Conor Meade on pushing talented soccer players to the maximum

'You need to have certain attributes to be a good footballer, but you also have to be a good character if you want to play at a high level.'
Conor Meade on pushing talented soccer players to the maximum

Cobh Wanderers' Conor Meade battles in the air with Jack Tanner of Greystones United. Picture: David Keane.

AFTER starting up his own coaching venture, Maximum Football, at District Health & Leisure, former Cobh Ramblers player Conor Meade is helping others fulfill their ambitions in football.

Meade, who had a successful career with Ramblers and Waterford, wants to improve every aspect of a player’s game and has already worked with Crystal Palace player Jake O’Brien, Hull City’s Sean McLoughlin, Republic of Ireland international Denise O’Sullivan, and Cork City duo Mark O’Mahony and Cathal Heffernan, who just moved to AC Milan.

“I started it because of my passion for the game,” Meade said. 

I suppose, looking at my own career, I never really had that mentor that I needed, to have someone that would have been honest with me and tell me exactly what I needed to improve on.

“My dad was always supportive and encouraging, but that probably wasn’t enough at the time. As well as my dad’s support, I would have benefitted from someone highlighting my flaws and helping me to improve on those weaknesses.

“Sometimes, I look back at mistakes, or regrets that I had in my career, and use them to help the players that I coach. I have a passion for helping players improve and I get a huge ‘kick’ out of seeing them progress. It’s not just about working on a player’s ability on the ball, but developing them as a person as well.

Cobh Wanderers' Conor Meade and Ringmahon Rangers' Chris Fox going high for the ball. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Cobh Wanderers' Conor Meade and Ringmahon Rangers' Chris Fox going high for the ball. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“You need to have certain attributes to be a good footballer, but you also have to be a good character if you want to play at a high level. I demand that the players that come to me are respectful because that is what a manager would expect. They need to have respect for themselves and respect for others.

“Even at a basic level, I start with encouraging them to make eye contact when communicating with someone. The moment a younger player comes to a session I make sure they start doing jobs at home for their parents as a thank you, because it helps players learn that they have to, firstly, respect their parents and everything they do for them, but also builds respect that players need to have for their coaches.

“Something that is very important to me is good mental health, especially today, with the world kids are growing up in, where, with the nature of social media every mistake that a kid makes can be scrutinised.

“I try to help them build confidence, resilience, and also a sense of perspective. I want to destroy limited beliefs in players.

“My sessions have to be tailored for players of different ages. I think players that are young have to come and enjoy the session, as do players of every age, but particularly with the younger players.

SERIOUS

“The older players get, the more serious it becomes. That can start from a young age, because I have players coming to me at 13, 14 that have ambitions of making Kennedy Cup teams or getting on a League of Ireland side, and that’s when I do bring a more serious element to the sessions. There are no criteria for players that I work with. I’ve enjoyed tailoring sessions for Jake O’Brien, Cathal Heffernan, Denise O’Sullivan, Sean McLoughlin, and Mark O’Mahony.

“I’ve probably spent the most time with Mark. I’m not surprised to see him progressing. At one stage, Mark did 14 sessions with me in seven days, but no one sees that. All of the lads I have mentioned are the same when it comes to not wanting to publicise working hard.

The thing that the very elite players have in common is their attitude to hard work, and what they do away from their club. 

"That is not just professional players. I have had a range of amateur players come to me at a young age because they have the ambition to play at the highest level.

“People usually contact me through social media on Instagram (maximum.football.1on1). I will meet them face to face to see how serious they are about doing it.

“Some people do it because they see others do it and want to fit in, and others do it because they are obsessed and have a drive and determination to improve themselves.

“Sessions are usually 45 minutes for an individual and an hour for group sessions. Group sessions can be between two and 12 people.”

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