Joe Walsh, BBS DCU Business School, is a successful rugby coach and performance analyst, coaching Coolmine RFC and Kings Hospital SCT. Despite being just 19 years old Joe has already built up a superb track record over the last number of years as an expert on the impact of data, analysis and technology on the coaching and player development process in sport. Securing his first coaching job at 16, Joe talks to us now about how he manages to juggle his studies here at DCU Business School along with his rugby coaching career.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today – your background sounds really interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided that DCU was the right choice for you?
I’ve been involved in the rugby scene from a management perspective, since I was in 2nd year in school.
I always knew I wanted to study Business in college so I would have other career options open to me as well as coaching. In 6th year I decided on Business Studies in DCU as my first preference – I had a job coaching rugby in Palmerstown and in Ashtown, so DCU made sense from the point of view of being accessible to where I was working.
I love it now and find it really do-able with everything else that’s going on. I’m full time in college and full time coaching – time management is a big thing. The most useful thing I have found is that I can work here, or at home, or at my office. The college is structured in a way that I can work on the move – everything is very accessible. Time management is really important – rugby takes up minimum 20 hours a week, maybe 30 hours. When things get overwhelming I can lean on my number two Liam Coyne to get things done. Liam is 17 and he knows more than I did at that age. Having knowledge support staff around you is massively important.
I wouldn’t be worried about taking on a bigger job because I know I can manage the college work in the time available. I don’t mind working late nights because I know what I have to get done. I try to be as efficient as possible with college work and get it done before the deadline so I can get it off my plate.
What keeps you motivated? How do you keep going at that pace?
I’ve always had a certain drive to achieve success, I’ve always had ambition. Every time you do well you can see yourself getting closer to where you want to be in the future. I get a lot of satisfaction out of coaching. Being able to see the results you’re achieving is really rewarding, as is being able to give the team a sense of achievement. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing my hard work on the field. For me, if I can achieve above and beyond my expectations there’s a massive amount of satisfaction in that. The opportunity to develop others is a massive motivation for me, whether it’s the players or other coaches – developing them is a massive part of why I do what I do.
Do you find that you can brings skills you have gained from coaching into your college work – are there methods of working for you that help for college as well?
As a rugby coach, you’re the driving force and you have to be able to work independently. You have to get used to working on your own initiative. Likewise, in college you have to manage your time and work on your own initiative.
I’m a real planner. For rugby I’ll map everything out – if you can get that planning aspect into your college work it does make a difference. I always feel that if I can get everything on paper, and know when the deadlines are, then I know what I have to do.
Reflective practices – in college you’ll be asked to write 500 words on how a project went. In coaching I write reviews on every training session, so I know how I structure them and then I can bring that in easily into my college work.
The people person skill is one the biggest things I’ve taken from rugby to college. I’ve met hundreds of people over the years I’ve been coaching, at every level of playing and coaching rugby. You get to learn how to read people and how to be a people person so when you sit down with new people in college, you quickly figure out how you are going to have to work with certain people. In group projects there is no project leader so sometimes you have to take a bit of initiative, and sometimes you have to let other people take the initiative because you can’t be the one doing all the work.
When you’re in the coaching world you have to be able to get up and present regularly in front of teams of players, fellow coaches etc. Once you’re used to that, there’s no challenge you’re going to turn down – it gives you a lot of confidence.
How do you think having this business degree will help you with your career in coaching?
I’ve always had an interest in doing a business course and always thought I would enjoy it – business as a course seemed a natural fit. My goal is to keep learning over the course of this degree to see what I can do with coaching, to continue building up my experience and my coaching reputation.
Having a background in business will hopefully mean that there will be options for me in the business world where my coaching experience would apply as well. If I don’t progress as I hope to with coaching over the next three years, my plan is to do the H-dip and go into teaching. I think I would love teaching as well because that’s what I do with the coaching and I could combine teaching with coaching schools rugby. I want to keep my options open – whether its coaching or teaching or working in the business world.
I have already been able to take techniques from what I’m learning in college and implement them in my coaching practices. For example in an Economics lecture with Siobhán McGovern – she was telling us about a subjective scale where you get people to rate themselves on their knowledge, their interpersonal skills etc. From the lecture with Siobhán I could see this was a technique I could use in rugby. I could use this technique to see that the rugby players could get into positions but didn’t necessarily know why they were doing it or what the options available to them were on the pitch – so that was a light bulb moment that I could take from that lecture and use it in coaching. And that has shaped the coaching a lot over the last few months. It’s something that helped me take what I was learning in college and put it into practice with the rugby team.
Would you recommend DCU and the degree in business to others?
I’ve always found everyone very approachable in DCU – both staff and students – my tutor Marta has been brilliant. I told her I wanted to get as much as I could out of the degree but it had to work with my coaching as well. She gave me great advice in terms of managing my time and dealing with occasions where I couldn’t make it to a lecture that was clashing with a match. I found that really helpful – the support structure in DCU is really good and that’s really important to me.
I’ve found I can balance the course with my coaching – which was something I was concerned about. I know already what I have to do between now and the exams and that suits me, I have four projects left to do before the exams. I wasn’t sure how much clarity I’d have from the outset – and that is there – and that’s great for me. So you can stay on top of your projects and still be able to get your exam prep done. I really appreciate the clarity that has been here from day 1.
It’s a credit to DCU that I’m able to do this with my rugby. I’m able to work on campus, in lectures and remotely. I don’t think that’s the case in every college.
Others can look at me and not panic about the workload because if I can manage the course with my coaching it’s definitely do-able for everyone!
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