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Laura Finnegan

Lecturer in Sport Management and Talent Development in Waterford I.T


I’m currently conducting a PhD on talent development in football. I lecture in that area at Waterford Institute of Technology in the south-east of Ireland. I have a Degree in sport management and a Masters in sport psychology. I am focused on helping to bridge the space between academic research and its accessibility to the wider coaching public. I am trying to enhance this access by writing research-informed blogs and providing the ‘so-what’ insights to cut through academic jargon and journal pay-walls.

Research-informed blog on talent development in football: https://talentdevelopmentinirishfootball.com/

Interview Questions

1. What book(s) have greatly influenced your life?

A strange inclusion but I’m going to say ‘I am David’ by Anne Holm. As it’s about a boy having escaped from a concentration camp, it was worlds away from everything I knew. It was the first book that gripped me as a child and I reread it many times through my teenage years. For me, reading is such a powerful tool and this book helped to instil a love of reading in me.

2. How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

I quit playing football at 14 after experiencing my first set-back. I had a relatively ‘successful’ negotiation through my early years playing football. I progressed to a regional team at 14 and hadn’t developed the coping skills and resilience to deal with new situations (e.g. not being automatic first choice, a more cutthroat environment, facing tougher competition, experiencing more losses) so I dropped out. This later spurred my interest in sport psychology and managing youth athletes through the talent development pathway.

3. In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

Being less concerned with the opinion of others!

4. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring young coach, what would that advice be?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be open to taking advice and learning new ideas. Showing that you don’t have all the answers isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a strength (I’m working on this!).

5. What bad advice do you hear most from your area of expertise?

Probably related to an over-emphasis on environments structured around formal competitions. Young kids will of course love to play and score but league tables for our youngest ages are purely for the coaches and clubs benefit… and potentially to the detriment of youth players (as research has shown that this leads to reduced game time for the ‘weaker’ potentially less developed players). Age specificity related to research is key!

6. Who, in your life, has inspired you most? (and why)

I have thought about this and I can’t pick one! A small element of a person’s knowledge, attitude, outlook or insight can inspire and resonate with me.

7. How would you best define a coach?

….. a comfortably equipped single-decker bus used for longer journeys… I can’t begin to define the other type of coach! It’s such a personal space, vastly different motivations for initial and continued engagement, with a wide variety of resource inputs and required/acquired returns.

8. What do you do for your own CPD?

Having to immerse myself in research to do a PhD leads me down rabbit holes into various sources of research/practice/topics which I’m enjoying reading. I then enjoy talking about the practical application of that research with practitioners to develop the ‘so what’. Being informed about where you source information from is important though.