Interview Part 1: Sean Doyle

Can you give us a bit of background on yourself?

Séan Doyle, from Ireland. Bit of a nomad. Born and lived in Bath, England, for 10 years. Moved around Ireland several times within the last decade, along with living and working in Chicago, the USA for two seasons. While in the United States, I work with the MLS’ Chicago Fire Soccer in the Community programme, primarily as a Regional Director of Training and Development for AYSO club Mundelein 372. While in Ireland, I work with my local grassroots club Cootehill Harps AFC, I assist with the regional C.M.U.L Emerging Talent Programme as well as coach a recently established Coerver Coaching Performance Academy. Holding various certifications, I’ve a UEFA / FAI National “C” Licence, UEFA B, FAI National Goalkeeping D Licence, USSF National D License, Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma Two and Level One SAQ.

I decided that whatever it was I ended up doing in life, I wanted to enjoy myself. Football has forever been my passion and dream, and I wanted my future to involve it. With that, I started by attending coaching courses. It wasn’t until after several courses that I began coaching a couple of months before my twentieth birthday. Always aspiring, I asked a tutor at one coach education course where the best place would be for me to get experience and he directed me to the United States. Less than a year after I started, I was working as a professional coach on the other side of the world. When I began, I wouldn’t have ever predicted the amount of progress I’ve made in such little time. In hindsight, it’s been the greatest journey so far, instrumental and indelible in the development of not only my coaching but me as a person.

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How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports environment?

I’ve a habit of using analogies to better illustrate my point when coaching so I’ll do likewise here.

See a strong, solid oak tree as the aspiration. To get to this aspiration, you must plant an acorn. The acorn takes nutrients from the rich soil and takes nurturing from environmental conditions such as rain and sunshine. Under the correct circumstances, the acorn will grow into an oak tree.

The youth athlete takes on a sport with their aspiration, be it for the social, physical and mental aspects or to become an elite or professional player. The coaching the youth receives can be seen as the soil to the acorn. It will provide technical, tactical and physical principles to develop growth. The better the coaching, the better the soil. The parents’ involvement can be seen as the environmental conditions. Too much or too little of a certain element may inhibit the growth of the youth athlete. With the correct balance, the athlete will be encouraged to grow towards their aspirations.

The moral here is, that as much as youth players need to take on knowledge and ideologies from their coaches to reach their ambitions, they need appropriate nurturing from their parents to grow towards their goals. I feel the parents’ role is crucial in influencing the growth and development of a youth athlete.

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What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?

Due to the influence of parents in the development of youth athletes, I believe their involvement in youth sports is paramount. Whatever the goal, parents’ investment in both the athlete and team is instrumental to success.  The cooperation between coach, player and parent leads to an understanding of what, why and how things work. This in turn fosters a sense of trust and responsibility from parents as they become involved, part of the set-up and team. There is a mutual understanding of what is expected from both coach and parents, creating a versatile environment for the youth athlete to have the freedom to grow and prosper.

The most distinguished sports characters give credit to their parents for their influence in their early years leading to successes later in life. Even the illustrious and often crass senior coach Brian Clough understood the benefits of parental involvement saying; “I remain certain the character and disposition of children are established during those formative years.”

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How have you as a coach/club attempted to increase parental involvement?

In all honesty, with my experiences to date, I’ve operated behind the front lines, so to speak, when it comes to parental involvement. That being said, parent relations is a skill I’m trying to build and improve on. The limited interaction I’ve had with parents has always been positive.

With my club in Chicago, AYSO Mundelein 372, we hold ‘Silent Days’ or ‘Día del Silencio’ every few weekends. Quite easy to understand, it promotes silence on the sidelines from coaches and supporting parents alike, allowing youth players to make their own decisions during gameplay without instruction. While it’s a policy that’s generally followed by parents, I’m uncertain if they understand the principle behind the activity. Also, at the end of practice sessions, I make a point of bringing in youth players and having them openly thank their parents. This is to highlight their importance to the players but also to show my appreciation for their support.

In contrast, parent involvement when coaching in Ireland seems somewhat limited. Parents are happy to leave the responsibilities to youth player development to coaches not understanding that youth player development requires a symbiotic partnership between coaches and parents. I have watched senior coaches hold group meetings to explain and illustrate the intentions, which I feel is a brilliant incentive. If anything, these meetings or parent interactions, in general, should be more frequent.

It goes without saying that I’ve always had, and will continue to make time for parents who have any queries or questions on youth player development, roles and responsibilities. I feel there are minor rifts, especially in my own involvement in coaching, that can be bridged with efforts to encourage parent involvement and understanding.



You can find more about Sean on these social media outlets:

Facebook: Sean Doyle

Twitter: @SeaneDoyle

LinkedIn – Sean Doyle

Thank you Sean for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.

The Sporting Influencer

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