Nursery Mentors Handbook


Thank you for taking the time to assist as mentor for the Dunshaughlin & Royal Gaels Nursery programme. We hope it brings enjoyment to both the kids and you as a mentor too.

Below you will find information to introduce you to what our Nursery is, how is it run, some basic intro to how we coach at Nursery level. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact with the New Coach Coordinator or the Nursery Coordinator.

Getting set up as a Nursery Mentor

1. Garda Vetting & Child safeguarding

a. The most important first steps for you to take as an incoming Nursery mentor is to get Garda Vetted and complete your child safeguarding certificate. You can access the necessary information through the New Coaches Coordinator (find details on the Nursery Organisational Structure as published in the Mentors area of the website).

b. Liaise with our club Child Safety Officer to inform them when the necessary certifications are completed.

c. All coaches must be fully complaint with these requirements before they can step onto any club pitch as mentor.

2. Get added to the Nursery mentors Whatsapp group. Again, the New Coaches Coordinator should do this for you but check up that this happens.

You will then be in the loop as a Nursery mentor.

Keep in mind that we always need new mentors, so feel free to ask people you feel may be a good fit as nursery mentors to join us too.

How our Nursery is organised

· Nursery Committee

Nursery is run by a yearly appointed Nursery Committee, which oversees the effective running of the nursery group each year.

Please familiarise yourself with the members of the Nursery Committee for the season ahead, published on the Club website under the Nursery Section/Parents. This committee may change each year. Please feel free to talk to a committee members at any time with queries about your role as a mentor with Nursery.

Note: Our Nursery Programme has been developed using the framework set out in Ready To Play: A Guide to coaching and planning Nursery Programmes. Find the link here



· Nursery Organisational Structure

Nursery has an organisational structure which aims to spread the workload involved in running an expanding nursery.

The Nursery Organisational Structure is an agreed system already in place and will not change (except for agreed improvements by the Nursery Committee & Club Executive). The organisational structure is however updated each year with information about new mentors taking up roles & responsibilities and to remove outgoing mentors.

Please familiarise yourself with the Nursery Organisational Structure for the year ahead, published on the Club website in Nursery/Mentors. All mentors are expected to assist as needed with the running of our nursery or if requested by individuals having particular roles.

Coaching at Nursery Level:

The Nursery Programme at Dunshaughlin & Royal Gaels follows principles developed by GAA:

1. MAGIC Principles

  •  Motivational
  •  Age- Appropriate
  •  Growth
  •  Individualised
  •  Child-Centred


2. FUNdamental Principles:


Children follow a specific continuum of progression in the development of their individual motor skills. The progression occurs from simple to complex. We refer to these simple skills as FUNdamentals.


· Basic motor skills – ABC & RJT

  •  Agility
  •  Balance
  •  Coordination


  •  Running
  •  Jumping
  •  Throwing

In addition to these FUNdamentals, the CKS’s of Gaelic Games include:

  •  Catching
  •  Kicking
  •  Striking the ball

Over time, all nursery training sessions should include games & activities to develop these ABC, RJT and CKS.

As a club, we follow the GAA player pathway in developing players from Nursery right up to senior level. Find more details here

Our aim in juvenile coaching is:

1. Development over success

2. Player centric coaching

3. Player retention and fun

Coaching training for Nursery Mentors

1. We use TURAS in coaching the FUNdamenals set out above. You can access the EXCELLENT TURAS coaching information here

Each mentor should read over the TURAS download and understand the Player Pathway for Nursery 4 – 6 years old children.

2. We use the IDEA model of coaching skills. Find details here

IDEA Coaching method:

  •  Introduce the Skill
  •  Demonstrate
  •  Explain
  •  Attend (give feedback)

Note: In the first few weeks of nursery for new kids, focus is on ABC & RJT and making kids comfortable using games, FUN etc. As the season progresses, and CKS skills are introduced to new players, mentors can start to use the IDEA method more. Speak to your Head Coach or Senior Coach if you are unsure about how to use this IDEA method of coaching.


3. Foundation coaching course


All coaches are required to complete the club foundation coaching course. This is usually delivered at the club grounds by the club GPO, over a few hours, before the Nursery season begins for the year or soon after. Head Coaches will ensure that all mentors have completed this course each year. You will learn how to interact with young kids, how to deliver training sessions, what we try to teach at this level etc. The basic learning is that FUN is central to Nursery training sessions but we also must

try to teach children skills needed for progressing to the next level on their player pathway.


4. Award 1 coaching course

All mentors are welcome and encouraged to complete further coaching training if interested. AWARD 1 coaching courses will be run each year for interested mentors. You will be updated of upcoming courses on the Mentors Whatsapp group.


We welcome and encourage both male and female coaches to consider moving on from Nursery with their child to coach on either boys or girls teams.

Coaching tip:

Keep in mind that young kids love to just play freely. COVID social distance permitting, encourage kids to just make up their own fun (using some equipment on the station except maybe cones set out for games etc) for a little while at the beginning of the training session. You can chat to them about what they are doing, about their week, mess about, get to know them and break the ice.

Planning & Running Nursery Training sessions

  •  The Head Coaches have responsibility for planning the training sessions each week.
  •  Mentors in their first year will not have this responsibility put on them. Mentors in their second year may begin to step up and plan sessions on occasion if they want to develop these skills. Speak to the Head Coaches and they will get you involved.
  •  The recommended ratio for child/mentor by GAA is 1 mentor to 5/6 children. Our numbers now exceed 100 so we need 2 mentors per station where possible. This also benefits new mentors, so they can learn from someone else. Also this age group needs assistance getting to their station, moving between stations, getting their water bottles, being led to gate for toilet break, looking for a parent, getting back to their station etc. Having 2 mentors on a station keeps things moving.· A session plan will be circulated to all mentors on the whatsapp group, by the Head Coaches, by an agreed time each week. Head Coaches will inform you of this before Nursery starts back.
  •  There will be 5 stations on each “pitch” area and the kids will rotate around them during the hour. You will only need to know how to run one station each week.
  •  Ideally, and where possible, each station will have a Senior Mentor (year 2) and a Junior Mentor (year 1 mentor).
  •  The Senior Mentor will carry out the station activity as set out in the session plan. The Junior Mentor will assist the Senior Mentor with this, assist child needs in terms of bringing them to parent for water, toilet break, deal with issues as they arise and help move children between stations at the changeover. The Senior Mentors stay at the station to receive the next group.
  •  THIS MAY NOT BE NEEDED – Covid protocols add a layer to this as we must keep all pods separated, max 15 children including mentors, in any pod at one time. So it is important that we hold the kids until the previous group have been moved off a station. Using a train or chain game to move them can help with this. Also, if your group ends up with more than 13 kids + 2 mentors, let the Coordinator know immediately.
  •  Please keep an eye out for the children in your station, or if you see a wandering child around the pitch, get them where they need to be. We are all responsible for the safety of all the children for the hour of the session.

Mentors’ role & responsibility

Getting set up:

  •  THIS MAY NOT BE NEEDED – Covid Requirements – Have your own Health Questionnaire done before arriving at 5.45pm.
  •  Try to be at the pitch by 5.45pm latest to get ready.
  •  Equipment should be out and ready for you at your station. If not, ask the Pitch Set Up Lead on your pitch how you can help. Equipment will be stored in dressing room #5.
  •  Discuss your station with your co-mentor and be ready to get started by 6pm. Set up your station together by referring to the session plan sent out by Head Coaches. We need to be ready to start by 6pm.
  •  Help other mentors set up if you are ready but be back at your own station to start receiving kids by 6pm.
  •  Be familiar with Child Safety requirements. Some tips include:
  •  NEVER bring a child to the toilet – hand them over at the gate to their guardian at all times. Do not let anyone else bring them to the toilet either.
  •  Ideally, do not leave the pitch with a child at all. You are only responsible for them while on the pitch. At all other times, they are their guardian’s responsibility. If for some reason you need to search for a parent with a child (this happens from time to time), ask another parent nearby to accompany you as you bring the child around the grounds looking for their parent.
  •  If you hear or see something worrying or unacceptable, inform the Head Coaches and Coordinator of your concerns – do not approach a child or guardian alone. Bad language is not acceptable, nor is intimidating or bullying behaviour.
  •  Do not at any time be on your own with a child without another adult being present. If for some reason you need to bring a child into the clubhouse, ask their guardian to accompany you or if they can’t be found, ask at least one parent nearby to accompany you.
  •  Keep in mind your own safety when dealing with children. You will learn about this in the Child safeguarding course. You can speak to the club Child Welfare Officer about any queries or concerns you have in this area.


Starting the Session

  •  Our aim is to get the children out onto the pitch and the session started by 6pm
  •  Take responsibility for getting your group going as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the coordinator to hand you a team, get one organised yourself with your co mentor.
  •  Arrange that one mentor on your station (usually the junior mentor) go to the pitch gate and collect a team wearing the same colour bibs. Transfer this team to your station. The mentor collecting the team will choose a pod colour from the children waiting and keep going back and forth until you have a full team in your station (typically 8-10 children). Don’t rely on someone else to pick this colour team for you, pick one bib colour and scan the other stations to make sure some other mentor group isn’t collecting kids in the same bib colour too. Rather than have kids hanging around, move them in smaller groups to your station if needed so some can get started sooner.
  •  Children arriving at the station should be encouraged to start moving around straight away, if there are balls let them play with them, or whatever is on your station, before you have the full group to begin the activity. Introduce yourselves and chat to them etc.
  •  Hopefully they will have name tags on and try to use their name when chatting to them too.

During the Session:

  •  There will be a Head Coach on Astro Pitch and Grass Pitch.
  •  Each station activity will generally be 10 minutes, although the first group usually runs over depending on how quickly we get all kids into stations and started.
  •  After the time has elapsed for the activity, the Head Coach on each Pitch should alert all mentors of the changeover or we may use a time keeper at the gate to signal changeover for everyone.
  •  Link in with your Head Coach/Senior Coach if you’re not sure what to do.
  •  Offer children water breaks, watch for wandering kids, remember to encourage and keep it fun.
  •  Be aware that a few children may need more time to get the hang of some skills or may struggle to get it at all. Encourage and assist them. If you notice something needing attention of the Coordinator, feel free to pass on your observations.
  •  If you are struggling with a group on your station, be that with behaviour, attention etc, make sure to let the Coordinator and Head coaches know. We may need to adapt the activity for more challenge, to make it easier, or adjust pods slightly if needed.
  •  From the start of the season, always challenge kids to use both right and left side of their body, be that in direction of movement, arms, hands and feet. They are like sponges at this age!

At the end of the Session:

  •  Get your group into a huddle, cheer your team and 3 cheers for their club. Ask them what they enjoyed and if there is something they would like to do next week. Build an association with their club and help them to remember the name of their club, club colours, Meath colours etc (many won’t know it!)
  •  COVID – Hold your last group until you are told to come towards the gate. Kids can help bring your equipment down to the gate.
  • Take the bibs from the children before they leave and check they bring their water bottles, coats etc.
  •  Keep an eye out for wandering kids and ensure EACH AND EVERY child gets collected by their parent/guardian at the gate to be brought home. No child can leave the pitch without a parent/guardian there to meet them so hang kids back if you are not sure.
  •  Help with the clear up. All equipment to be returned to dressing room # 5 for now.


The above should give you a good insight into our Nursery and what your role in it will be. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to speak to the Nursery Committee members or any other Nursery mentors. We are all here to help make this a fun and positive experience for kids and mentors.