Book Review: Win or Learn by John Kavanagh

Sat, Aug 13 2016

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A few weeks back when word reached those of us in extratime.ie HQ that the boss was doing a revamp of the site and was looking at creating a sports book review section, it got us all into thinking as to what book we should each write for this section.


This just happened to be the book that I was reading at the time and I decided then to make an honest attempt at portraying what makes this book tick and stand out from its competitors.


Firstly, for those of you that don’t know I am currently studying to be a primary school teacher in Marino Institute of Education, so on a daily basis one hears a huge number of mottos or words of inspiration as people would see on social media. Yet the simple one “Win or Learn” resonated with me in a way the “No Pain No Gain” has never. To use John Kavanagh’s wording paraphrased in my own language; you either win or if not you learn as to where you went wrong and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.


The story is written in language that ensures the reader doesn’t need to reach for an Oxford Dictionary at every page as has been the trend with many other biographies. The story line is even simpler whereby a person defies the odds from being beaten up as a youngster to 20 year later coaching the world champion in a packed Las Vegas going on a journey deep into the unknown.


Kavanagh referred to as “Coach” by many people online and in person even helped others achieve their goals from lending $1,000 to Cathal Pendred to compete abroad to sharing apartments with a variety of characters allowing them to pursue a goal.


Throughout the book of 222 pages, we get a good insight into what makes Kavanagh tick and to his way of thinking that separates him from his peers. Even using his Leaving Certificate analogy as to what subjects he preferred. Maths was liked because there was always a correct way of doing it and if you were wrong you learned what went wrong, whereas English was more opinion based so was harder to improve on as there was no definite answer.


The hot topic in Ireland among many politicians and radio show hosts is to ban MMA, UFC or whatever you want to call it yourself. This is addressed and again it shows the way in which Kavanagh deals with these scenarios. He favours more regulation for those wondering.


Yet after writing over 380 words on the above book, I still haven’t mentioned the name that is the most famous name in Irish UFC, if not global terms at present, in Conor McGregor. He deals with it in an intelligent manner giving us an insight into the way the “Notorious” deals with everything this sport can throw at somebody.


The observations give an insight into the superstar that many newspaper articles have yet to achieve with comments; “I would challenge any anatomy expert to challenge Conor’s knowledge of the knee after his operation” or “He will never make a coach as the ability is there but the watch isn’t.”


In conclusion, this book is a winner all over in my opinion and judging by the positive reaction you see retweeted on a daily basis from all involved in the book’s production, I am not the only one to say add this to your library.




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