Communication is the key to good coaching at all levels in all sports

Communication is the key to good coaching at all levels in all sports
Sue Ronan is vastly experienced at all levels of the game through various Irish teams. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

HEAD of women’s football Sue Ronan recently gave an insight into the life of a coach.

Her career has taken her from being a Republic of Ireland international to Head Coach of the Women’s National Team and onto the Head of Women’s Football.

A previous winner of the FAI Senior Women’s International Player of the Year Award, she is also the Head Coach of the Ireland Women’s U16s and she gives her insight into the game.

She believes there are many attributes you need to be a coach and here she explains.

“There’s more than one attribute to being a coach,” Ronan told the FAI.

“The obvious one being you need to have a good knowledge of the game. But apart from that I’d say being a good communicator and a good motivator are two key attributes for coaching any sport.

“If you’re working with young players you need to be able to communicate with them, explain clearly what you want, encourage them and obviously motivate them.

“When working with an adult team, especially at national level, it’s all about achieving results so you’re shaping the team for competition. But you’re also more than likely working with a backroom team, so communication and motivation are huge in both respects.”

So after years of coaching, what is Ronan’s favourite part of her job?

“In my current role I would say developing young players and facilitating their progress to the next level is my favourite part of the job. Watching a player you’ve coached improve and take the next step on their pathway is very rewarding, so ultimately it’s my job to create an environment where they can be the best they can. If they make it to the next stage of their career then you’ve done your job.

“If there was any advice I could give to young players wishing to play at a high level, then it would be to always work hard at your game. Even if you think you’ve made it, continue to work hard and also use any set-back you may face as a motivator to improve.”

Like many sports people, we may have some prematch ritual, for Ronan she was no different and being superstitious was all part of her match day preparation.

“When I was with the women’s senior team, I would always play the same song on the way to the stadium, and I would always make sure I was the first person off the bus. I am a bit superstitious so being the first off the bus and into the dressing room was always important to me.”

A big Arsenal fan, Ronan was inspired a lot by Arsene Wenger.

“It was his calmness I admired as well as the fact he was so innovative when he first went to Arsenal introducing new methods to training and his teams played such good football. He changed the whole culture of football in England and managed to get players who were in the twilight of their careers to buy into his methods. I think he created a legacy for the game in general.”

With many great games over the years, there was no shortage of stand-out games Ronan managed.

“The first was when I was with the U19s and we needed to beat Yugoslavia to progress to the Elite Phase of the Euros. It was 2-2 and we were pushing for a winner but around the 88th minute Yugoslavia hit us on a counter attack and had a one-versus-one with our keeper.

“I was shouting for her not to let the player go by her, but she unfortunately committed a foul inside the box to give away a penalty and at that late stage in the game we thought we were out. However she saved the penalty and played a quick ball up field from which we get a corner. Susan Byrne scored from the corner in something like the 93rd minute and my celebration took me to the centre circle!

“The other was with the senior team when we played Germany in 2015. They were definitely the best team in Europe at the time. They came to Tallaght Stadium as favourites in the group, we took the lead through Louise Quinn after one of Megan Campbell’s trademark long throws.

“Midway through the second half they got a penalty out of nothing to make it 1-1. About 10 minutes later they scored a second. However, we regrouped and equalised in the 89th minute when Stephanie Roche got on another Campbell throw.

“We thought we had secured a point, which as I said, was so unusual to get from Germany, however there was another twist to come in the game. It was a really windy day and deep into injury time we conceded a corner which was whipped in after initially being played short.

“Unfortunately for us the wind caught it and it ended up going over our goalkeeper’s head and in at the far post. We lost a game 3-2 which no-one was expecting us to get anything from, but we very nearly got a fantastic result.”

"Being a good communicator and a good motivator are two key attributes for coaching any sport." Picture: Eddie O'Hare
"Being a good communicator and a good motivator are two key attributes for coaching any sport." Picture: Eddie O'Hare

If given a choice of a team or match from any era which Ronan could have coached, surprisingly her choice was Hockey.

“I used to play hockey quite a lot and at a high standard but I had to give it up when I began playing football for the women’s national team. I’ve always loved hockey so would have loved to have been involved with the Irish Hockey Team who won silver at the 2018 World Cup in London.

“I’ve never coached hockey, and I’m not saying I could, but I would love to have been involved for that tournament because the whole journey for that team was just magical.”

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