CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi, Paul here,

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

The Value of Sport

This is a topic I am extremely passionate about, and something I feel is often lost when politics, personal agenda, tribalism and poor coaching practices prevail; the power of sport as a source for good is simply kidnapped.

We will begin with the CARVER Essay and it will be followed by a brief and simple CARVER Insight. This week’s essay is a personal insight into the Value of Sport from my dear friend Liam Moggan (or Dr. Liam Moggan to give him his latest title). In my humble opinion, everybody involved in sport should read this essay at least once, and more likely multiple times. It is however a lengthy piece, so I have cut it short some. You can read the essay in full, in the link provided. Please forward it to anyone you feel will enjoy it.

The CARVER Essay

Liam Moggan has been involved with coaching and coach development for over 40 years. He is affectionately known in Irish sport as ‘The Coaches’ Coach’. Liam has served in the background with numerous Irish teams and individual sporting successes across a diverse range of sports. He is recently retired from his role as Coach Educator in Coaching Ireland where he served with distinction. He has both an educated and truly unique insight into the value of sport and what it can offer you. I feel this insight is something that can be of great benefit to you. My advice is to read and reread this fabulous piece of writing. Enjoy!

A group of Kenyan athletes stayed in my home a few years ago. After their first meal, their young leader stood up and thanked my wife for making them “fed up!” It was a good meal and I’ve stretched my wife’s patience by repeating that story many times! Words carry weight, they have meaning. And yet, we all carry a vocabulary of what I call ‘words when we’ve nothing else to say ‘words’. Those words stretch meaning. They lose context. They lose punch. Words can be dangerous.

Sport is one of those words. It covers a multitude and can be wrapped around so much it eventually means little. What is it? I’ve been involved in sporting activities all my life. I was an athlete. I played basketball. For years I worked as a Physical Education teacher. In another life I delivered Tutor Development courses for people educating coaches. I, too, am a coach. I walk. I cycle. Much of what I do falls under the umbrella of that ubiquitous term ‘sport’.

The most common description of sport is broad. It covers competitive and recreational activities. It includes traditional games as well as exercises aimed at improving physical fitness, health and well-being. It all sounds good; a word when we’ve nothing else to say ‘word’.

Those wide descriptions miss what I believe is the very essence of sport. Let’s be honest, it is difficult to explain. I got involved in sport and stayed involved because of the experience, the feeling, the joy, the challenge, the company and the craic. How can a single word encompass all of that? Passion describes it best for me. Above all else, sport is about passion.

For me that passion started a long time ago. The Mossy Bank is a bowl cut out of the earth with soft grass for a carpet. It was at the bottom of McGrath’s field. Behind it lay the railway line and the spires of Tuam’s two Cathedrals guarded its side. We rarely walked to the Mossy Bank. It was a place to rush to.

If it was to be Croke Park the goals of the double ESB poles defined the Hill 16 end. For the Ryder Cup, bucket size holes were permanent fixtures near the edges. Olympic sprint finals were contested along the straight stretch near Farragher’s field. A show jumping course of stonewall fences and leafy branches was a temporary fixture. Trains to the Sugar Factory provided perfect props for Cowboys and Indians.

The Mossy Bank was my first gym. We ran there. We strolled home. In between we jumped, tumbled, wrestled, rolled, sprinted, threw things and kicked footballs. We rested and chatted within its soft slopes. We had accidents. We fell and got hurt. Sometimes we had fights. Far enough from town and adults our imaginations ran free. It was anywhere or anything we wanted it to be. We were anyone we wanted to be. It was the best sports facility I’ve ever known. I loved the Mossy Bank.

I am one of the lucky ones. More formal competitive settings came along when I started to race and play basketball. I was passionate about those too. I developed an appreciation for new challenges and satisfaction in the mastery of new skills. There were friends again, sometimes fights again, sometimes accidents. It didn’t always bring out the best in me. But imperceptibly, bit by bit there was improvement. Improvement in self-belief, movement skills and social skills. Mind, body and soul.

The sense of what I am today is shaped by those activities. The people I met and the places I visited contributed to make me who I am. I’m immensely grateful. The commitment, effort and dedication embedded then has stood to me all my life. Change is inevitable, improvement is earned by the sweat of one’s brow. The sporting activities and good people I met helped me improve over time. There’s no shortcut to improvement. Good things can happen and bad things can happen along the way, but improvement only comes about with hard work. True success is to labour.

Time spent acquiring skills that have absolutely no application outside of sport might seem to some like time wasted. Being able to run fast or dunk a basketball or kick a football has limited social value. Even if they have, time will diminish it. The best athletes slow down, eventually. Playtime can have added value when participants learn vital life skills and are encouraged to grow into fully-rounded, caring, human beings. Sport has potential to offer that.

Dedicated, committed adults played a significant part along the way. I was lucky to have supportive parents. I was blessed to meet Bro. Willie Morgan in secondary school who guided, nurtured and taught with patience and expertise. They helped create a climate where I was allowed to express myself, to extend myself and evolve my own style, my own personality. Sport shaped what I’ve become. Sport was and still is my passion. After all, what’s engraved in youth is engraved in stone.

Pat Duffy, a friend and colleague who was Director of the National Coaching Training Centre in Limerick and who sadly passed away a few years ago, led many innovative and effective programmes around the development of sport worldwide. Pat believed that sport had the potential to offer an experience such as mine to everyone. He was passionate that sport is not just for the talented, the champions, the big children and early developers. Pat saw sport as an enormous resource for good. He saw sport as a vibrant part of any decent society. Pat believed that there is an appropriate sporting activity for everyone. He had the foresight too to understand that in order to bring about improved participation levels we first must find the right way and a better way to explain and promote sport.

If others are to benefit as much as I have, we must search for and find a right way and a better way. We need to encourage people to do something they enjoy rather than be better at doing something than someone else. We need a climate that promotes learning rather than structures that make participants dependent; less about what coaches do and more about how people, particularly children and teenagers, learn.

All God’s creatures have a place in the choir. We need to accommodate and encourage those who sing high and those who sing lower. Variety is key. Sport is for everyone. It is not just for those who conform to some predetermined body type or shape or age. If people want to participate they will. If they don’t, they won’t. It’s all about the passion. We need to promote a love of movement, not sport. We should emphasise feel good factors, like self-belief, confidence, commitment and control, not just competition.

Sport is not always about sport. It can be about commerce and money and sponsorship. Much of how it’s promoted is about winning. National Governing Bodies have well-financed High Performance units that plan and prepare elite senior athletes for international competition. They have stolen the term ‘high performance’ as their own. It implies that what happens in clubs and gyms and fields and pitches and Mossy Banks all over the country every day is all well and good, but it’s not high performance. It is too easy to discredit high performance everywhere by kidnapping words and labelling them to specific targeted areas. High performance sport can be experienced in many ways by many people and it starts in homes, clubs and communities.

You can read this powerful essay in full here

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

The CARVER Insight

I started to think about this week’s CARVER Insight on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, the day of love… here it goes.

In Coaching Children in Sport- The CARVER Framework I wrote the following on the subject matter:

“Love is an important concept in connection. It is love in the sense of the ancient Greek term ‘Agape’ which is unconditional love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstance. Coaches love the game and therefore must love their players. Coaching with love will create connection. This connection you develop with the player will allow you to challenge and stretch them when needs be and they will understand you are coming from a good place with feedback that might otherwise be met with resentment.

Put simply; coach the game you love with love. For me coaching with love means striving to have nothing but positive intentions for the players you coach and owning their challenges as your own. Coaching the game, you love, with love, enables them to play the game, they love, with love. We must help nurture this love of the game in them. This love will breed persistence which is a prerequisite for reaching their potential. This love will breed learning. Coaching from a point of love will give you peace of mind and solace. You literally cannot lose. You are a developmental coach and simply want what is best for the individual.”

Love is coaching disposition, a place from where the coach can come from. This may appear a challenge, if you don’t necessarily like the individual you are coaching. To this point, the great John Wooden beautifully surmised,

“You don’t have to like them all… but you have to love them all.”

Once again… Love is a coaching disposition.

I will end with a famed piece from the bible on the subject of love. Wooden too often quoted from the bible when referencing or explaining coaching and performance. No doubt you will have heard or read this passage before. Perhaps this time you can look at it from a coach’s perspective and see what you can gleam from it.


A reading from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous.

Love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish.

It does not take offence, and is not resentful.

Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth.

It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.

Love does not come to an end.


Perhaps love is the key to unlocking the value of sport.

Powerful stuff,


Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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