Karen Guthrie and Maggie Farrelly of Donegal Sports Partnership
Coaches of teenage boys and girls across a range of sports are invited to attend a special regional coaching course in Letterkenny next week.
The I COACH KIDS coaching conference is taking place at Donegal ATU's Letterkenny campus on Thursday, September 1 at 6.30 pm, and anyone who is coaching teenage boys and girls, or involved in any capacity is asked to come along.
The aim is to empower people and give them the confidence and skills to develop future generations, and a positive sporting experience for all children.
Coaches who attend on the day will be provided with specific directed learning on the day of the conference, as well as being signposted to self-directed learning opportunities through Sport Ireland and the I COACH KIDS website.
Donegal Sports Partnership (DSP), one of the partners involved in the Regional Coaching Conference, continues to be extremely proactive when it comes to encouraging and supporting women in sport - be that participating or coaching.
Two of DSP's staff members, Maggie Farrelly and Karen Guthrie, are actively involved in helping females to remain within their sports and clubs, and progress to roles with responsibility in their day-to-day work.
The importance of coach education at a grassroots level is something inter-county referee, Maggie Farrelly, is always mindful of.
"The primary aim of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association Programme is coach education in clubs to help develop players in an environment where it's positive, and in a way that allows girls to develop at their own pace," Maggie said.
"The core emphasis is fun and enjoyment. Essentially, it's about retaining girls within the sport for longer periods. The ZuCar Gaelic For Teams Programme is for girls aged between 13 and 18. We see a significant dropout around the 15 and 16-year age bracket and teams struggle to retain players,” the DSP Education and Training Coordinator added.
"The programme creates awareness for coaches of the individual needs of girls and the commitments they have such as work, study and other activities. When they come to a certain age, they have other distractions. So, through the programme, we try and look at how to facilitate the needs of girls so that they aren't training three nights a week and doing two gym sessions per week which isn't ideal for them."
"We had a total of 23 women who took part in programmes and they came from an array of different sports, and with different experiences. They were all from different age profiles and had different roles in their respective clubs."
Pointing out that the DSP is planning to run a third programme in October, she added: "The objective is to build confidence and self-belief and help them to devise their own leadership style and recognise the leadership qualities they have. It focuses on resilience and the whole area of knockbacks, and how to deal with them and find solutions. Communication is also an important aspect of the programme."
Through her experience delivering various courses as a tutor for the LGFA and Sport Ireland, Maggie said a lot of females refer to themselves as 'the assistant coach.'
"So, they're just basically setting up the cones, tying laces and taking children for the water breaks or to the toilets. They also say the male coach does the coaching in about 80% of the cases. They're happy to take a back seat and are happy enough to be involved because their children are involved. That means there's only a fifth who are actively coaching, who are taking the lead and happy to be referred to as the head coach.
"We are also hoping for a strong female representation at the I COACH KIDS conference which is taking place in Letterkenny at the start of September.”
DSP’s Community Development Officer, Karen Guthrie, revealed that in terms of programmes she helps deliver in schools, the participation levels among males and females are around fifty-fifty.
"Females in Donegal are availing of the various opportunities to get out and get active in their local communities through different organised events and sessions,” the Donegal senior footballer commented.
“We've just had the HERS Outdoors Week Paddle Journey which saw women from all backgrounds and abilities across Ireland come together to paddle a combined distance of 40,000 km, the total circumference of the earth. As part of that week-long event, we had kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding events in Maghery and Gartan."
She continued: "I’d say there's definitely a significant increase in the number of females taking part in cycling. With the investment, it allows us to provide opportunities to encourage women back to cycling. Over the last number of years, we've held initiatives in the community aimed at people who cycled when they were younger but hadn't been on a bike for maybe 20, 30 or 40 years.
"Cycling continues to grow in popularity and that's probably because it's so inclusive and accessible. It's recreational and it's appealing for people of any age; the cycle-to-work provision has really boosted the number of people buying bikes for the first time,” she added.
Noting that the role of Donegal Sports Partnership is to deliver programmes on the ground to help communities, Karen added: “Part of that role is to invest and engage with females with the objective of getting them involved in sports clubs. We've also seen a notable increase in the number of females taking part in adventure races and in Parkruns and we're delighted to support the Donegal Oil Women's Only Adventure Race in Gartan on October 9th.
“Transferring that participation into involvement within their local clubs and groups is the next big challenge now and that's where the benefit of capacity building and coach education comes into play - it's providing all the tools and resources to take that next step that will greatly enhance their confidence and self-belief,” she said.
To register for the conference in Letterkenny on Thursday, September 1, follow the link below:
To register for the conference in Sligo on Saturday, September 3rd, follow the link below:
The cost per coach is €10.
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