Ahead of International Women’s Day, GER McCARTHY caught up with five West Cork coaches to find out what inspires them and why they first got involved in coaching
Anne O’Grady (Ladies Football, Bantry Blues, West Cork and Cork) – ‘I came back to Bantry after finishing my DIP in school teaching and began subbing at Coláiste Pobail Bheanntrai. That’s where I first got involved coaching some of the school teams. The same year, players were asked to attend the Bantry Blues AGM and I ended up accepting a coaching role, helping out Philly Spillane with the club’s U16s. I haven’t looked back and been involved with Bantry ever since.
‘The main reason I coach is because of the people. Not just the players but the fellow coaches as well. I’ve been fortunate to hold lots of different roles, be it a selector, coach or female liaison officer between Cork, West Cork, Bantry and my school. You make friends for life through coaching.
‘It is hard to describe but after a bad day at work, you can head out to a pitch with 30 smiling girls who are telling you all their news. No matter how bad things are, players will always make you smile. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in coaching for a long time and, on a personal level, football has kept me going. It is certainly not about winning trophies, even though I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some successful teams. It is so much more than that. For me, what you put in to coaching, you get back tenfold.’
Emily Dulohery (Skibbereen Rowing Club) – ‘I grew up in Skibbereen and was away for over ten years before returning in 2016 just after the Olympic Games in Rio. Skibbereen Rowing Club were looking for new coaches to meet the demand and growing interest in rowing. That’s where it started.
‘Rowing has always been a thread throughout my life. I would have been coached by Dominic Casey from underage to adult before returning home and am now coaching the junior girls’ section (12 to 18 years of age) of the club.
‘Everybody needs one good adult to support them through their teenage years. That’s why I love coaching and get such a kick out of watching young people develop and progress at things. It’s what motivates me to keep going, to help and be a positive influence. Seeing young people’s persistence and effort is incredible.
‘There is a great team of coaches within Skibbereen Rowing Club, a good mix of male and female plus a good diversity of ages. I’ve been fortunate to be accepted on to a Rowing Ireland pathway programme that supports female coaches becoming high performance coaches in the future. That will improve me as a coach and get mentoring from the high performance coaches already in place at the National Rowing Centre in Inniscarra.’
Shirley Moloney (Courcey Rovers, camogie) – ‘I took over coaching the Courcey’s senior team between 2009 and 2012. That was my first rodeo, straight in at the deep end. Why? I suppose it is because I have always had a passion for coaching. I was honoured that the club thought I had the ability but I knew myself I had the potential to do it.
‘Camogie has always been part of my life and I’d have played with teams while I was living in Dublin and London. You always value the links that sport brings into your life along with the sense of community and family. That’s why people gravitate towards coaching because they have experienced the positivity gained from being involved in it. There is also a sense of wanting to give back to your club.
‘Becoming a coach of any team is a challenge but my sister Rachel was involved coaching the underage section for the club when I started. She is someone I looked up to as a role model for all that she had achieved. I would have also wanted to help my younger sister, Aisling, and got involved in coaching her at underage level as well.
‘The biggest reason you stay involved is because you enjoy the interaction with players. Gender doesn’t matter because as a coach, players will respond to the commitment and effort they get from you.’
Catherine O’Sullivan (West Cork Kickboxing Club) – ‘I first started attending kickboxing events when my daughter Danielle was around six years old. I instantly fell in love with kickboxing and began training, myself, shortly after. West Cork Kickboxing Club asks its members (after a few years) to begin coaching the younger students as they begin obtaining their various belts. I thought that was a particularly good system and it’s where my coaching career began.
‘You must learn about a subject before you can teach it. I learned an awful lot more about kickboxing as soon as I began teaching it myself. The beauty of kickboxing is that every coach shares their experience and gives constant feedback. That approach helped me enormously in the early years and gave me confidence. Ian Kingston (head coach and founder of West Cork Kickboxing Club) always says every member of the kickboxing club is a coach.
‘Why am I still coaching over 20 years after I first started? Because I absolutely love kickboxing and think everyone should try it. It’s an honour to be able to coach the talented athletes we have in West Cork. I recognise the importance of sport, especially for young people and the importance of it for their physical, as well as their mental wellbeing. The same applies to adults and older people.
‘I don’t know why but, in all sports, female coaches are thin on the ground. Some of the best moments in my life and friendships I’ve made are because of being a kickboxing coach. Hopefully, more women will get involved in the future.’
Áine O’Donovan (Soccer, Bandon AFC and Cork City Women’s FC) – ‘I first got involved in coaching when I was 14 years of age. I was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis a year before. So, to stay involved in sport, my coach at the time, Niall O’Regan (now Head of Coach Education with the FAI), suggested I go down the coaching route. Since then, I’ve been coaching soccer consistently for over ten years and absolutely loving every minute of it.
‘There can be tough days no matter what level you are at, be it elite level with Cork City or at grassroots with Bandon AFC. I think what inspires me is helping people of different levels and abilities, no matter what their age. Making a positive impact on people’s lives and getting the most out of them, be it on the pitch as a player or off the pitch as a person, is what it is all about for me.
‘There is definitely room for more female coaches to get involved in soccer and other sports too. When I was younger, I only ever had three female coaches, and then all male coaches after that. If you can’t see, you can’t be. Had I not seen women coaching when I was younger, I doubt I’d have ever thought of getting involved myself.’