Suggesting possible reasons for Ronan O’Gara and La Rochelle’s recent success in their Champions Cup semi-final win over Leinster, the Irish Examiner’s Kieran Shannon focused on O’Gara’s taking the time to learn how to coach; not just the rugby-specific knowledge, but the more essential skills to facilitate the development of others. From watching how Racing 92’s backs coach Laurent Labit interacted with players, or looking closely at the organizational culture of Crusaders Rugby, it is clear that O’Gara has become a student of coaching.
Despite O’Gara’s extensive experience with Munster and Ireland, his initial years coaching were spent seeking out different environments and performing diverse roles, from defence coach to backs coach, from France to New Zealand. And always, as is clear from his book Unguarded, watching, comparing, reflecting, evolving.
At the University of Chichester I had the pleasure of working with a colleague and field hockey coach, Paul Robinson, on a coaching module. Paul had each student first coach an unfamiliar sport. I still smile at the look on the face of the prop forward told he was going to be coaching trampolining in four weeks time. Each year Paul would consider what sports the students were familiar with, and then assign them to something completely beyond their experience, be that hurdles, ultimate frisbee or lacrosse. His aim was to develop coaches. For that, he needed to strip away the familiar, the routines. Only then could he properly evaluate each student’s core coaching skills: observation, organization, communication.
When I think of Ronan O’Gara’s journey to new cultures, embracing of new roles, I think of the module Paul designed. How valuable it is to engage with other contexts or indeed sports. How many successful coaches have deliberately sought out opportunities to learn from other sports and contexts. Consider Jim Gavin’s Dublin side interacting with basketball coach Mark Ingle, or Leinster rugby coach Stuart Lancaster visiting with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, or swimming coach Mel Marshall’s lessons from coaching a boys football team or coaching in a foreign country where verbal communication was a challenge.
Different perspectives and ways of thinking are a great stimulus to reflect on one’s own coaching. That is why a diverse range of sports is such an integral part of the Masters in Applied Sports Coaching at the University of Limerick. From adventure sport to judo, basketball to tennis, I look forward to the next diverse cohort joining us in September 2021, and the learning that will be sparked from considering their different experiences, expectations and practices.
MSc in Applied Sports Coaching
The Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick is currently recruiting coaches for the MSc in Applied Sports Coaching.
The programme invites applications from experienced coaches who are interested in engaging with peers from a diverse range of sports in an intensive, research-informed development of their coaching practice.
Entry routes are available for those with an undergraduate degree, and those applying on the basis of their prior coaching experience.
The programme is predominantly delivered online, although there are on-campus contact days each semester.
Examples of coaches’ feedback on the programme can be found here.
Applications will be reviewed on May 31st, and again on June 30th. If places remain on the programme, a final decision point will consider applications received before July 31st.
Further information on the programme is available through the website at https://www.ul.ie/graduateschool/course/applied-sports-coaching-msc or by contacting the programme coordinator: email@example.com (061 202844).
Dr Phil Kearney is the Course Director of the MSc Applied Sports Coaching within the PESS Department here at the University of Limerick. View Phil’s profile: https://www.ul.ie/pess/iframe-staff/dr-philip-kearney
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on twitter: @kearney_phil. Research Profiles: Researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Phil-Kearney, ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3425-663X, Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=ZFggoBgAAAAJ&hl=en