Tom O'Connor: 'When you go in as a coach now, you're not on your own - it's a staff'

Fri, May 22 2020

Former Republic of Ireland Interim Women's Tom O'Connor Credit: Al Robinson (ETPhotos)

With additional reporting by Declan Marron

Coach education in Ireland has made giant strides in recent years, developing some of the finest coaches and managers both at home and abroad.

This weekend, FAI coaching education tutor and former interim Republic of Ireland Women’s Head Coach Tom O’Connor will be hosting a webinar emphasising the importance of leadership in coaching.

“Leadership can be your own mantra,” O’Connor said on the Extratime.ie Sportscast this week.

“Because you’re dealing with teams and groups of people, the definition is to lead and inspire people. It’s in every facet of business and at the moment it’s the buzzword for every politician.

“I’ve been very lucky with the contacts I have made – many of whom international managers – and I have asked them what makes them tick and what they all tend to mention is leadership qualities, being a role model, not just being one but also showing them what one is.

“It can be simple things such as being on time, body language, how you address people and the quad, presentations and obviously then team talks.

“A lot of it then would come on the pitch, decision making and that would be another big part of it. I’m watching a series on Ryan Giggs when he was in charge of Manchester United for four or five matches and he had to make decisions on what players to pick.

“It encompasses a lot and another thing that it is, is that is 24/7. It’s not part-time. If you want to be a successful coach you have to be obsessed with it and even just to be on the same or level footing you have to be that.”

The former Irish senior women’s assistant boss added: “Leadership is evolving, it’s like coaching and management. We have great structures in our country now with the underage national leagues.

“When you go in as a coach now, you’re not on your own. It’s a staff. When I started off, I remember I was everything, the linesman, the 13th man, a physio, and the likes. I got a great grounding in it.

“In management you’re not on your own, or at least you shouldn’t be on your own. When I get the chance to pick at people’s brains, I always find out that man-management is one of the most important things.”

For O’Connor however, prior to both the departure of Colin Bell and the Covid-19 outbreak, the plan was for him to end his coaching career in 2021 – although, he now admits he has reconsidered this stance.

“The plan for myself was to finish off with my coaching pathway in 2021 with the European Championships as assistant head coach and then move into coach education but that is not unfortunately going to happen.

“If something did come up, like an academy or scouting role, there’s a number of positions I would consider.

“Never say never as they say but at present, I am just getting ready for the Pro License and B License to start so that’s my future for the moment.”

Tom O’Connor will be hosting a coaching webinar this Saturday on leadership with the FAI’s communications team. You can watch the webinar in full at 11aml on the FAI’s YouTube channel and on the FAI Coach Education Twitter Account.