CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi, Paul here,

I hope this finds you well. This week’s topic is…

Character Qualities

We will begin with the CARVER Insight (I think it’s a pretty neat one), and it will be followed by the CARVER Essay. This week’s essay is a personal insight into ‘Character Qualities’ by Connacht Rugby Head Coach Andy Friend. It is a beautiful essay, which will no doubt stimulate you to thought and reflection.

Thanks for your continued support of my work and please spread the word in any way you can.


The CARVER Insight

A noticeable trend in my work of late has been people coming to me with an ambition for real change… for strategic long-term investment in the coaching structures of their clubs and organisations. Many are realising the almighty challenge they face in supporting their coaches in a meaningful manner. Many are coming to truly appreciate that good coaching improves all, but good coaching practices across a club or organisation rarely, if ever, happen in an organic or ad hoc manner. Most clubs will have pockets of good coaches or coaching teams, but this will never be enough to deliver on its purpose, which should be something along the lines of…

“To afford all members of our community the opportunity to participate in (the given sport) in a supporting and caring environment, underpinned by best practice.”

Today’s little story has many nice symmetries for me…. I hope my writing can pull the threads together…

The American agricultural scientist and inventor George Washington Carver (yes… this is a CARVER Insight like no other to date) once said:

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

Carver was a visionary. Born a slave, he went on to be one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century. Carver taught as the first black faculty member at Iowa State and went on to become head of the Agriculture Department at what is now Tuskegee University, where he taught for 47 years.

George Washington Carver

Carver designed a mobile classroom to take education out to the farmers in the fields. He shared with these poor farmers, techniques he had developed to improve soils depleted by their repeated planting of cotton. He urged the farmers to restore nitrogen to their soils by practicing systematic crop rotation; alternating cotton crops with plantings of sweet potatoes or legumes, such as peanuts, soybeans and cowpeas. These crops both restored nitrogen to the soil and were good for human consumption. Following his crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yields and gave the farmers alternative cash crops. In order to train the farmers to successfully rotate and cultivate their new crops, Carver developed an agricultural extension program for Alabama and to encourage better nutrition in the South, he widely distributed recipes using these alternative crops.

His work became famous all over the world, and his influence was profound. He became affectionately known as the ‘Peanut Man’ having discovered over 300 uses for the peanut including in: shaving cream, shampoo, wood stains, and plastics. He also came up with an incredible number of edible options for the product. Through his ground-breaking achievements in agriculture, Carver both improved the economic conditions of African Americans in the South and paved the way for greater African-American representation in science.

Like all good teachers, Carver was as concerned with his students’ character development as he was with their intellectual development. To clarify his thinking, he compiled a list of “eight cardinal virtues” whose possession defines “a lady or a gentleman”

● Be clean both inside and out.

● Who neither looks up to the rich nor down on the poor.

● Who loses, if needs be, without squealing.

● Who wins without bragging.

● Who is always considerate of women, children and old people.

● Who is too brave to lie.

● Who is too generous to cheat.

● Who take his share of the world and lets other people have theirs.

A famed quote of Carver reads:

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

And finally the epitaph on his tombstone reads:

“He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honour in being helpful to the world”

And so as I work with clubs and organisations I think of George Washington Carver and challenge them to come up with their own Visions on the real issues of: purpose, service, sustainability and impact. The challenge is to cultivate an environment which develops people. To paraphrase Carver…

“How can we do common things in an uncommon manner?”

Simple… but not easy.


The CARVER Essay

This essay is an extract from Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- A Book for Irish Youth

Andy Friend is the Connacht Rugby Head Coach. He is highly experienced having previously worked as Head Coach for the Australian Mens Rugby, Suntory RFC and Canon RFC in Japan, The Brumbies RFC in Australia and Harlequins RFC in England. He believes in a holistic approach to athlete development, ensuring that players are nurtured and guided both on and off the field, with a strong focus on building character and leadership in a positive, sustainable culture. I have asked Andy to share with you what he believes is the importance of character in sport and indeed life.

It has been said that sport is a microcosm of life – a statement that I truly believe in. As coaches, we have a huge responsibility to educate our chargers, not only in the skills and attributes to play the specific sport that we teach, but more importantly, to guide them in developing the right character traits that will assist them in being the best versions of themselves, both on and off the sporting field.

So what are the ideal character traits that I believe are integral in both life and sport? Below I have listed my top SEVEN…


Treat people the way you wish to be treated. Sport offers you many opportunities where one can ‘take advantage of’ or disrespect another person. It is important for athletes to stay true to one of life’s golden rules – ‘do unto others what you would have them do unto you’.


In nearly all sporting events, there are winners and there are losers, and most accept this as the likely outcome whenever competitors face off. Nothing is more disheartening than to see a winner who lacks humility. The competitor who can win on the scoreboard and remain humble in doing so, is the true champion of the contest.


Own your actions. Too often we see people use what I call the ‘BCD’ principles when something that they’re involved in goes wrong. They either Blame, Complain or Defend the action that led to the error. The real champions in life take responsibility by holding themselves to account, regardless of the outcome that is delivered as a direct consequence.


It is important that we teach our athletes to earn their victories through being truthful and fair, and not through taking cheap wins through dishonest means. Rules will always be broken, and individuals will test them to their limits. But if a victory is offered that wasn’t earned fairly, it’s dishonourable to accept it.


One of the greatest attributes you can possess is that of dependability. If a teammate or coach says ‘I know I can count on you’, then you have truly earned the trust of that person. Whilst that sounds like a simple message to receive, it’s only ever earned through a huge amount of self-discipline and hard work. The commitment you show at training, the diligence you display in the way that you prepare, the honesty with which you speak to your coach & peers, and your everyday focus and determination is what will earn you that highest of praises from your teammates and coaches.


Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. Sometimes this is for the betterment of oneself, but more often than not it’s for the betterment of the team or a teammate. Sport offers many an opportunity for someone to either display courage, or to shy away in the face of it. If you can learn to face your fears head on, then your opportunity for growth is greatly enhanced.


The capacity of an individual to identify and feel another person’s suffering, and to then feel compelled to offer support in order to ease that suffering, is a character trait that is rare and special. Whether the suffering be physical, mental or a combination of both, the sporting arena lends itself to this type of situation on a regular basis. Those who can show the appropriate amount of compassion at the right time, are unique and special.

Those are the character traits that I believe are paramount to success both on and off the sporting field.

I wish you well on your way,

Andy Friend

You reap what you sow,


Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
Website by Grafton Digital.