Posted by in Features.

by Declan Varley, Galway Advertiser.
Paul Kilgannon lives and breathes coaching. The Claregalway native has been donning the whistle, and running the drills all his adult life. He has been the man to inspire teams from kids to adults. As an active member of Carnmore hurling club for decades, he is driven by the desire to impart knowledge to people of all ages playing sport, so that they appreciate it, enjoy it, and learn invaluable lifeskills along the way.

It’s a role that’s not easy, because coaches are like salespeople in that you have to sell your ideas to the people you are coaching. It’s a job that requires confidence and a skillset that’s developed, such is its importance, as Paul believes that proper coaching can go on to have a positive impact on society in general.

Tomorrow (Friday ) night in Claregalway, he will launch his first book on coaching entitled Coaching Children in Sport: The CARVER Framework as he embarks on a campaign to educate a whole new generation of coaches to actually coach themselves to become better coaches.

“I began giving coach education workshops a few years ago and I found that it was difficult to convey the expanse of coaching in a two-hour workshop, or a series thereof. I got the feeling I wasn’t really helping people get to the core of the subject, which I felt had to be the starting point from where they could truly develop as a coach.

“I felt it was necessary to collate my thoughts and provide a framework for coaches to practice continued improvement in coaching. Coaching is something you must consciously practice. It is a craft you must develop. I wrote the book as a guide for well meaning diligent coaches who want to coach children well and improve as a coach. I believe proper coaching in youth sport can have a huge positive influence on society,” he said yesterday ahead of the launch.

Impact on society

The book published by BookHub Publishing that will inspire and assist volunteer child coaches to gain a fuller perspective on their role, realise its vast potential, educate themselves and practice, self-improvement, learning and excellence in coaching children.

Hurling is his first love, but he has coached many other sports and physical activities. A primary school teacher by profession for 13 years now (he teaches at at Bushypark NS ) , he sees coaching and teaching as one and the same, and gleams much of his knowledge, insights and beliefs from both. What he learns in coaching he uses in the classroom, and what he learns in the classroom, he uses in his coaching. In reality, coaching and teaching are one.

“The objective of both is to nurture optimal human performance through challenging and assisting appropriately. The principles are the same. The question we are trying to answer is how can we get the learner/player to contribute to the best of their ability? How can we drive or facilitate self awareness or self actualisation? Coaching and teaching fall into that sweat spot between knowledge and interpersonal skills.”

It is Mr Kilgannon’s hope that the book will inspire and assist volunteer child coaches to gain a fuller perspective on their role, realise its vast potential, educate themselves and practice, self-improvement, learning and excellence in coaching children.

“For me it is through helping them to gain genuine clarity on a number of really important things e.g. why do they coach? why do they coach the way they do? What do they value? How do they feel the game should be played? What does it feel like to be coached by you and so on.

“When that real and genuine clarity is there, a process is needed in or order to practise coaching congruently, for the coach to ‘plan their work/work their plan’ and then reflect on their plan and work, so they can be true to the above. This is the cycle of coaching improvement. The book aims to be an aid to this process.

Adaptability to change

The challenge of adult coaching, as Paul sees it, is that by the time you get them, many are just so stuck in their practices. Adaptability to change is a key element in sporting performance.

“Knowledge and skill set allow for adaptability. It’s the same as the master craftsman having the correct tool for every job. As an amateur coach it is very challenging to acquire a broad range of skills or tool kit. The idea of the book is that it provides the coach with enough information and an evaluative cyclical process to practice continued improvement in coaching. Following this process will develop adaptability in your coaching.

“In general children have an innate drive to learn and are naturally in a place of self improvement. They are easier to engage and influence at a deeper level. They still have that ‘dream’ that it can end in the ultimate destination (wherever they might see that being ). They also have the spare time to practice diligently at home. They are hearing and seeing things for the first time and if the coaching is good they will learn well. The role of coach is one of development.

“With adults you are really inheriting a set of physical, technical, tactical, lifestyle and mental qualities and trying to make the best of them within the context of a competitive performance based environment. There is still a developmental aspect to it but it is more performance based. Your exposure to the players is limited and often the demands of the next game take precedence over genuine development. Don’ t get me wrong… both are enjoyable but are quite different in nature. ”

Do kids believe more in what you say as a coach/ Are adults more skeptical?

“I’m not so sure children believe in what their coach says more so than adults…. It’s probable that that level of belief is more to do with the coach’s ability to connect with the player and the team than anything else. A coach’s job is to energise the group and spread belief. If the coach is believable the players will believe… (both child and adult )

Paul Kilgannon has always been one for reading and researching, and somehow seemed to find his way into things before they come into the universal consciousness of those around him. His interest in coaching, both the collective and the individual, continued to both inspire him and haunt him throughout his twenties and probably to this day. Ultimately, he has always wanted to know more and do better.

Good coaching is good coaching, and Paul believes although this book is written for the child coach, there is much in it for both the teen and adult coach as the principles hold strong. Indeed many of Paul’s beliefs and insights have come from the challenges of coaching adults and gaining an understanding of the most important qualities an adult player needs to succeed and reach their potential.

He has recently finished coaching and managing an adult senior football team whom he spent three years with. For him, adult coaching is much tougher than child coaching. Again, it’s the ‘adapted’ nature of the adult that is the most challenging. This really cements Paul’s beliefs in how important child coaching is and how much scope there is for improvement in coaching practices.

He believes that children should play competitive games at underage levels, as in some countries and sports, the competitive nature is removed until early teens, so as to emphasise on technique.

“Yes I do. I don’t believe the competitive games are the problem. In fact I really like the idea of competition as it drives effort and application which are prerequisites for optimal learning. It stretches the children and this is how they grow and develop.

“The absolute issue is the environment within which the competitive games are played. If the games are played in the spirit of respect, effort and fun where sometimes we win and sometimes we lose, genuine learning will occur. However if the games are played in a hostile, pressurised, disrespectful, dehumanised environment, we bring underage sport to a dark place. The competitive game isn’t the issue, the playing environment is,” he says.

Coaching is a craft, and yet he feels society grossly underestimates it and undervalues it. Effective child and teen sport coach education can markedly improve the world.

Paul Kilgannon’s hope is that his debut book to be relatively light, easy reading, thought provoking and useful. It is not designed to be a textbook, rather a genuine catalyst and aid for learning and personal development in coaching. He wants it to be an agent for change and sees it as a book you might read, and then return to it and reread again and again, and get something new from it each time. He wants to give readers the tools or a framework to allow them to build their own ‘Coaching World’ and then to continually improve that world through on- going learning.

Every aspiring coach, every club and organisation should get their hands on a copy of Paul Kilgannon’s book. Coaching Children in Sport: The CARVER Framework is available from for €20 plus P&P and from selected bookstores nationwide from November 17. The book is being launched in the Claregalway Hotel at 7pm tomorrow Friday