Category Archives: Swim Coaching

E is for……

Its been a while since I posted in this thread. I would say I had been easy but, more accurately, I have been overtly lazy.

Anyway, the next instalment in my personal A -Z of coaching is

e is for Empathy

Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

While on sports coach UK aspire programme last year we were put through a personality test, SDI – strength deployment index, (anyone who is at all interested in it can google it for a little more information)

Anyway, the results for me were that I am a ‘green’ personality – that means I focus on the process. Not a massive surprise to me. However, when I am in conflict I move to Judicious – Competing focused on assertiveness, justice, leadership, order and fairness in competition. Again not a huge surprise.

The surprise for me came when I was told that I lacked empathy.

For a while this really bothered me.

I believe that the ability to understand how your athletes are feeling, to understand what they are going through is essential to be able to coach effectively.  

Coaching as part science part art, I love my spreadsheets, I love tracking data and interpreting it to get better results – the science. 

That’s not all I am though, it cant be.

There is also the artist in me that looks at the athletes and sees the people, tries to understand their desires and emotions and works with them to get the result.

Thats why empathy is the next essential ingredient in the make up of a coach


til next time


It takes courage to be a man

I’m 42, my daughter is one today. do I worry about my health a little more than I used to? yeah I do, I worry about getting sick and not being here for her, I think that’s probably normal but the biggest killer of men my age isn’t heart disease or cancer. 

The biggest killer of men my age in the UK is suicide. the statistics make pretty grim reading.

24.1 deaths per 100,000 for men aged 40 – 44 is suicide compared to 8.3 for women. there is obviously a problem that needs to be addressed somewhere.

In this last year I have reached a whole new understanding of what pressure is, I feel under pressure to provide a life for Harper and Louise, to find a balance between work and family, to continue to focus on my job when things get tough and to plan for the future.

Its a challenge and I understand, a little more, why men would feel like they have nowhere to turn to.

By this age we are supposed to have it all nailed down, our family life, our career, a mortgage, the future is planned really. (I don’t feel like I have any idea what my future holds if I’m honest)

Now, I’m not the most mentally robust person I know, I have suffered from depression, been on pills and to talking therapy (which lets be honest no one likes – I hate it). I have had my challenges and have no doubt that I will have more in the future. I am incredibly lucky to have a loving and supportive family around me and to have learnt, the hard way, that if I talk to them they wont judge me, in fact there is a better than good chance they will help me.

Growing up in a world where the male role models we saw on TV were action stars, tough uncompromising men who basically kicked ass every day, its easy to see why men feel like this is what we have to be like, that this is what real courage is.


not deterred by danger or pain; brave

But then yesterday I heard something the other day that resonated with me,

Courage is a heart word, the root of the word is cor – the Latin word for heart. the original meaning of the word courage is to speak ones mind by telling all one’s heart

Being courageous doesn’t mean bottling things up and dealing with stuff on our own. it means the exact opposite true courage is being open enough and brave enough to tell people when we are struggling, to admit when we need help and not be afraid to accept help when its offered.

Maybe if more men where brought up with role models who behaved this way we would start to see a reduction in the awful statistic above.





D is for…….

The next in my A-Z of coaching…..

d is for…..

Every child that joins a swimming club has a Dream. They want to win races, to get better and, ultimately, go to the Olympics.

Dreams  are aspiration desires. Dreams should be BIG, dreams that don’t scare you, dreams that don’t get you out of bed every single day are simply not big enough.

Those people who achieve their dreams are those who have the DRIVE to transform their dreams into goals.

The D in my A-Z is therefore Drive. 


To be driven is to be compelled to act in a particular way, especially one that may be considered difficult.

There is no doubt that sport if difficult. No ‘normal’ people would do it. Its a lot of early mornings and long weekends. Its dealing with injuries and disappointments. Its antisocial.

It takes special people to stick at sport for the long haul, to reach the very top.

It takes people with Drive

Personally the thing that drives me is the desire to prove that I know what I am doing smiley-face-flat

I consider myself to have been incredibly lucky as a coach, I have coaches some athletes who have been exceptional Irish swimmers but there is always that little doubt at the back of my head. The reality that those athletes would in all likelihood have achieved at least as much, if not more, elsewhere.

If my desire is to become as good as I can be, to be as close to world class as possible, then I believe I need to assist athletes to reach their fullest potential on a consistent basis. It is this drive that wakens me every morning at 5am, that makes the decision to say no to nights out an easy one.

It is my belief that no matter what area of life you have ambition in, without drive your dreams will remain just that.




B is for…..

not-giant-enough-letter-bis for……

Backstroke …. maybe. I seem to have quite a bit of success with backstrokers starting with having been lucky enough to coach an athlete onto the 2008 Olympic team. Then more recently athelets who have broken every Irish junior record both long and short course on the backstroke and I currently coach the fastest Irish backstroker in history (danielle)

Bravery … possibly. I believe it takes courage to stick to your convictions. There will be times that people question you and what you do. There will be times when you question yourself. It wont all be plane sailing. However, in my opinion, it is only really possible to properly assess the process at the end, so its essential that you see it through. I have found that reflection is an absolute must when it comes to what we do. (I started this as a way to assist me in doing just that)

Belief … In what you do. If you dont believe it you will never achieve it (cheeeesy)

To be honest I could have chosen any number of things for this but I have elected to go for


How cool are these stone sculptures btw

Being balanced in swimming terms simply means being in the correct body position. cutting down on the drag. We spend countless hours working on body balance, drill after drill after drill specifically to work on the body position.


That would be a little predictable so, for the purpose of this Blog (another B), the balance that I feel has the biggest impact on my coaching is the work/life balance. How do you give the time that is undeniably needed to a career that is not only relentless or the athlete but also the coach? And, at the same time, give the attention to your family that they deserve (and if im honest, I much prefer)

Harper is 9 months old now, she is incredible, crawling around, getting into everything. At the minute Louise is still off work but, come January, when she goes back to work, I effectively become a working, stay at home Dad.

The balance has to be right.

There is no 1 size fits all answer, each of us has to find what works for them but we all need a balance between work and family life or we will never be able to stay the course.

**sometimes making the right choice is the hardest thing to do**


Parents in Sport Week

Date :- 2nd – 8th October 2017


This is week is parents in sport week

The primary focus of parent in sport week is to highlight the valuable role parents play (and the positive influence they have) in ensuring that young people develop to their full potential and enjoy their time playing sport. Parents play a pivotal role in sport and young people depend on their support and encouragement.

I have, in the past, possibly been a little tough on parents (see my last post maybe). If this is the case then it is only because, as a coach of a youth team, I know 1st hand how important parents are in the development of their children. I witness the positive influence many, many, great parents have on their young aspiring athletes.

I understand the power a negative word or a negative outlook by parents has on the dreams and ambitions of many children.

Larne Swimming Club is an athlete centred, coach driven program designed to help every child reach their full potential in a safe and encouraging environment.

This would not be at all possible if it wasn’t for the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes by a small number of parents who sit on the committee and run the administrative and financial sides of the club. These parents set aside the personal ambitions they have for their own children to help the club develop every child within it. The coaching team is very ably augmented by a team of parents who come on poolside to help deliver the best program possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every volunteer parent who assists with the smooth running of the club, without you youth sport in general, and Larne SC specifically, would cease to exist.


I would also like to thank my own mum an dad for everything



What separates athletes who achieve their full potential from athletes who struggle to achieve all their ‘talent’ suggests they should?

Is it an athletes ability to learn new skills quickly? their IQ? that pushes athletes to excel in their  sport or is it something else?

How often do  we see more ‘talented’ athletes fair worse than those with arguably less technical  ability?

So what is it that makes the difference? Angela Duckworth suggests the difference is GRIT

true grit

She defines grit as

Passion and perseverance for very long term goals

Grit could have more of an impact on success that other things like family income, social status etc. do

Gritty athletes work every day in pursuit of their goals, they work not just for the session, not just for the week, or the month but month  in month  out year after year to  achieve their goals.

As coaches what can  we do to develop  gritty athletes? simple…..we need  to be gritty as well. Our grit must be in  the pursuit of  developing grit in the athletes in our charge. Every day we must be demanding of excellence, not just in the set or session but day after day, week in  week out.

The good news is that if  you haven’t been gritty up to now, you can start ….. a study by Dr. Carol Dwerk in Stanford says that the concept of a growth mindset is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed and it can change with you  effort. Simply put, if you have failed to show grit in the past, you still have time to  develop it