University of Limerick
Kinnerk_2020_Coaching.pdf (8.51 MB)

Coaching pedagogy in inter-county Gaelic football

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posted on 2022-09-07, 13:32 authored by Paul Kinnerk
This programme of research had two aims which organised the research into two distinct phases. Phase one explored the coaching pedagogy being applied by coaches in the sport of Gaelic football at inter-county level. Informed by phase one, phase two examined the effects of a Game Based Approach (GBA) intervention in an academy inter-county Gaelic football setting. The overall programme of research adopted a theoretical framework informed by Complex Learning Theory. In phase one, quantitative data from a survey of 150 coaches revealed they spent notable time in activities deemed less relevant to game play, along with arranging their practice activities in a linear format (i.e., skills before games). In the follow up study of 12 elite level Gaelic football coaches, an inductive thematic analysis of coach interviews produced two higher order themes (planning and in-session coaching strategies). The results provided a rich description of coaches’ practice, revealing coaches displayed varying levels of sophistication and content knowledge on the many tenets (e.g., questioning, sequence, ownership, game design) of coaching pedagogy. Despite a small number of coaches displaying strong alignment with GBA pedagogy, no coach reported basing their practice on GBAs as outlined in the academic literature. Phase two employed a mixed-methods multiple baseline design with two squads (U14 n=23; U15 n=27) and their coaches (U14 n=2; U15 n=3) to describe the impact of a season-long GBA intervention on players’ performance and coaches’ practices and experiences. Quantitative results obtained using an adapted version of the Game Play Observation Instrument revealed players in both squads significantly improved their decision-making in all four variables (i.e., passing, carrying, shooting and overall) from baseline to post intervention. Results were equivocal with respect to skill execution with the U14 squad improving on two of the four variables (carrying and overall), while the U15 squad showed no improvements in skill. A systematic observation instrument revealed that the coaches’ session structure aligned to GBA characteristics as a result of the intervention. Specifically, there was an increase in coaches’ use of modified games along with a shift in the sequencing of practice activities to games before drills. Despite the requirement in GBAs for the coach to employ periods for questioning, there was little difference in the time players were physically inactive across baseline and intervention sessions. Players favoured the employment of conditions within games and the employment of questioning to develop their understanding of tactical concepts, but noted difficulties within player-led discussion periods. Qualitative data from coach interviews, coach reflective diaries and researcher field notes revealed a thorough commitment by coaches to the intervention process and engagement with GBA pedagogy. To conclude, this research provides a pathway for coaches and coach educators as to what a GBA intervention looks like, how it can be planned and then applied. Although the effective promotion of GBAs within coaching communities requires a substantial investment, GBAs hold considerable potential to positively impact the coaching environment, transform a coach’s practice and develop players’ learning and game performance.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Lyons, Mark

Second supervisor

Kearney, Philip Edward

Third supervisor

Harvey, Stephen





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