KEVIN MULCAHY is a straight-talker and that’s his approach to coaching.
The Ballinora native believes in “demystifying the science” and dialing down the jargon to help athletes improve and coaches broaden their minds.
“There are lots of coaches who are practicing what I like to promote, but the problem is very few people break it down into common language. There’s so much to learn but academia makes it inaccessible.”
With vast experience in hurling, football, Aussie Rules, soccer, basketball and more, Mulcahy runs TMC Performance Coaching, where he also caters to individual clients. He starts a new monthly column this week with The Echo, where he offers practical solutions for mentors and players involved at every level.
“Small things over a long time have a lasting impact. Coaches who are working part-time with underage players or adult teams need the right tools to get the most out of themselves. When they do that, everything else follows.”
Lockdown has been demanding for those in the sports industry but Mulcahy remains upbeat. In recent weeks he’s run specialised hurling and football webinars and has embraced the online approach.
“I wasn’t really a ‘Zoom class’ person, though there would always be clients you deal with online. What I’ve really seen is how much of the psycho-social aspect of sport has been lost.
I’ve done online sessions for underage teams and you could see how much they were enjoying just training together.”
He firmly believes fun should be the foundation of training for young players in any discipline.
“You see with parents of kids who are five to 12 that they’re happy once their kids to play a sport once they believe the coaching is fun. That could be tennis, Tae kwon do, or anything else. Participation should be the priority in every club and more than ever given how tough the last year has been on children and teenagers.”
Hurling, football and soccer were the primary sports Mulcahy played and there were a few notable influences on his path to coaching. His father Carl nurtured his interest, while his neighbours Paul, Teddy and Alan Bennett meant he’s always had a grá for Cork City.
Teddy Bennett encouraged him to start coaching the Richmond U12s at just 15 and Ballinora GAA club’s John Brosnan and Terry Radley planted a seed that he could hit heights as a coach he wouldn’t reach as a player.
“Terry was miles ahead of his time in engaging with players on the training ground and in the dressing room. I had played an U14 Féile semi-final and scored five goals but I was very worried about the final. I’d it in my head that I didn’t play my best in finals and Terry was able to make me understand it was just another game.”
He ended up helping the U8s in the club but there were a series of detours working in America and Australia before settling on his chosen career.
“I did sports therapy in CIT and the Setanta degree and when I was in Australia I got the chance to work in Aussie Rules. It’s very hard to make a real impact in a sport at that level so that’s why I decided to return home.”
He toyed with an athletes-only gym in Dublin before an opportunity arose to rent a space in Ballincollig from physio Eddie Harnett, who was involved with Kerry’s All-Ireland win in 2014.
“I think training with the general public really helps with team coaching. You’re dealing with regular people and regular problems. If you can’t relate to players you won’t get far.”
In recent years, Mulcahy has been involved with St Finbarr’s and Cork camogie, Bishopstown’s hurlers, the Macroom footballer, Avondale soccer club and Ballincollig basketballers.
In general, people are bursting to move on, parents, coaches, players, all want to modernise.
"You’ll always have fundamentalists, who can’t remove themselves from the past. You see it with those who are always looking to the Cork senior hurling team and believe in the ‘mushrooms theory’.
"Create an environment of fun and learning at underage and the rest will follow. You’ve to be very aware of late developers but before puberty, you can’t call anything. Challenge the strong players but don’t burden them with expectation.”
More details on his approach can be found here.