5 November 2017
Sporting Schools coaching with Andrew Byrne
Andrew Byrne is one of our NSW’s coaches helping deliver athletics to a different group of school children. He is one of our valued coaches in the Australian Sports Commission funded Sporting Schools Program. In this article he provides an understanding of this program and recalls a couple of rewarding moments for him as a coach which highlight the power of sport on wellbeing and confidence. Read more about this program here and his journey. Thanks Andrew for making a difference in the lives of these athletes.
I began coaching when I saw a need at my local Little Athletics club, as a state throws official I saw so many indifferent techniques and the chance for injury. I also saw frustration among the athletes when I started fouling so many young athletes at gala days, I started a tips and tricks session giving basic information about the events and rules to the athlete and parents. This became popular and that’s when I decided coaching was something I could do to better equip both parents and athlete alike.
I got into the school system with the AA Kids Athletics program due to illness and the inability to work full time any more. I enjoyed the interaction and the delight from both the students and the teachers who could see a positive change in their students.
The best feedback comes when the students always ask for you to come-back the next term (mind you it could be because they are out of the classroom and running, throwing and jumping all the time). Individually I have witnessed some great changes including the time I was working in a special needs school with one student who had sight issues as well as learning difficulties. This student had no confidence in doing any physical activity especially throwing. The problem was hitting targets, with only one eye clearly seeing distance measuring was difficult. The solution was using the non-throwing arm as a guide to the top of the target and aligning the throwing arm for elevation. All of a sudden this student found that hitting a target was easier and possible, all of a sudden confidence rose and running became easier as did jumping, a smile appeared and apparently class room performance improved.
There was a stage 3 class where running and jumping was a real problem for many of the students, where they could not leave the ground for a jump and they found it difficult to find a way to move fast without walking. This group was very self-conscious of the way they moved and said outright that they could not do these things. By week 3 I had them running and jumping just by being a little silly and slowly building up their speed and basic skills. Developing an understanding of what a run, jog and walk was. Jumping became easier as they started to run. As a challenge I asked them on the last week to try a long jump (the school had a sand pit for use). It took most of the last session to put it together, but, they all managed a small run and then jump without stopping. The applause from their teachers was astounding as no one expected such a change in such a short space of time. I later found out that they were practising every break they could.
These are extreme change examples and thankfully they are not the norm, and most students have enough basic skills to do the challenges and games already. This means as a coach my job is easier and I can concentrate on such large groups on bringing the skill level of all students as high as possible while having fun. The thing I learned is to become a kid myself in certain situations and to learn that sometimes the simplest things are what is needed. The windy day I had a kindergarten class that just wouldn't settle is an example. They loved moving between events in a conga line. 20 minutes later after me leading the conga line in circles and doing different steps from running, jogging skipping and them laughing and giggling we could start a throwing and jumping game. It was just understanding the group dynamic and making it fun for them.
I love this job!