July and August mean different things to different people, but for a lot of readers it means one thing no matter what sport they follow. Summer sports camps for the kids.
These are an integral part of the Irish summer now, but that wasn’t always the case. When I had coffee last week with Mark Scannell of Rip’n’Run basketball camps (see ripnrun.com), he could go back to the original of the species, the Basketball Ireland camps in Dungarvan, which have been going for over 40 years.
What interested me was his point about who learns what at those camps: it turns out the kids aren’t the only ones picking up key information.
“Years ago in Dungarvan, that was the first place you’d meet coaches from around the world.
“A lot of them would have been lads coming here on holidays and would drop in. Brian Hill from the Orlando Magic, John Stockton of the Utah Jazz ...... Greek, Hungarian coaches.
“Then guys like Roger Kelleher, Gerry Fitzpatrick, they fell in, and they were learning from the others.
“What we found was that a lot of the people I was friendly with back then, you’d still be friendly with them, and when you’d go to America, say, you could visit their camps and see what they were doing. And learn more.”
Informal learning for the coaches was a sociable exercise, he added: “Going back years, I’d have learned a lot going to the pub at night after those camps, having a couple of drinks with those overseas coaches.
“Guys like Danny Fulton and Bill Regan would sketch out plays and drills on a beer-mat. They loved that – working hard during the day and having a drink together at night, which was when the banter started and the ideas started flying around.
“One thing I learned as a coach is that none of us invented the wheel, but what I couldn’t believe then was how good those guys were at sharing information. This was before the internet: now you can see the drills online, but back then, even, they’d show you everything they had.”
All sports now run residential or week-long training camps for kids as a matter of routine, but Scannell thought they’d wake to the value of the system earlier.
“It was surprising they didn’t, though now the FAI, and the GAA run big camps which is great.
“There are things to watch out for in a well-run camp, obviously the Garda vetting and so on goes without saying.
“We go for a roughly 1:14 ratio, coaches to kids, and a lot of our coaches have come through the system, so they know what’s involved.
“The key for me is that the coaching blend needs to be right – experienced guys and newcomers. Danny Fulton would be the godfather of Irish basketball coaching, if you like, but he mightn’t want to be on the court every day.
“He’ll give a couple of lectures, though, that will point up valuable things to the people there. Joey Boylan would be the same.
“You need your younger coaches as well, and that comes back to the sharing of ideas, which is very valuable in keeping things sharp.”
Coaches picking up stuff from those camps? You learn something new every day.
Irony piled on irony as biting furore bites dust
How many layers of irony are you in the market for? The biting controversy which briefly flared at last weekend’s Leinster football final burnt itself out pretty quickly, with all sides quick to draw a line under the Eoghan O’Gara-Mickey Burke encounter and let the matter drift away.
The first point that occurs to you when looking at it is the oddness of the situation, by which I mean that through opening his mouth, a player seems to have ensured everybody else keeps their shut.
This isn’t the first time a biting controversy has trailed away into nothingness. Readers will recall the Paddy McBrearty case last year, when the Donegal player was involved in a similar case, only for the investigation to fizzle out, unresolved, when McBrearty didn’t turn up for the GAA’s inquiry into the matter.
This led to a pretty high level of dissatisfaction in Croke Park, unsurprisingly. A biting allegation needs to be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction, no matter the code, and officials at GAA HQ didn’t appreciate the lack of interest in some quarters in bringing the matter to a conclusion.
Another irony arose with the light touch used by The Sunday Game panellists in dealing with it; the GAA is always keen to stress that its disciplinary procedures are completely independent of any influence wielded by the Sunday night pundits. On this occasion that was proven, if you like, by the relatively casual dismissal of the incident that same evening; Croke Park took the matter much more seriously than the studio analysts.
A final irony? The common thread to these biting incidents is Dublin, universally hailed as the future of Gaelic football for their bright, enterprising approach, attacking fluidly and relying on skill and athleticism rather than brute strength or cynicism. This is the puzzling thing: that a team which can claim to be probably the most disciplined in Ireland this year, particularly in terms of black cards conceded, finds itself embroiled in one of the more unpleasant disciplinary problems to be found, and on a recurring basis at that.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Bowled over by The Big Lebowski’s charms
I missed Feis Lebowski on Saturday evening, a celebration of one of western civilisation’s greatest achievements, The Big Lebowski, a Coen brothers movie.
Feis Lebowski was an evening of themed entertainment held in Cork city in aid of the Alisha Savage Fund (for more information try feislebowski.com).
I won’t delay devotees of the film with a paean to its well-known delights, nor will I bore those unfamiliar with its charms by outlining the plot.
There is, of course, a sporting element – Lebowski, or The Dude, and his friends participate in an evening bowling league (10-pin, not the Cork variety), or at least they do until Walter Sobchak, another member of the team, pulls a gun on an opponent and tells him he is entering “a world of pain, Donny. You are entering a world of pain,” which in turn leads to . . .
Anyway. Check it out for yourself and see. Though it strikes me that a dream disciplinary encounter would be a GAA rules committee meeting up with Walter Sobchak, with regard to a firearm being produced in play.
That I’d pay to see.
Mark it, Dude!
O’Brien muscling in on Wexford’s ill-fated voyage
You had to feel for the Wexford fans yesterday. They’d rowed in behind their hurlers, and how, over recent weeks, but the Limerick game was a bridge too far.
As their manager said afterwards, the heads wanted to get there but the bodies wouldn’t respond.
It was interesting to see Seán O’Brien of Leinster and Ireland rugby fame – and Carlow GAA – in the crowd. Not only because he was following the fortunes of Wexford quite closely, but because he is the only human being I think I’ve ever seen to fill the sleeves of a hoodie with what looked like a spare arm strapped onto his actual arm.
Yes, the thought did occur: he’d be a decent full-back if you got some coaching into him.
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