CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi Paul here,

To mark the official launch of my new athlete journal ‘Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- The Daily Journal’ this week’s theme is Part I of a two-part series on…

Athlete Journaling

Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states that we should, “begin with the end in mind”. In doing so, we may come to advance a Vision for the type of person and athlete we want to become; or in the case of the coach, the type of person and athlete we are trying to nurture. A clear Vision informs how we can develop, and what inputs may be required in the process. We can become prudent through self-awareness and self-consciousness, which can in turn help us achieve and challenge ourselves. Once we gain some clarity on the type of person and athlete we want to become, and what we want to achieve, we can begin to look at how we might realise this.

Journaling is a simple, holistic practice with huge potential to improve both athlete performance and wellbeing. It is an art form, used throughout history by many of the finest minds including Charles Darwin, Bruce Lee and Marcus Aurelius. A journal can comprise of one’s reflections, insights, learnings, thoughts, and feelings; it can take many forms. Each person may incorporate many useful adjuncts into their journal including a personal improvement plan, post-performance reflection logs, goal setting, habit tracking and so on.

The writer and technologist Jeff Duntemann summed it up quite eloquently when he stated, “A good tool improves the way you work. A great tool improves the way you think”. An athlete journal has the potential to be a great tool that can improve the way the athlete thinks. The mind of the athlete is critical; to quote Bryce Courtenay, “The mind is the athlete; the body is the means”. The modern athlete is drowning in information however, harvesting this information into usable knowledge that can guide and assist them throughout their sporting career and beyond, is a significant challenge. Again, the humble journal can be a great tool in approaching this challenge.

As coaches, we must challenge and support our athletes in learning to think for themselves. Reflection is the key to learning. As famed education psychologist John Dewey stated, “we do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience”. We must educate our athletes to be resilient, to adapt, to change. To quote the father of Person Centred Therapy, Carl Rodgers, “the only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to adapt and change … only the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security”. We must assist our athletes in seeking knowledge. High performers simplify and refine, and this process helps to drive mindset, application, motivation, and informed action. The athlete journal provides a space for this.

Furthermore, the National Standards for Sport Coaches (NSSC) indicates that quality coaches “teach and incorporate mental skills to enhance performance and athlete wellbeing”. Again I feel the humble journal and the practice of athlete journaling can play a key role in supporting this.

Next week, in Part II on the theme of athlete journaling, I will outline a number of ways the athlete can be supported in developing and using a journal.

To mark the official launch of ‘Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- The Daily Journal’ I am exclusively sharing a 20% journal discount coupon code with all newsletter subscribers. The pictures used above are examples from the journal, as completed by a high performing athlete. This video will give you an overview of the journal.

I am confident this journal can help many athletes in supporting both performance and wellbeing. It is designed to provide an intelligent journaling system and structure, that offers the athlete great freedom in how they approach this most valuable practice. As always, I greatly appreciate any and all support of my work.

CARVER Insight

The Mission of CARVER Coaching and Performance is to improve the standard of coach and athlete support for performance and societal benefit. The societal piece is important to me. To quote the great South African Leader Nelson Mandela:

‘Sport has the power to change the world.’

My work affords me the opportunity to meet many volunteer coaches. Currently, I meet and work with in excess of 100 volunteer coaches weekly…good people, trying their best, often poorly equipped and supported, in challenging environments. It continues to resonate with me, the influence these people hold… the power they have to improve our society.

Two weeks ago I was asked in an interview, if I was the national head of sports coaching what would I do. My answer was that I would aim elevate the status of the ‘ordinary coach’…. I would start a ‘coaching awareness campaign.’ How I would do this is for another day. In the past I have been asked to sit on round table discussions in hospital and health care settings. I have been there to be a voice for sport and coaching. Doctors, psychologists, nutritionists and other health care professionals have sat with me. In my humble opinion my message has been simpler and more powerful than the rest. My message has been that if we improve the standard of volunteer sports coaching we will improve many and most of society’s ills: obesity, mental health issues, addiction and so on. For me, it is simple and clear: The ‘ordinary coach’ holds the key to unlocking the extraordinary potential of sport.

So what is the value of sport and the ‘ordinary coach’? What does sport and coaching offer society and are we maximising their potential for good? Coaches are the ones who can curate the conditions which allow the good stuff to happen. Here I aim to raise awareness of the power, potential and scope for the ‘ordinary coach’ to do extraordinary good. Sport, at its most morally praiseworthy, is a place of human endeavour. It is a place where learning and development comes about through challenge. Sport is a place to explore the limits of human potential, and to maximise what we have been given. At its most moving and noble, sport doesn’t have to involve cups, medals and money. It can, and should, provide the opportunity to both exhibit and develop great moral courage, to find enjoyment, connection and meaning. Those with influence in sport hold significant societal sway. Traditional wisdom tells us that being involved in sport is good for our youth, but are we maximising its potential?

Sport must offer a place for everyone: from the elite to the recreational, from the gifted to the not so gifted. Sport is not just for the talented, the champions and the early developers. Sport must be for everyone and from this environment the individual will emerge to find their level if coached appropriately.

Sport provides endless opportunity, and opportunity is the mother of all learning and development. For me, the primary role of sport is to teach young people lessons for life: ‘Try your best, learn as you go, improvement comes through challenge and application, stick together, learn how to win and lose with dignity’. Sport should be a vehicle to help people ‘get better’ at life, develop themselves and strengthen their constitution for this world.

When the learner is guided properly, sport gives them the opportunity to develop mental and physical resilience, character, communication and teamwork skills, as well as leadership qualities. This all sounds idyllic; however, the reality can often be the opposite when the leadership isn’t competent. Sport can often be about the negatives of elitism, aggressive and disrespectful behaviour, abusive supporters and so on.

As coaches and leaders it is our great challenge to lead with nobility and help maximise the value of sport. This is a big order! Sport needs us! Society needs us! We must strive to provide an environment that protects the weak, challenges the strong and ensures our athletes are treated with respect, afforded opportunity and challenged appropriately. We must create a climate where the athlete is allowed to express themselves, to extend themselves and to evolve their own style and personality. In Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- A Book for Irish Youth my good friend, ‘The Coaches’ Coach’, Dr. Liam Moggan, summed it up beautifully when he said,

And I think to myself…. What a wonderful world,


Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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