Making it Happen: DCU Coaching Masterclass Workshop with Rory Fitzpatrick and Jim Gavin

Some people make things happen. Some people watch things happen. And then there are those who wonder, 'What the hell just happened?

― Carroll Bryant


Random information: I wasn't one of the people that had a parent who was into rock climbing growing up (although my parents, and especially my Dad, was incredibly supportive introducing me to the outdoors through hiking around the island of Ireland) but I tasted the bug through one of the scout leaders in Newbridge (amusingly we were Scouts in name, but primarily so we could get insurance to go out into the hills) who was in the army and climbed. He brought us out to Hollywood where I have my first memory of climbing (I still remember looking up at what was the steepest line of the crag.....) before my second memory which was at a sports centre in Dublin (Clondalkin if I remember? that had holds made by......glueing bits of rock into the wall. Yes, I'm old enough and lucky enough to have had the opportunity to experience that. Thank The Climbing Gods we've moved on from that! My friend actually dislocated his shoulder there now that I remember.

Weird how you can forget something like that.

Anyway, I was hooked and by the time I was finishing my Leaving Cert, and going through traditional Irish 17-19 year old phase of not having a clue what course/subject/life/day/date I was doing, I had only a couple of requirements. And one of them was that the university had to have climbing (in my first year at university, it was the only club I joined). In Ireland, that narrowed it down to only a select few, of which I chose DCU..... (If I was a more confident individual, I'd have taken that opportunity to look abroad for better access to climbing, but that's another story :).

I'm only bringing up DCU as I was at a workshop hosted by them, - the DCU Coaching Masterclass Workshop. Unfortunately I was away for the first two sessions but last nights was from Rory Fitzpatrick (coach of Annalise Murphy** who narrowly missed out on a podium position at the London Olympics before going on to win the European Championships the following year), and Jim Gavin (manager of Dublin GAA football team). Jim dropped the quote above throughout his own talk on 'developing a performance environment' and had numerous other insights.

Jim's was more of a high level discussion (amusingly prefaced with a very emphatic, "these are my own thoughts and not of my employers/team/etc/etc") whereas Rory took everyone through the full process from preparing for the Olympics to the result to the aftermath to the review and outcomes.

I'll intersperse the highlights relating it to climbing (since that's my main sport):

Making mistakes, experiencing defeat and calculated risks

Jim Gavin pointed out he's won as much as he lost at Junior level and to "experience defeat but not embrace it". Rory commented about focusing on only the peak events, forgetting about results in others as they were not the target (for Annalise, it was obviously the Olympics and World Championships). Jim also commented on taking calculated risks - in relation to the idea of sometimes you will lose but so long as you're only experiencing defeat, it helps you to develop as a person. Additionally, and on a side note, as commented on "no athlete in the history of man has peaked for more than three weeks."

In climbing, the more important part is to continue to try problems/routes that are hard (both for technical difficulty and physical). Accept that you will not get all routes/problems. I'm going to finish off writing up something more on this in relation to a route I tried while away soon..... As Reinhold Messner said, "I didn’t become successful in my field because I’m bigger or more intelligent than others. No, I became successful because I had the willpower to fail, and to try it again, again and again.

Calculated risks: well it's obvious on trad climbing! Understanding what is an acceptable level of risk is best left to someone else to discuss however - my opinion has changed drastically on this over the years (a hint: bold/dangerous routes - not safe, enjoyable trad -  can sometimes remind me of Formula One back in the 60's/70's/80's - it was a Rush and it was romanticized but no one wants to go back to that era).


Realizing One's Potential

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs -

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs -

Rory commented on the support that Annalise had from her family, highlighted her friends gathering around her after the near-miss of the Olympics, her confidence. Jim pulled out Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (see above) which is a more all-encompassing list of the items you require to perform at your peak. All these lead to an environment where you are enabled to have the "the motive to realize one's full potential".


Reviewing and continuous improvement

Rory had some great comments on what would essentially fall under the 'work your weaknesses'. After the Olympics (where until the final race of the series, Annalise was in first place), they went through a very difficult period of having to review and reflect and analysing what happened (a fascinating and honest story told) which lead to a list of goals for the following year, all on areas for improvement. In working on those weaknesses, it led to her having numerous slumps in competitions but the outcomes are the payback - she won the European Championships against the same competitors the following year). In short, it's uncomfortable to pick out your areas for improvement but putting in time on them leads to greater achievements.


The Mental Mindset

Rory also commented on the balance of emotions required to perform at sport (and like most of the comments above, most likely apply to life in general) - it's worth going back to my previous post which will also lead you to this one from Naomi......

Jim also commented on this but it was in relation to the coach/leader as well as the previous comments on self-actualization. In relation to the leader, it was the "ability to inspire or influence".


All in all, it was a great night, and I really enjoyed the experience of being back in a university environment! That energy for new ideas and fresh perspectives oozes from the place :)


Good books on the topic as linked to previously:

Want to buy some of these books from Amazon and support this site? UK Readers and US Readers.



Try Hard + and a little review of the FiveTen Team (Blacks)

Effective Training: excitement over nervous