Lockdown offers athletes and coaches an ideal chance to improve their mental strength

Online course from Canice Kennedy is geared towards Cork sportspeople from all backgrounds
Lockdown offers athletes and coaches an ideal chance to improve their mental strength

Cork hurling captain Patrick Horgan is a mentally resilient operator, constantly delivering in big games or bouncing back from setbacks. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

KEEPING busy during these difficult times is key for all sports enthusiasts. 

Not being able to train in a team environment can be difficult for athletes and players at all levels. Doing your own workout or running a regular 5k to keep you ticking over is just not the same as training with your team-mates.

Sport is a wonderful activity whether it be played at a recreational or competitive level. We have seen over the past year just how important sport is in many lives. 

Meeting friends, a training regime, staying fit and healthy are all important factors for a healthy mind.

Cork sports psychologist Canice Kennedy believes that it could now is the time for people to try something different while team sports are still on hold. We all look for ways to improve in our sport but often don't actually get the time to sit and think too much about it. 

Now we have a lot of time on our hands and we see people improving different aspects of their game. 

Whether it's doing that 5k run and building up their fitness or having a better nutrition plan, the current lockdown represents the ideal opportunity to improve.

As a soccer coach myself, I always look to see how I can get the best out of a player. There's nothing more frustrating when you know a player has massive potential but fails to produce on a consistent level. 

Over and over we have seen scenarios where a player is superb at training, yet they fail to make such an impact when it comes to a competitive game. Coaches often stop to wonder why. 

But what do they do to find consistency in performance in a player, or to ensure they carry training-ground form into games? 

Sometimes mentors are too quick to view a player as average. As coaches, have we ever really pushed ourselves more to see what we can do for them? 

Limerick manager John Kiely. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Limerick manager John Kiely. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The same as it is with players now is the time to dig in and get better as a coach for these exact reasons.

To help keep people's minds occupied in the strangest of winters, Canice Kennedy has decided to continue his Sport Psychology course which has been running for over a decade. 

"The Psychology of Sports Performance is targeted at sports coaches who want to improve their knowledge of mental fitness and its impact on performance," said Kennedy. 

"This course has been running in Douglas Community School in Cork for over 10 years and is aimed at managers, coaches and sports participants. The Psychology of Sports Performance course is designed to assist individual and team coaching and the individual performance of participants by applying mental fitness techniques.

"Over the years the course has attracted coaches from elite and non-elite sport and from a variety of different sports including athletics, basketball, hurling, rugby, hockey, rowing, tennis, soccer and archery. Because of Covid I am happy to say we have now decided to run the course online."

COURSE

The course runs for 10 weeks on Monday from 8pm until 9.30pm starting February 1 and registration is via the Douglas Community School website

The course is delivered by Kennedy, who has been a full-time sport psychologist for 12 years and works with athletes, players and teams at both the elite and regular levels. He also lectures part time at UCC and believes in the importance of coach education and has delivered a number of coach education courses over the years.

The former World Student Games coach believes the course can help athletes to reach their full potential.

"The four pillars of sport are Technical, Tactical, Physical and Mental. The importance of mental fitness has developed in recent years as increasing numbers of elite teams, players and athletes are engaging a sport psychologist to assist them with their performances. 

Ronan O'Gara had nerves of steel Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE
Ronan O'Gara had nerves of steel Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

"Most All-Ireland winning teams employ a sport psychologist as part of the backroom team but at lower levels of sport it is up to the coach to increase their knowledge of 'mental fitness' to assist performances. Now is the chance while people find themselves with a lot of spare time.

"Sports psychology focuses on the use of mental skills to improve physical performance. 

The role of sports psychology is to assist athletes and players with their mental fitness such as developing confidence, increasing commitment, maintaining self-control and improving concentration."

Kennedy is based in Cork and Dublin, providing a service to teams and individual sportspeople who need assistance with their mental preparation. 

"I help people to attain the mental tools to enhance sporting performance, achieve their sporting goals and increase the enjoyment of their sports participation.

"Sport psychology is the route to achieving higher levels of performance on a consistent basis. Some athletes and players perform well in training and under non-stressful conditions but fail to deliver their optimum performance in highly competitive situations. 

"We help players increase their chances of achieving peak performance by assisting them to plan better, train smarter, manage emotions and perform with confidence."

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