Category Archives: Success

A is for…..


I thought that I would try to start a new series of blog posts.

‘The A – Z of coaching’

Now I should point out that I dont intent for this to be a ‘how to’ manual, or even overly in depth breakdown of how I coach. Rather, I intend for it to be a series of thoughts about elements of coaching that I feel resonate with me.

So here goes….

Ais for……..

I could have went for Aerobic (or Anaerobic for that matter), then I thought maybe Attrition was a better word, a word that ment something to me personally. By attrition I was thinking the relentlessness of the grind, but when I looked up the meaning of attrition it said

the process of reducing somethings strength or effectivness through sustained attack or pressure

(kind of the opposite of what a coach does or tries to do)

But thats not the attritional bit for me, the part that gets tiring , the part that can reduce you effectiveness is maybe the relentless nature of sport, the no rest til we’re done approach, the no compromises.

But those things are the things I like about sport, they are the reason I coach, I like the honest of it. I guess I dont find it attritional at all really. So back to the drawing board….

Then it struck me….. Attitude.

Wonderful-Attitude-Wallpaper-Attitude-Is-Everything-Life

In the squad system we have adopted in Larne, the difference between being in the Junior National squad and the age group program comes down to attitude.

I dont believe in talent as a concept, I believe that everyone have the potenial to achieve all they wish to in life if they work towards it.

It wont be easy, there will be challenges, there will be failures along the way. How close you get to achieving your goals depends on how you react to these things…….and that comes down to attitude. 

The right attitude makes athletes coachable, and it makes coaches approachable. 

Your attitude impacts on every area area of your life, your performance, relationships and everyone around you.

We have a choice every day, we can choose to have an attitude of self-encouragement and self-motivation or we can elect to have one of self-defeat and self-pity, we all face this choice and the important thing is to remember that its not what is happening to you that is important but how you respond to those things. (easier said than done)

button-attitudemaglogo
is key to success

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Change the world


A retiring navy seal gives one of the most inspiring speeches I have heard.

If you want to achieve your goals…….start by making your bed in the morning.

Its only a little thing but if you cant do the little things right you will never be able to do the big things.

This is great advice for life and sport.

All those little things coaches push over and over are important – essential – if you are to achieve your goals.

If you can look back on each training session and know that you did the small things right, if you can face challenges and learn from mistakes, if you can set your sight on that one goal and never ever give up, then you will be successful.

I love this video, hope you do too.

Have a great sunday

(Go make that bed)

Deliberate Practice



Mastering any skills takes practice.

Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement.

It helps us perform with more eas, speed and confidence.

But how does practice make us better at things? 

This little video explains the inner workings if your brain and how effective practice makes us  better.

The talent code  by Daniel Coyle is also really worth a read

Parents in Sport


Our biggest regional contest of the season has just passed and, while it is no longer the main focus for the guys I actively coach, it is still the biggest meet of the year for the vast majority of young swimmers in Ulster. 

They train all season to just qualify and, hopefully, swim a personal best at this meet. Some clubs competing very well off limited pool time which made me think that we are not only incredibly lucky to have as much as we do but also very ungrateful for the opportunities that we have, but that’s for another day.

I was fortunate to be able to sit back for a lot of the meet and just watch. 

Watch how swimmers interact with other swimmers, the coaches and their parents. Watch how our younger swimmers go about preparing for competition, relax between races and react to feedback at the end of each race.

I noticed that, in a large percentage of cases, the only feedback that mattered was not from the Coach but from parents. Theirs was the first face sought out, the first reaction gauged. 

It got me thinking, as a new parent, the responsibility on parents to react the correct way is huge.

As a sports coach, I want the athletes I coach to improve, to reach their full potential, to excel in this sport. That won’t happen if there isn’t a love for the sport. Without a love for it will young swimmers get up at 04:30 6 days a week? Unlikely. 

How do we ensure that young people have a long, successful career in the sport they choose?

It starts very early, sports should be fun for kids. With all the pressure and money in professional sports  (not necessarily swimming in Ireland I must admit) its easy to forget that this is not a business for the kids involved. 

The primary goal should be to have fun and enjoy healthy competition.

People compete in sports for many reasons including (but not limited to)

1. They enjoy the competition

2. The social aspect

3. Engage with being in a team

4. The challenge of goal setting

As a parent you may have a different agenda and it is important to recognize that this is their sport, not yours.

We live in a world that is focused on results and winning, but winning comes from working through a process and enjoying the journey. As parents our role should be to emphasis a focus on the process of the challenge of taking the next step, the next stroke, the next race, rather than on the time or number of medals.

We are role models for our children, the biggest influence on their young lives. As such, we should be a model of poise and composure. As I saw at the weekend, your young athlete will mimic your behaviour in how you react to a close race or a poor decision etc. Stay calm, composed and in control at these times and your young athlete can mimic these behaviours instead of the negative ones.

Here are 3 simple tips to help us find the right balance as parents.

Refrain from ‘in-game’ coaching. During a competition,  it’s a time to let the athlete trust the training and the Coach.  Save the coaching for the Coach and concentrate on encouragement instead.

Your child needs help to detach self-esteem from achievement.  Too often an athletes level of self esteem comes from their level of performance or meet outcomes. It is vital that they understand they are your child FIRST and they just happen to also be an athlete rather than the other way round. Success or number of medals should never determine a person’s self-esteem.

Ask the right questions after competitions will tell your child what you think is important in sports.  Ask “did you win?” They think winning is most important. “Did you have fun?” They assume enjoyment is the key.

Thanks 2 Dr Patrick Cohn for the pyschology guidelines

10000 hours………fact of fiction?



I have long been persuaded of the merits of the nurture side of the nurture v nature debate. 

As a coach I have always believed that hard work will beat talent when talent doesn’t work. I have seen it over and over, a hard working athletes that could be seen as less talented rising to the challeged while othersince refuse to do what is required.

Books like ‘the talent code’ and ‘bounce’ convinced me of the myth of natural talent, that there may not be any such thing. 
I am comfortable with the thought that everyone can, given the correct stimulation at the correct time, achive all their goals. 

The frustrating bit for me has become the reality that as a coach I see my athletes 4 hours a day, from the age of about 12……windows of trainability are narrowing for skill acquisition and I cannot control the stimulation they get outside swimming or before they even start swimming.
Then I read that the 10000 hour ‘rule’ 

10000 hours or 10 years (20 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, 10 years) 

was something that ‘just sounded good’ 
The truth is, I don’t know if talent exists, and I don’t care. We could spend our entire careers waiting for that special talent to walk through into our program and miss the hard working athletes that we can encourage and motivate to be the very best athlete they can be.
The 10000 hour rule may not be a rule in the strictest sense but it can’t hurt. 
Personally I’m still a nurture kinda guy
🅿