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Wall of Vulnerability Coaching Experiences with Steven Macklin


Wall of Vulnerability

At the very first Athletics Ireland Endurance Coaches Network (ECN) seminar in January 2016, Daragh Sheridan Lead Consultant for the Pursuit of Excellence (PEP) Program for Elite Coaches at the Irish Institute of Sport urged coaches to “Learn on the edge of your comfort zone and embrace your failings”, a phrase which struck a deep chord with audience member and Raheny Shamrock coach Gabriel Byrne. There was significant synergy with a knowledge management project the attendee was engaged in with his employer South Dublin County Council, in relation to recording and sharing the lifelong tacit knowledge of experienced engineering staff, including capturing lessons learned over the course of a career.

Gabriel approached Steve Macklin, Athletics Ireland National Junior Endurance Coach with a view to developing a similar mechanism for coaches to record and share such vulnerabilities, and consequently for the coaching fraternity to learn and grow from this distribution of knowledge and experience interchange.  Steve was energised from the outset by the concept and has since amazingly managed to convince many of the most successful coaches in the country and beyond, across several sporting disciplines, to share their insights and vulnerabilities.

These fascinating and honest coaching insights will be published by Athletics Ireland on site and on the official Facebook page over the coming months, as a series of articles, known as the “Wall of Vulnerability” due to the fact that they first appeared as printed material literally stuck to a wall for attendees to peruse at the second ECN conference at AIT in April 2016.

Concluding with the wall analogy, only Humpty Dumpty pays the ultimate price for a fall, the rest of us simply review and share the experience and proceed more intelligently the next time! First up on the now virtual wall of vulnerability is the man himself, National Junior Endurance Coach, Steve Macklin pictured second from left

Name: Steve Macklin

Age: 34

Club: Togher AC

Coaching Accreditation: AAI Level 3/USATF Level 3/IAAF Level 5

Number of Years Coaching: 16

Steve is the National Junior Endurance Coach and endurance coach education lead for Athletics Ireland, having previously spent 6 years working as a development officer in the South. He has 16 years’ experience of endurance coaching and at the tender age of 34 has built up a strong CV. Steve started his coaching career at Douglas Community School and Togher athletics club in Cork, leading both school and club teams to National Team titles and leading Douglas CS to a 5th place team finish at the World Schools XC Championships. He currently coaches a number of junior/u23 National medallists and Irish internationals. He is an AAI Level 3, USATF Level 3 and IAAF Level 5 qualified Endurance Coach and has worked closely under mentors such as David Sunderland and Chris Jones over the past 10 years. His education includes a First Class Honours Degree in Commerce at UCC, an ITEC Sports Injuries/Massage Diploma and a Higher Diploma in Physical Therapy at the Irish Institute of Physical Therapy. Steve is also part of the Irish Institute of Sport Pursuit of Excellence Program (PEP) for High Performance coaches as well as a qualified Coaching Ireland Tutor.

What’s the most significant message you could pass on to a young coach today?

Every person/coach/professional you meet has a story, listen to them, learn and soak up every bit of information you can get/find. This should never end.
Coaching is a privilege and you should cherish the moments you have with your athletes and the difference you can make to their lives both on & off the track.

Name two key mistakes you have made as a coach throughout your career?

Coaching too many people, to do it right you need to coach a small number and spend time doing things right and really getting to know your athletes.
Dealing with injuries to athletes, I haven’t had the right degree of patience I should have during this time. Athletes need support and encouragement and not a coach being upset they got injured in the first place.
Getting too close to athletes at times, taking poor performances personally and not having enough time away from the sport to refresh & switch off.

If you were only permitted to utter one sentence to an athlete prior to the most important race of their career, what would this sentence be?

You are READY, keep things POSITIVE, stick to the PROCESS, ENJOY the moment and just let it FLOW!!!

Name two of the greatest challenges you face as a coach on a regular basis?

Keeping an athlete injury/illness free and striving for consistency over long periods of time in their training. This is the number one priority!!! Getting an athlete to see that it takes years of work and some sacrifice to be the best they can be, it doesn’t happen overnight. Getting athletes to truly believe in their abilities and have more self-confidence. 

You have just retired from coaching and you are only allowed document three pieces of coaching information encapsulating the entirety of your coaching career, experience and knowledge. What are they?

  1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, get out of you comfort zone. Live on the edge of chaos, this is where the magic happens!!!
  2. Do not neglect the foundations of athletic development at a young age i.e. Stability, mobility, Balance, Coordination, Agility, Speed, Strength, Skill of running, quality of movement etc. This will put you in a better place to handle a certain amount of volume & intensity at a later stage.
  3. Spend time coaching!!! If you are going to call yourself a coach then commit to it, put in the long hours, the graft, take the rough times with the good, get to know your athletes, monitor & record data, get feedback, listen, be empathetic, realise athletes are people and put them first, don’t get caught up in the politics of the sport, learn from other coaches, ask questions, seek answers, share with others, have a philosophy, don’t let your ego get in the way, be positive, lead by example and inspire your athletes!!!

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