This week, we bring you the next installment in our features on TCP Coaches. We last heard from Frank Geers, who shared with us his hockey journey: from player to FIH Level 4 Coach, and everything in between. We now had a chance to speak to Ireland’s Niall Denham, currently head coach of the Three Rock Rovers First men’s team.
How did you get started in coaching?
I started helping with the clubs under 8/10 my first year out of school as I felt I should give time back to the club as people had given up their time to me. The enjoyment grew from there, with an added bonus: as I was in college I started coaching more to get pocket money!
I played for the first team in my club and I was not enjoying my hockey at all one year so a very good friend said “come play for me in the Netherlands.” It was there I found that spending the whole day on a pitch suited me. I really started to develop, the following year I moved back to Ireland and filled my days with training in schools and clubs, gaining experience before getting the job that I always wanted: coaching the Three Rock Rovers First Men’s team.
You joined the TCP in 2015. How did the TCP programme help you in your coaching journey?
The Top Coaches Programme has been a great experience and help, working with coaches in small groups allows you to share experiences and ideas. The pitch sessions and presentations allow you to see how other people operate and take the things you would like to add to your coaching. It is a very close knit environment with like-minded coaches, sharing is very easy and discussions and debates happen often witch challenge and stretch you as a coach. So you learn quickly.
Who is your TCP mentor and how did the mentor relationship help?
In the 5 seminars I’ve been at I have had 5 different mentors. At first I found it a little chaotic, but when I sat back and thought about it I realised it was a great idea. I saw each mentor had something to offer and I as a coach could take what I needed from each mentor. It was also nice seeing what each country had to offer to coaching, as my mentors have been from Spain/Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. All have have different views: some have a highly technical approach, some are all about the games and how to incorporate ideas/plays into them, etc. Norman Hughes (EHF Education and Development Manager) has also been a mentor as he is always there to answer any questions I may have, particularly this season, as we’ve started our own ParaHockey team!
Would you recommend TCP to others? Why?
Yes Very much so! It is a great opportunity to learn and meet people with the same passion for the game as you. As long as you enter into the program with an open mind and are willing to listen to others, it can help you grow very quickly and gain insight into how other coaches work in other countries!
Success and new adventures
You have just won the national championship, the EY Champions Trophy, with Three Rock Rovers. What part did the TCP play in this, what is next in your future?
The TCP helped a lot, in giving me the confidence in my ability that I could coach at this level. It is just as hard to stand up in front of a group of your peers that are looking to gain something from your presentation and are willing to question on points they what to learn from, it is very like a high-performance set up.
We are playing in the EHL next season and it is a bit strange that I may be under the microscope in a way that other teams have been with me and my groups. On a personal level I am hoping with the growth the TCP gives me I will be ready for the FIH level 4 in the near future.
You mentioned a newly formed ParaHockey team. How did TCP help you when approaching this?
Norman has been a great help as a sounding board for any questions and a rock of support to getting started with the Three Rock Rockets. Working with other coaches that have experience with G-hockey (the Dutch name for ParaHockey) and coaches that have worked with a Para team has helped me tremendously. The relationships made in the TCP mean that it’s much easier to find answers, as you know you have a group ready to help with any stumbling blocks we may come across.
What advice would you give to enthusiastic new coaches?
Enjoy it! Learn everyday and go into every session with an open mind and growth mindset! Don’t be afraid to do the hard yards accumulating your 10,000 hours and aim high! There are many different areas to the game to learn so don’t be afraid to seek advise. Finally always reflect what went well and what needs work!