NEVER underestimate the influence a coach can have on his players.
The willingness to develop players to their full potential is a great trait and thankfully for many coaches, this is their aim.
UCC soccer coach Conor Uhl has been coaching for the past 16 years and although he has enjoyed a lot of success, developing the players to play to their full potential while developing them as a person, is much more important to him, than success.
“The number one aim we always have is to develop the players we have to their full potential,” said Uhl.
“We want to improve every player we bring in and try and push them to the next level. Secondary to that is winning trophies. I think if you push players to their highest potential then winning trophies looks after itself. Giving players that came through the college such as Sean McLoughlin, Rob Slevin and Michael McSweeny a platform to get to the next level was as great an achievement as any of the trophies we have won.”
The father of one began his coaching career as a teenager in west Cork, and has never looked back since, such is his love for his role in the game.
“I’ve been coaching since I was 19 when I got involved with the west Cork Kennedy Cup team and I’ve been hooked ever since really. I was also responsible for getting the West Cork Emerging Talent Programme up and running. I then had a one year stint with Cork City U17 before getting involved with UCC back in 2011 when John Caulfield asked me to come on board with him and Noel Healy,” said Uhl.
“I’m currently a Uefa B licence coach who sees myself as a coach serving an apprenticeship in football. I have learned from fantastic but very different coaches and mangers in John Caulfield, Noel Healy, Mick Conroy and Colin O’Brien on the license course.
“I’ve been involved with UCC since 2011 and during my time here at UCC I have been lucky enough to have been a part of the club’s most successful period. We have won four Collingwood Cups and three Munster Senior Leagues along with a number of Beamish Cups, O’Connell Cups and so on.
“For the first four years I was coach with the senior team but when John (Caulfield) got the Cork City Job, Noel Healy and myself stepped up to the manager and assistant manager roles bringing the very experienced Mick Conroy in as coach. The management team work very closely together and we all take certain parts of the sessions. Different voices are always good.”
The Skibereen secondary school teacher played ball as a youngster and also at college level but he always felt coaching would be the route he would go down, and now with his experience, he hopes he can play his part in developing this years new crop in the college.
“From a playing point of view growing up in west Cork meant football was played in junior clubs with relatively poor facilities. Having said that I still loved every second I had on the pitch down there. I went to college in UL and ended up playing with the Freshers team up there. That was my first taste of the more professional side to the game. Coaching was always what I saw myself getting involved in though because I was never going to play at a massively high level.
“I was training to become a teacher in UL and had been involved in the Freshers team the previous year and one of the club officials asked me to get involved with the Freshers team as a coach. I think it might have been because I was always the loudest voice shouting instructions at the players around me while playing. I always had good game understanding so was always organising while on the pitch.
“As a coach I pride myself on being organised. I make sure sessions are set out and planned in great detail to make sure the players get the maximum out of it. I’m lucky to be working with Noel Healy, a fantastic manager, and Mick Conroy — probably one of the most respected coaches in the country. I just want to learn from them and add my opinions and coaching ideas to try and build a high performance team and culture within the club.”
They have pushed UCC to be among the best teams in the MSL.
“Getting the squad together was very difficult this year. Myself and Noel have been talking to players all summer but we didn’t know if they were getting in or not until last week. Normally we would get the Leaving Cert results around the middle to the end of August but this year that was almost a month later.
“The Munster Senior League have been very understanding of this and have done everything they can to make allowances for us to start that bit later. It was very difficult to plan but to be fair we are happy with our squad now.
“The MSL is always competitive. There is no easy game because as soon as you underestimate a team you normally drop points and end up with egg on your face. I think more and more League of Ireland players are starting to see how small the gap is between a top end MSL team and the likes of Cobh Ramblers or any of the First Division teams. We lost to Cobh on penalties last year in the EA Sports Cup and have beaten them in the same competition previously.
“That’s why I think more U19 players should move to MSL clubs to gain experience of playing against men rather than making up numbers in training and sitting on the bench. As I said, I believe it’s all about developing the player.”