How did you get involved in athletics?
I’ve been involved in Dooneen AC since my own children joined in the 1990’s. I then started helping out occasionally . Before long I was involved in training a few evenings per week and also in Cratloe on Sunday mornings so you could say that I am “an accidental coach”.
The late Gerry Burke was the main coach at the time and gave me great encouragement.
He had a wealth of knowledge on athletics in general and in particular his specialist events High Jump and Long Jump .
Gerry’s enthusiasm was infectious and he encouraged me to start taking various coaching courses and I gained a level 3 coaching qualification. These courses gave me confidence to continue coaching with the club at a time when a majority of coaches were male.
Throughout the years I have continued to upskill and attend workshops etc. but also learned much from coaches within the club. John Sheehan has been the expert to advise on throws and jumps while Liam O'Hora will always pass on his knowledge on the intricacies of hurdles while Joe Chawke has years of experience at middle distance and is always helpful. There is great camaraderie and we all continue to learn from each other.
What is your coaching philosophy?
My coaching philosophy is simple and I think that children must enjoy the sport if they are going to continue.
All athletes should be exposed to various events and as they all mature at different ages the average athlete at a younger age can turn out to be the star at an older age. I try to be fair to all but sometimes difficult decisions must be made when relay teams are selected.
Athletes need to be motivated to achieve improvement in their performance, stay positive and deal with the barriers and challenges that they face on the way.
Any stand out coaching highlights or memories ?
There have been so many highlights that it is difficult to select just one. One highlight was being selected for and winning National Coach of the year, but equally it could be seeing the individual that has just won their first National Medal, the relay team that has just qualified for Mosney, watching someone win a medal in Mosney (showing my age), the u/8 that has just finished their first race and are trying to spot their parents in the crowd or the international athlete getting their first set of international gear.
What keeps you involved in athletics ?
I continue to coach at Dooneen AC as it is a wonderful club with very supportive coaches and athletes. I enjoy coaching the athletes and seeing them progress in their chosen discipline.
I also enjoy learning from other coaches and hope to improve my coaching skills. I always believe in the athletes, I love to see them reach their full potential but even if they don’t all continue with athletics , because of exams or other reasons they learn numerous lessons not just for the sport but for life itself which can be just as beneficial and should not be overlooked.
It takes many years to build up coaching skills and we learn from each other every day, so the creation of a network of coaches and coaching should be encouraged. Continue to up-skill, learn from other coaches! There is a great spirit of camaraderie and we all continue to learn from each other.
With thanks to Lilly-Ann O’Hora and Phil Roche for sharing this interview which also featured in the Athletics Ireland website ‘Coach in the Corner’ series.