Player Profile

Stephen Mullins

Young Knites


Ballina Stephenites GAA Club's Director of Coaching chats to journalist Terry Reilly

 When Ballina Stephenites became the first club in Ireland to set up a dedicated Bord na nÓg structure the foundations were put in place to compete at the highest level for the next 40 years. Last year the club completed a complete review of the current structures and found while the systems of old had stood us in good shape, future survival required a shake up. A restructuring of our underage set up led to the creation of the Young Knites Academy under the direction of Director of Coaching Eanna Casey.  

The club’s focus at underage level will now be broken up into different categories to cater for the needs of our young players at the different stages of their development.

The Young Knites will now effectively incorporate all young footballers in the Bord na nÓg ranks with a particular focus on those under the age of 12. It this stage most of the technical fundamentals of Gaelic football should have been coached extensively and there is a coaching shift to team play and tactical prowess. 

   "There is a different focus at each age group withing the structure and we aim to coach at an age and stage appropriate level." 

“We’re hoping to teach children how to train. Once they graduate as Young Knites they should have the basic technical fundamentals to carry them through for the rest of their career,” said Eanna.

“Not every player who comes in will stay playing football. We talked to Crossmaglen and part of this process will be to adopt a strategy they have used to develop their club to what it is today. They want their members to stay in active roles until they are 25. That encourages kids to learn how to run a club and take leadership roles. It’s not all about developing players, it’s about developing young men.

“We’re working to establish life-long skills in our players which they can carry with them forever. It’s not a fool proof system and we’re not saying this is the finished article. We as a club realise we have got to learn and constantly adapt. This is just a platform to work off.” 

The U6 (academy level) starts in early March in the club on Sunday mornings at 11.30am while the rugby season is ongoing. When the rugby season ends the U6s will switch to Saturday mornings at 11.30am. With an already under resourced coaching core, the challenge is to find fresh coaches to help out.

“That’s something we’ve been doing for the past few months. We’re looking to past players, current players, parents, ambitious coaches to help us out. We have a good body in place now but with kids at this age you can’t have enough coaches. 

“Some people think they need to be experts but this is something anyone can do. We’re all learning together with this.

   "One of my inspirations in a coaching sense - Coach Nick Saban of the University if Alabama American football team once said 'I've never met a human being or encountered a new situation I didn't learn something from'. That's my mantra and approach to this venture. You always have to remain in a learning frame of mind and anybody who feels they have something to give in a coaching sense at any level is more than welcome to come on board. Every level from u6 to minor u18 is equally important in my mind."

The programme will work on six key areas aimed at enabling children in a fun environment. 

Agility exercises through activities with games like dodgems, musical chairs, shadows and minefield

Balance exercises and activities like copy cat, leaning tower, animal walk

Coordination exercises and activities like circle time, log roll, stepping stones

Throwing, catching and passing through a series of fun games like bounce and shoot, roll and pick up, piggy in the middle

Kicking, the essential element of Gaelic football, using a variety of balls and beanbags and games like minefield dribble, ground kick and dribble and shoot

Team games to teach the children about teamwork, use of space and fair play through games like rob the nest and dodgeball

There will be a coaching clinic for prospective coaches next week in the clubhouse. For further information contact Eanna on 086-8616423.

To Download the Young Knites Player Development Platform Document click here

Photos from Day One of Academy and U8's 2014


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