Guest Speakers Offer Insights into Athlete and Coach Development (part 3) – Philip Kearney

Guest speakers are critical to the MSc Applied Sports Coaching, providing insights into their practice and stimulating the coaches on the programme to reflect on their context. Specific activities before and after the guest sessions provide coaches with the structure to engage deeply with the guest speakers as they tell their story and answer questions. In this series of blogs, I will provide a brief insight into the three guest speakers who have supported the Athlete and Coach Development module in the month of June.

(Click on the links to catch up on part 1 and part 2).

Session Three: A Design Thinking Approach Workshop

The final session of the month was delivered by Dr Brian Cuthbert, former Cork senior football team manager who has more recently turned his attention to Talent Academies and Player Development within the Gaelic Athletic Association. Brian focused on the role of mentoring, drawing from his personal experiences to emphasise the importance of support for coach development. The essence of Brian’s message:

“Be open, be empathetic, and bring people along with you”.

Brian used an example from a photographer to stimulate thought about effective mentoring. You can watch the clip Brian provided here:

Just as a photographer must consider the lens he/she has on the camera, so must the coach/coach developer consider their lens. How much of what you are seeing/interpreting depends upon your current perspective? What might a change in perspective provide?

The photographer or coach should adopt the attitude: “I’m not worried about mistakes; I’m just looking for a right answer.” Critically, the photographer or coach must approach any situation from the perspective of there being more than one right answer. Keep searching for different answers from different perspectives.

Having explored some critical themes relating to effective mentoring, Brian illustrated how design thinking can provide a strategic approach to support the coach working with his/her assistant, or the coach developer working with a coach. Via the problem of effectively transitioning back into training from Covid, the coaches worked through 8 steps:

  • Step 1: Identify positive elements that we can exploit to move us towards our goal of a safe return to play (the wind in our sails)
  • Step 2: Identify the problems holding us back from achieving our goal (the anchors)
  • Step 3: Prioritise the problems
  • Step 4: Reframe the problems as standardised challenges
  • Step 5: Generate a mass of potential solutions to these challenges
  • Step 6: Prioritise solutions: identify those that require least effort but generate maximum return
  • Step 7: Decide what to act upon
  • Step 8: Make solutions actionable

You can see the coaches in action on steps 1 and 2 in the image above: all of the “guests” in the diagram indicate the different coaches contributing their virtual sticky notes. In addition to considering their practices in relation to return to play, the activity also provided an insight into how design thinking tools can be utilised to more effectively address a wide range of problems.


A critical component of the MSc in Applied Sports Coaching is the quality of guest speakers, telling their story and providing coaches with another perspective to stimulate reflect on their development. Over the summer module, the guest speakers have provided insight into a wide range of topics relating to athlete and coach development, allowing each coach to focus on specific issues most relevant to their context. The student perspective:

“I’m really enjoying the module so far. The guest speakers and content have been excellent. A great variety.”

You can find out more about the MSc in Applied Sports Coaching at the University of Limerick here. You can also take a look at #MScAppliedSportsCoachingUL where you will find insights such as exemplar pre-course activities and examples of the type of research we will be engaging with.

Closing date for applications July 31st 2020.

If you are interested in the programme or require further information please contact:

Dr Philip Kearney PhD
Course Director – MSc Applied Sports Coaching
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
University of Limerick
Tel: 00-353-61202844

Dr Phil Kearney is the Course Director of MSc. Applied Sports Coaching within the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.  View Phil’s profile:

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