Ahead of a busy weekend for Kilkenny Storm we caught up with Paul Cummins, Kilkenny's Mr. Hockey.
Saturday morning/afternoon see's their U12s & U14s, coached by Paul Cummins, in league action in Longford, against the Flying Ducks and Hawks. Saturday night then sees Storm seniors for which Paul plays take to the ice in Dundondald for a Cross-Border Cup game. Then Sunday it's back to Longford for the seniors as they have 2 important elite league inline games.
Looks like you have a busy weekend ahead. Where do you get the energy and motivation from to regularly have weekends jampacked with hockey across the country?
It's a mixture of a couple of things for me, I'm a former professional fighter who was used to training twice a day up to 6 six days week and travelling all over the country for training, sparring and competing; and travelling all over the world. I also ran my own gym and managed/coached fighters (and still do with a couple of partners) and travelled all over the country with them so for me things haven't changed at all.
Secondly I have five kids four of which play both ice and inline hockey both nationally and internationally in all the different ages groups so I'm also just a dad travelling with his kids to games, I'm not a guy who likes to have a free weekend, even if I wanted to.
We are regularly seeing Kilkenny juniors near the top of their leagues. What for you is your players best quality?
Simple - commitment! I'm lucky enough to have a core group of committed players (and parents) who have a great drive to excel and want to improve constantly and put in the time and effort it takes to achieve that, and that commitment will spread throughout the club and others will follow.
You've recently come on board as assistant coach with the national junior men's team. What are you looking forward to with this role?
Inline Hockey in Ireland right now is at its highest level in my opinion and there are so many fantastic junior clubs and players out there and I'm looking forward to being a part of bringing the right players together from all the different clubs and backgrounds and developing a national team that can achieve on the world stage, and I think we can do that with the talented players coming through from across the country.
Last season wasn't a great one for the Storm in elite league. However, this season you've already created an upset along with some narrow defeats. What's the biggest difference to the team this year?
That's a simple answer, young blood, the storm senior team up to last year were an ageing team with many players like myself in there 40's+ vat with families, jobs and dodgy knees😆 etc and we struggled. However, now we have the young guns who have come up through the storm system joining the senior ranks and I think as the season go's on we will gel even more and hopefully the mix of youth and experience will keep us competitive. We have also struggled with senior goalies over the last few years but again this year we are lucky enough to have 2 solid young Goalies move up and complete our elite team.
We're continuing to see Kilkenny Storm grow as a club. What advice do you have to other clubs looking to grow? You able to share some fundrasing/grant finding tips?
What people need to realise before they decide to start coaching is its a double marathon race not a sprint. I spent nearly 2 years coaching 3-5 kids when I first started a junior program and some times nobody at all would turn up and i used to get frustrated, but eventually and slowly it took off. Now it's the opposite, I'm flat out coaching and travelling. So my first bit of advice is be prepared for both sides of the coin, one year you might be packed with kids and the next not, don't take it personally that's just the way it go's with kids they fall in and out of love with different sports.
Fundraising and grants are tricky, we are in a position in Kilkenny now where we don't need to explain who or what we are because everyone knows and that's the key to fundraising and grants and attracting new members. My second bit of advice is get involved in anything that will help promote your club; St Patrick's day parade, open sports day, field days, arrange public events yourselves and get out there and be seen in the public eyes. Also, send write ups and pictures to your local papers after game days etc, they don't always need to be for fundraising events because public awareness will bring it's rewards eventually and grants will be easier to get.
Grants will not come looking for you, you must spend time and alot of effort looking and applying for them, get a local politician on board, keep in touch with the local council authorities about receiving information on grants because these are the people in the know, and get the club registered. If your club is not set up properly it will not be recognised by most funding bodies, get advice on the best way for your club to be set up to receive local grants.
Last bit of advice, it's up to you as a coach to keep the players you have by making training sessions fun, the younger they are the more fun your sessions need to be. Fun games are also skill learning games, and the older they get and the more skilled they get they will end up enjoying doing the hard drills, eventually that 6 and 8 year old who's hand you had to hold the first time he put on skates is scoring the winning goal for you on your elite league team, and that is priceless!!!
Thanks for taking the time Paul. Travel safe this weekend and best of luck in all your games!