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Posting GAA skills videos and teaching Junior Cert students online as Covid-19 crisis continues

Longford’s Mickey Quinn talks about how secondary school students are coping during the coronavirus.

LONGFORD FOOTBALLER MICKEY Quinn sees the Coronavirus-enforced lockdown as an opportunity for everyone.

michael-quinn Mickey Quinn in action for Longford. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Quinn is a secondary school teacher at St Mel’s College in Longford town, but is unable to interact with his students at the moment while the country tries to contain the spread of Covid-19.

He’s also a key member of the Longford senior team, who up until recently, were advancing well towards clinching promotion to Division 2. However, the national leagues are unlikely to be concluded this year as all GAA activity is currently suspended.

Like everyone else, Quinn is adjusting to this temporary version of reality. But the closure of classrooms hasn’t prohibited him from teaching his students, and the restricted access to the pitch hasn’t stopped him from training and staying active.

The Longford players have programmes to adhere to during the lockdown period, but Quinn is also using this time off to explore other types of training.

“It’s a chance to try different runs and different things that you mightn’t have done when you’re in a team environment,” he tells The42.

“When you’re playing inter-county and going straight into club, you don’t really have an off-season where you can try sessions that wouldn’t be maybe conducive to playing. Whether it be going for 5K runs or even just more aerobic stuff, so it’s a chance to work on that rather than the usual Gaelic football stuff.”

The former AFL player has also been experimenting with the skills-side of his game. Several inter-county stars have posted clips of themselves showcasing their quality recently, and some of Quinn’s videos have certainly impressed fans.

However, the tricks he has shown so far aren’t exactly suitable for match situations. 

“You’d be lucky to come away with your life,” he says jokingly of the risk involved for a player trying to execute these moves in a game.

Being adventurous with one’s skillset is something of a dying art in sport, according to Quinn. With this rare block of GAA inactivity, he simply wanted to throw the ball up and see what he could produce.

“People get so caught up in the skills and it’s a solo, a catch, a kick and no-one is to say that you can’t make your own skill or try something new. That’s the creative side of things that I, maybe wouldn’t try in a game, but if you’re trying those skills, you’re out doing different bits and pieces.

“It’s not really being done anymore, people inventing their own games and trying new things and see what happens. Everyone is doing a copycat version of something else that’s been done.

“It’s ball handling skills and it’s something I always said, that’s something I’d love to make an app or make videos. So it’s a perfect opportunity where I have a bit of time to make a bit of fun.”

The social distancing advice from the Government requires people to stay away from crowded areas and avoid congregating in crowds.

It’s a necessary step of course, but can be hard to follow for GAA players who are trying to maintain training obligations. 

But Quinn, and many other GAA stars, have demonstrated how players can make use of the space in their backyard to get work done. He’s offering some entertainment to people too.

“You’re trying to be as creative or inventive,” he says.

“If someone kicks a ball against the wall 10 times, it gets boring so you’re trying to create that bit of competitiveness or creativity.”

In one video, Quinn is seen soloing towards the goal with his right foot. He then swings the ball around his back before scoring a goal off his left foot.

It took him some time to perfect the intricate move, but he was humbled this week when he received a video from someone in Clare who managed to perfect it in just a few days.

“A lad from Clare sent on a video of him doing it and it took me three or four years to learn that and he had done it in a couple of days.

You can get as much joy out of that for the times that are in it. It’s something different and everyone is doing their own bits and pieces and from a coaching and teaching side of things, it’s something that might help take people’s minds off everything that’s happening at the moment.”

Quinn teaches PE and Maths at St Mel’s, although he says the former subject comprises about “90% of my timetable.” For the 2020 academic year, he has just one Maths class on his books which is a Junior Cert group.

There is uncertainty around how the rest of the school year will unfold, which poses obvious concerns for Junior Cert and Leaving Cert students. But the teaching staff at St Mel’s are helping their students to keep on top of their studies through an online platform.

“It’s kind of tipping away with them, doing bits and pieces,” says Quinn. “We’re lucky enough that Google Classroom has kind been coming in.

“I’d say 60% of teachers were using it on a regular basis and then it made it a lot easier when the circumstances came about. It was easier to roll out and most of the students knew how to use it.”

Elaborating on how Google Classroom works for both the student and the teacher, Quinn continues:

michael-quinn-celebrates Quinn after Longford's victory in the O'Byrne Cup final this year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“You set up different classrooms and there’s a code to enter the class. Students will enter the code on their phone or laptop. Once they enter the code, I can see all the students that are in the class. I can send private work or you have an interface, like on Facebook, where posts go up.

“The one thing I notice from it is you can give more individual feedback, especially for some of the more quiet guys in the class. You mightn’t get interacting, or checking as much what they’re doing. Whereas when you’re looking through, nearly everyone is on a level playing field when they submit the work.”

Quinn also points out that there is an expectation for the students to take ownership of checking in with Google Classroom and keep track of the homework that is assigned to them.

They also have the added advantage of having most of the curriculum finished at this stage of the year.

“There’s a few more bits and pieces they need to cover so I would upload a PDF of something and if there’s any issues or questions on that.

There’s loads of videos on Youtube so I have tutorial videos that I can link in. If there’s a question about a topic or some issues on that, I can do something myself to try and rectify that.

“You’re kind of covered with everything between PDFs, videos and then your own solutions and way of explaining. It’s not 100% but when you’re getting the work back from the students, you can see where they’ve fallen through the cracks or where mistakes are coming up.”

The prospect of facing into a State Exam for the first time is certainly daunting for a Junior Cert student. With that in mind, Quinn is refraining from posting too much on Google Classroom and is conscious that his students have several other subjects to study, and other teachers to answer to.

Maintaining a routine that suits everyone is the best way for him to help his class through the rest of this unique school year. The opportunity is there for everyone.

“If you went at this period of time in the right way, it could be brilliant for students

If you forget the homework and everything else you’re putting up on Google Classroom, it’s about emphasising the importance of finding a routine in what you’re doing.

“Not everyone is going to be getting up at 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning, working the school day as such. If you lay out the number of hours you’ll work per day and have a routine or a plan, it’s going to make things a lot easier from the study point of view.”

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