Interview with Owen Diviney.
1. When did you join Athenry FC? What roles have you had?
- I moved from Mervue, Galway to Athenry in 1998. My first coaching project in Athenry was an U10 Gaelic Football team in 1999. It was coming towards the end of our season, after been successful in the Community Games. We organized an end of season Blitz in Raheen for the boys. A man I didn’t know, at the time pulled up and asked me “how many boys do you have Owen?”, (he knew me) “Thirty I responded”, I advised him of our planned finish time, “Don’t let them go until I come back” Three hours later he arrived back with Supermacs for all the boys and he had no son involved with the team. This was my first encounter with Peter Gilhooley. In the spring of 2001, I was finishing off my lawn and needed topsoil. I went up to the soccer club as there was excess soil as a result of the Astro Development. I arranged a barter with Peter. In exchange for a few loads of topsoil he roped me into buying a few tickets for the club. That was the start of my relationship with Peter Gilhooley and Athenry FC. I regularly attended matches down the years. In the last four years I got involved in both coaching and the committee.
2. What other sports have you been involved in?
- I was very fortunate to grow up in Mervue at a time and in an environment where access to multiple sports was easy, accessible (walking distance) and common practice. There was no major emphasis on winning. The focus was on skills development, development of multiple movements and multiple sport sampling.
We had a natural hunger to achieve. I tried many sports; running, rugby, soccer (Crescent Utd), hurling, gaelic, and swimming. One of the highlights of our
National School year was when the Community Games forms came into the
school. We entered everything we possibly could, rounders, badminton,
draughts, athletics and many other sports and activities to keep us occupied during the spring and summer and into the autumn if we were fortunate to get to the National finals.
I grew up on a street where several boys I grew up with, went on to be County,
and International Sports stars. One of those was my eldest brother Noel, another was Eric Elwood. Noel was the 1st (soccer) player from Galway (Crescent Utd) to be capped (7 Times) for Ireland at U15 level. Noel was also a National Sprint Champion and part of the Mervue U12 soccer team that won both Gold & Silver medals in successive finals at the National Community Games. Noel, being 4 years older than me introduced me to the world of sport and the hard work and sacrifice it takes to achieve anything in life. Several mornings, before school, on the grounds of St. Michaels Boys School, under the warmth of the streetlights,
Noel went through his sixty minutes of skills work. At age 11, I was his ball boy.
He worked hard to improve his skills to make his dream become a reality.
In response to an ad in a local paper my mother brought my two older brothers (twins) and I down to Galway Rowing Club, when I was age 13. I’ll never forget that first morning. Jokingly someone said, “He’s is too small to be a rower”. This was my incentive. Fast forward 4 years, 3 all Ireland Championships, 1 Home International Championship (Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales) and a successful participation at the Junior World Championships in Szeged, Hungary- “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog”. Self-reliance and the hunger to achieve is key. I was very fortunate to have a great coach and lifelong friend, Paddy Lally. He travelled all over the world with me and instilled an incredible belief that anything is possible if you are willing to put in the daily, sometimes twice daily, work and sacrifices to make your goals happen.
During my senior career I won the Head of the Charles, Boston in 1994 in the single scull, Strathclyde International Regatta 1995 (2 Titles), Grand Moscow Regatta in 1995 and the Senior Home International Championship in 1995 and 1996 along with many domestic titles. When I moved to Athenry in 1998, I took up Racquetball and won two All-Ireland club titles, commenced playing the guitar and started a wonderful family with my wife Suzanne, also a former successful rower and coach. While a lot of blood, sweat and tears was spilt into the water of the river Corrib, I was fortunate to find someone on the Corrib, who was a source of friendship and motivation through my immensely challenging senior training and competition times. Many years later, I am grateful to say, Suzanne became my wife and mother to our three children.
In recent times I have been involved with the Galway Minor Hurling and Senior Camogie teams in a performance coaching (mental skills & emotional intelligence) and teambuilding capacity.
3. Outside of sport, what are your other interests? What other groups in Athenry have you been part of?
- Since moving to Athenry I have been involved in many clubs and organisations. My initial involvement was coaching Gaelic Football. Not knowing anyone or having any children at this point, coaching gave me the opportunity to get to know people and get involved in the community. Down the years I have been involved in the Athenry Musical Society, Athenry Folk Choir, St. Mary’s GAA, Athenry Pastoral Council, Athenry Racquetball Club, and I am currently treasurer of Athenry Cancer Care, a fantastic organisation I have been involved with for almost 10 years. I like to train regularly, sing and play music with my family. I sing once a month in the Galway Cathedral on Sunday evenings at 6pm mass. I released my first music CD ‘Endless Time’ in 2010 and donated all the profits to charity. Endless Time is a celebration of the global success of Irish people over the past 200 years. Throughout its history this resilient race has proven itself worthy to face a great variety of challenges, which united they withstood and subsequently flourished”. The goal of the project was to remind people that we have tremendous resilience as a nation of people. A message that still resonates in the unprecedented times we are currently living through. I had the fantastic privilege of working for two years with Sky Sports on a wonderful initiative called “Sky Sports Living for Sport”. The goal of the program was to try to change the lives of children that needed help and support by boosting their confidence, changing behaviors and teaching them key life skills I learnt from my time as an International Athlete (hunger to achieve, planning for success, mental Toughness, breaking barriers, people skills and sports & life knowledge). I was lucky enoughto work with thousands of young people all over Ireland via this initiative.
Five years ago, in collaboration with NUI Galway I helped to develop a Diploma in Performance Sports Coaching. To date I have successfully delivered this to over 120 coaches across 20 sports. Last year I worked successfully, over a four-day period, with Matthew Wilkie (IRFU) and a team of fifteen of his professional coaches.
4. As a football coach, how has your experience been?
- I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Athenry FC. I am currently working with an U14 B team. A great bunch of young boys. We only train 2-3 times a week, which is enough as most of the lads are doing other sports, which is very important at this age. Our total focus has been on development of the panel, instilling a growth mindset, developing key transferable life skills and individual technical and team skills. The boys that have attended training and put in the hard work have benefitted enormously. Prior to the break in this season the boys were extremely competitive against superior teams in higher divisions. This is a testament to their own hard work, sacrifice, application & attendance at training, being coachable and having fun. Also, the addition of the new sand pitch has been a tremendous asset to the club. We train in small ability groups. This space afforded us the opportunity to try and practice at match intensity on a surface comparable to a grass pitch. I have no doubt that these boys will go on to be good sports people, club people and nice people to be around. Very proud of all these boys.
5. What made you decide to join the committee?
- I attended an AGM and got nominated and seconded. My intention when I got involved was to help on the development of the coaching team. This year I had the pleasure of leading our fundraising initiative “The Chase”, Peter tapped into my skills as a Chartered Accountant. This introduced me to a fantastic team of engaged passionate club people. I would like to once again take the opportunity to thank all our Exhibitors and Advertisers for supporting this initiative and encourage our members to continue to support these local businesses, particularly at this very difficult time, as our economy comes back to life. We are all looking forward to our clubs 50th anniversary next year and we will need the support of these people to make the next step in our journey of the club more of a reality.
6. What are your most memorable moments with the Club so far?
- There have been many. Concentrating totally on this year I have enjoyed watching the progress of the senior team and getting to know the players. I enjoyed going to underage home games and watching all the players develop. I have enjoyed the team I’m involved with as they worked hard to develop their fitness, technical ability, teamwork and confidence. The future of the club looks very bright, on so many fronts. I enjoyed successfully leading the project “The Chase” and getting to know all the tremendous people involved in this project, for that I am grateful.
7. In short, what advice would you give to someone that is starting or thinking of coaching in any sport?
- Coaching is not easy. I have been 25 years involved in coaching different sports and in recent years working as a professional executive and business coach in addition to my work in NUI Galway. It’s important that people have a love and passion for their sport and the technical knowledge of the ABC’s of their sport.
It’s very important that coaches develop their soft skills (open questioning, active listening, giving effective feedback, building trust and rapport, creating a positive fun learning environment and have an understanding of learning styles). These are just some of the key tools required in a coach’s toolkit. In addition, it is important to have a high level of self-awareness (Emotional Intelligence) and to be able to define yourself in terms of your Values, Beliefs and Philosophy through consistent behaviors. It’s very important that all the coaches are aligned with the Values of the club for there to be congruence in the coaching and development of all players in the club. Strong leadership skills are also critical. It is also very important that there are positive player-parent-coach relationships.
This means good communication in all directions so that all parties can have a
positive face to face professional open conversations. Thankfully we always have a good attendance of parents at training and matches.
8. Lastly, what are your ambitions for the next three years?
- I am very excited about the future of AFC. As mentioned earlier there is a
tremendous number of players all at different stages of their development. We have 23 competitive teams, boys & girls, with over 550 members and 100 volunteers. We have a fantastic team of coaches / volunteers working tirelessly to make the environment of the club as positive as it can be for development. I would like to see more collaboration between the coaches. There is a tremendous amount of expertise from a technical viewpoint. I would like to see further clarity on the clubs’ Vision, Mission and Values. In parallel to this it is important that we continue to develop alignment with all the coaches regarding their own values and the club values, coaching philosophy, and coaching styles so there is consistency in terms of performance. Continue the work of developing our coaches on the ABC’s of Football Coaching. A fantastic amount of work has been done in this space and this is clear. I am very excited about the new development in collaboration with the Athenry Athletics Club and being part of making this happen. I would encourage more people to get involved in Athenry Football Club. I am very proud of where this club has come from and proud of where it is going. It is full of fantastic people, all volunteers giving of their time unconditionally to help make AFC and Athenry a better place. Please get involved.
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