How to Teach Kids to Play Gaelic Football

Gaelic football originates in Ireland but is now played in other countries, including Australia, Canada and the USA. In 2005, it was being played in more than 30 American cities. The full-size sport involves two teams of 15 players each, playing on a rectangular grass pitch with H-shaped goals at each end. The ball is round, and the aim of the game is to score points by kicking or striking the ball through the other team's goal.

Gaelic football can be a fun way to encourage kids to keep fit and healthy, and the basic skills are easy to pick up. They can be divided into four areas: running, passing, catching and kicking. Tackling is a more advanced skill which can be added once your kids have a good grasp of the basics. In coaching these skills, the Gaelic Athletic Association recommends using the IDEA approach: Introduce the skill, Demonstrate the technique, Execute the activity, Attend and provide feedback.

Running involves two main skills: the bounce and the solo. Players can take a maximum of four steps before demonstrating one of these skills.

To perform the bounce, spread the fingers of one hand behind the ball and extend your arm, pushing the ball towards the ground. Keep your eyes on the ball, and extend both hands towards it as it returns. Spread your fingers and cushion it into your hands.

The solo involves tapping the ball with your foot as you run. Move the ball into the hand above the foot you intend to kick with. Keeping your eyes on the ball, drop it onto your kicking foot. As the ball reaches your foot, flick your toes up toward your body, straightening your leg. Extend your arms forward again to catch the ball.

In Gaelic football, there are two types of pass: the fist pass and the hand pass. The fist pass can be used to score a point, but the hand pass may not.

To perform a fist pass, support the ball in your non-striking hand. Swing back your striking hand and make a fist. Leaning forward, bring the fist through the middle of the ball, striking it firmly and following through in the direction of your target.

The hand pass is used to pass the ball over short distances. Hold the ball in front of you with your non-striking hand. Keeping your striking hand open, swing your arm back then, leaning forward, bring the open hand through the middle of the ball, striking it firmly. Follow through in the direction of the pass.

Gaelic football has two catches: the high catch and the body catch.

The high catch is often used to field a ball which has been kicked. Moving forward, plant your jumping foot and jump into the air, swinging your other leg forward to increase momentum. Keeping your head up and your eyes on the ball, lift your arms above your head toward the ball. Spread your fingers as you catch the ball, cushioning it. As you drop to the ground, bring the ball toward your chest with both hands.

The body catch is used when the ball is between the waist and head, and the player has time to bring the ball to his chest. Keep your eyes on the ball and move to receive it. Hold both arms in front of you, holding your elbows close together and your palms facing upwards. As the ball touches you, relax to cushion the impact, holding the ball in a secure position with both hands.

Gaelic football has two types of kick: the punt kick and the hook kick. Both can be used to pass and also to score points.

The punt kick is used to kick straight ahead. Hold the ball in both hands before moving it to the hand above the foot you want to kick with. Keeping your head down and your eyes on the ball, step forward with your non-kicking foot and drop the ball onto your kicking foot. Kick the ball with your instep. Keep your toes pointed and follow through in the direction of your target.

The hook kick is used to kick at an angle. Hold the ball in both hands, with your shoulder pointing towards the target. Move the ball into the hand above your kicking foot and take a step forward with your non-kicking foot. Drop the ball onto your kicking foot. Swing through with your kicking foot, striking the ball with the inside of your foot. Keeping your toes pointing upwards, follow through in the direction of your target.


Begin by getting the kids to practice these skills with a partner, passing or kicking to each other. Once they have mastered these basics, you can make the activities more interesting. The GAA recommends varying training activities by using the STEP method. This means you can alter the Size of the playing area to reduce the difficulty or increase intensity, or altering the Task the players are expected to perform. You can vary the Equipment, for example by using a larger or smaller football, and finally alter the number of Players.

Things You'll Need

  • Gaelic football (or a round ball of similar size)
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About the Author

Rita Kennedy is a writer and researcher based in the United Kingdom. She began writing in 2002 and her work has appeared in several academic journals including "Memory Studies," the "Journal of Historical Geography" and the "Local Historian." She holds a Ph.D. in history and an honours degree in geography from the University of Ulster.