Can You Manage or Do You Cope?

I am reluctant to write anything about any coaching I do because being a paranoid person I don’t particularly want to give away any of my trade secrets. But the fact of the matter is that there are few secrets these days. So I dunno what I’m worried about really. The secret ingredient is the players you have to work with. And as far as the Eoghan Rua camogie team, we are talking an exceptional group.

Some guy whose name I forget and couldn’t be bothered looking up has brought out a book about GAA management called Can You Manage. My reaction having read it the cheap way – on two consecutive visits to Easons – is that if you are a total novice then buy this book.

But for me anyway, if you are interested in being any sort of serious coach then you need to keep adding fresh ideas to the bank of knowledge that you already have. Funnily enough although I do that satisfactorily in relation to my coaching capability – I am due to do a Level 2 course which will hopefully keep me going over the winter – I don’t do it in other aspects of life. I do harbour hopes to attend a John Simmons writing clinic at some stage for the experience.

Also, in my opinion any coach should be like a sponge, picking up ideas and wee ideas here and there. If you are talking to another sports coach about training and coaching, whether it is swimming, cycling , soccer, rugby, whatever and at some stage in the conversation you don’t think Jayze that’s a good idea, then the chances are you are talking but not listening. You should be open to pick up something everywhere you go

McLernon tells me he has written a piece for the proposed Eoghan Rua book about last year’s camogie campaign. What he won’t get for publication are the notes to myself, including a series of direct written questions I posed to myself to get over a serious and severe of pre match nerves last campaign, when I felt physically sick at the thought of losing.

It was all entirely irrational of course, and it was Sean McGoldrick that put it into perspective when he said if you do everything you can but meet a team better and better prepared then there is nothing more you could have done.

We were well prepared, we still are well prepared. Every time we go out. Personally it is my way of challenging myself, gazing down the barrel of the gun, confronting myself with a serious of ultra-critical questions. I know my own vulnerabilities, my foibles, what I think about when the lights go out, when I’m alone, when I’m driving alone to matches which I prefer to do unless travelling by bus. I’ve learned that, question everything. Give yourself a hard time. You soon see the cracks and having seen them you can start to fill them in or rebuild what is particularly badly undermined. Hence my visit to talk to Paddy Tally two years ago, and I still credit Paddy with changing my approach. I was gonna say philosophy, but we’re only talking about sport here.

Going back to gutting myself, undermining what I’m doing, asking the uncomfortable questions, I don’t necessarily like or appreciate others doing it; it gnaws at my own insecurity, the sense that I’m a fraud and I have inherited a set of good players that will perform regardless. And actually at this stage I think that is true. But I realised last week when I was driving somewhere that in my working life at one time I managed over 24 people. Women and men of all ages, I did leadership and management courses and I suppose a lot of that pays off in the team context.

For example the University of Ulster dragged us off to the Slieve Russell Hotel to take part in Grid Leadership training. This was top class stuff, the problem being the University Senior management weren’t on the same planet let alone the same page. The scheme foundered but the tools and skills are perfect for managing and coaching teams. One of the key components is in enabling people to take responsibility for their own actions. So if someone doesn’t attend training, that’s their choice, but they can’t then having made that choice complain about not being picked. The Grid also focuses on individual behaviour so you focus in how your behaviour affects others and not vice versa. As part of the scheme we had to undergo a 360 critique and feedback process which was challenging. We also got to the stage where we could confidently critique other people without being personal, rather focusing on specific behaviour.

That perhaps explains why I no longer do things like keep a record of training. Why bother? If I know why someone isn’t there that’s enough for me. If I think there is a problem I will deal with it my way.

Many times I think I’m into the last home straight in coaching at any level. I increasingly feel a Beckettian futility with the whole thing in that I no longer see the point of bollocking people at training. I still do it but I increasingly think it is a waste of time because unless through repetition you can purge errors and fault then you cannot eradicate them by shouting and giving out. Also, it is a fact that humans will make mistakes. Take carrying the ball on the stick. Some players don’t even realise they are doing it, yet they have been coached from an early age as soon as the gather a ball to place on the stick.

I may decide to give it up at any stage. That shall be at my time and of my choosing based on what the players want. These are conversations that are still to be had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *