Derry All Ireland winner stresses need for 'Silent Sidelines' as youth games set to return

Derry Games Development Committee Chairman, Damian Cassidy has stressed the importance of ‘silent sidelines’ to a young player’s development as the county begins preparations for a potential return to action next month.

Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 10:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th March 2021, 10:50 am
From left, Niall MacFlynn (JKC BMW), Derry County Chairperson, Stephen Barker, and County Secretary, Sean Keane with young players at the official announcement of JKC as the official partner of the 2021 Derry Go Games programme.
From left, Niall MacFlynn (JKC BMW), Derry County Chairperson, Stephen Barker, and County Secretary, Sean Keane with young players at the official announcement of JKC as the official partner of the 2021 Derry Go Games programme.

Cassidy, a member of Derry famous 1993 All Ireland winning side, was speaking as Derry GAA announced JKC Coleraine as the new official partner of its 2021 ‘Go Games’ programme.

Cassidy is extremely passionate about the concept of the ‘silent sideline’, something he believes greatly aids young players in developing their decision-making skills and he urged Derry clubs to adopt the approach.

“Something that is critical to progress, as we’ve seen from Kerry and Dublin and also coming from high performance soccer squads such as Ajax (youth academy), is the ‘silent sideline’,” explained the Bellaghy club man, “This is being introduced for underage games next year but we would encourage clubs to pilot that themselves this year.”

“It’s about allowing children to make decisions and problem-solve on the pitch by themselves with the outcome that you’ll have a better player further down the line.

“It might not seem significant to casual watchers but you have coaches coaching the games and parents and spectators coaching during the game. If a young player is making decisions based on what is being put in their head from a person outside the wire, then it is not allowing them to make the correct decisions at the time. This has consequences down the line.”

“The emphasis is now on embedding skills in players at a younger age. If that key component of decision-making isn’t embedded at that age and developed properly, then you’ll have a player who’s decision-making later on isn’t at the level you want it to be.”

Cassidy led the recent Coaching and Development Strategy and he was keen to point out the critical areas of a young player’s development:

“Go Games are the building blocks in terms of a player’s development,” he added, “Being able to get coaching at that young age and the structure for those foundation years (ages four, five, six) through to Under 13, is critical for players’ development.”

“The key skill development is decision-making. The ability to move the ball quickly and accurately; being able to see it and being able to execute it. That’s where the emphasis on ‘one-touch’ comes in.”

The ‘Go Games’ programme has become central to the county’s underage programme and Head of Business at JKC Coleraine, Niall MacFlynn said he was delighted to be lending his company’s backing to such an important part of the GAA calendar.

“JKC Coleraine are delighted to come on-board with Derry GAA as the main sponsor for the 2021 Go Games,” said Mr MacFlynn.

“Following on from what has been a very challenging period for sport, this year’s Go Games programme has never been so important. As we look forward to a return to sport, our young players’ physical and mental wellbeing is of great importance, and something we are very proud to support.”

Derry GAA Chairperson Stephen Barker echoed those thoughts and pointed to the strong work done by the Derry GAA Coaching and Games Committee:

“We are excited to have JKC Coleraine back on-board to sponsor our Go Games programme,” said Mr Barker, “We never underestimate the generosity of our partners and the value they bring to our GAA community and we look forward to working with JKC in the coming months.

“The potential for getting kids back playing on our GAA pitches is something we are also really excited about. The return to play for those younger age groups is extremely important and hopefully the 2021 ‘Go Games’ will mark the beginning of the next stage in their development.

“I’d also like to point out the work undertaken by our Games Development Committee over the past few months. They have produced a number of coaching webinars and have brought forward a range of proposals in the recent Coaching and Development Strategy, led by Damian Cassidy.

“We are always seeking to improve and evolve in order to promote and sustain all codes of Gaelic games for current and future generations.”