community, as clubs and counties across Ireland – indeed, across the world – have jumped onboard.
And the transferable nature of the material within the booklets appealed instantly to author Gordon MacLelland.
He is involved with ‘Working with Parents in Sport’ - which supports organisations, parents and coaches “working together to provide children with the best possible sporting experiences” - and has links with national governing bodies globally.
As a result, and in conjunction with Doherty, they have already produced equivalents in soccer, cricket, gymnastics and rugby called ‘Our Sporting Journey’, with tennis, swimming, hockey, netball, badminton, Judo and golf versions also in the works – and some leading sports personalities keen to get involved.
“It’s been a really busy time, but this is such an exciting development,” said the west Belfast man, a primary school teacher at Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh and a juvenile coach with Sarsfield’s.
“When Gordon and I got chatting, he just saw a real scope for developing the idea. The likes of soccer, cricket, rugby, they’re sports I have no background in, so it was really interesting for me to see the values that I associated with Gaelic games being broadened out.
“The sense of community, not just being there to learn a sport or pick up physical skills but the nurturing side, social and emotional development, bringing parents on board... all of those are relevant across the board when it comes to sport.
“You could almost look upon it as translating the original booklets and while nothing is being rushed, eventually we hope to hit as many sports as time allows.”
Before Christmas Doherty produced 1,000 booklets for Leinster Rugby, while the success of the ‘Live, Love, Learn Gaelic Games’ booklets and subsequent coaching videos going viral on social media - one using teddy bears instead of footballs - saw him invited to host a workshop for Dublin GAA.
It has been an enjoyable ride so far, and is one Doherty hopes will continue to throw up surprises.
“When I started out, I could never have foreseen this sort of scope or potential reach - for me it was a Microsoft Word document for my own club.
“And then you have Owen Mooney, head of learning and games for Dublin GAA, asking me to come down and do a talk. Owen was somebody who really pushed me at the beginning, and gave me the confidence to share the booklets with other clubs and offer it out there as a resource.
“Seeing everything coming together, it does your heart good. It’s amazing that people see underage coaching as an opportunity to get as many people and families together in a setting where they feel their worth, and give people a sense of value.
“To me, that’s the most important and the most fulfilling part of it all.”