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Collins reflects on coaching role Sugrue


For talented young athletes, the toughest decision is often about which sports to drop along the way.
Mallow (Co.Cork) Golf Range based instructor, Michael Collins, knows only too well how difficult that process can be but he also understands how important that conversation is between coach, student and family.
Collins is the coach of recently crowned Amateur Champion, James Sugrue, who had to make that tough choice in his mid-teens.
“I’ve known James for about 15 years from around the time he started coming to the range for winter coaching through the Mallow GC programme,” said the 39-year-old.
“It was group coaching at that stage and he continued to progress until he was 14 when he started to show a bit more than normal.
“James was a very good hurler, he played a bit for Cork at underage level and he also played a bit of rugby.
“We probably had the conversation about focusing on golf when he was around 16. GAA and golf were the two that were interacting at that stage.
“At 15 he won the Connacht Boys title and was playing for Ireland. He was starting to compete at European level.
“I had to say to him that he was now competing against fellas who were spending all their time playing golf, while he was trying to split his time up.
“It was a difficult decision for him to make. He had to make it and I suppose, his Masters invite is proof he made the right decision.”
Collins isn’t against children playing multi-sports. At ages 10, 11, 12 he sees it as valuable but pinpoints the 14/15 as the key moment.
“That’s when sport starts to get a bit more serious. There are more demands placed on the athlete and results become more important,” he adds.
“My philosophy is pretty simple. If you are playing five sports, you have to split yourself five ways and fit in a life as well.
“If you are playing two sports at 14 you can give more time to those two sports and still have down time. That’s very important because this is a key time in the development of the person as much as the athlete.
“It’s really about trying to get them to understand there is only so much time in the day and that they are competing against people who don’t have the same number of commitments.
“Over the years I have had that conversation on numerous occasions. Students have decided not to specialise and often it just works against them.
“One of the biggest issues, particularly more recently, has been injuries. I’m seeing a lot more which is leading to early drop-outs. There is too much overloading at a young age which is putting pressure on physical development.”
In the days that followed James’ victory over Scotland’s Euan Walker, there was a clamour for Michael’s services but he’s in no rush to walk away from a career that has taken 15 years to build.
“James is trending in the right direction,” he added.
“If he puts in the work and keeps doing what he is doing, it’s exciting times ahead.
“To say my phone was hot after his win would be an understatement but James is just one of my students.
“I enjoy coaching players of all abilities, I enjoy the challenge of helping people to improve.
“I have worked with a number of elite players over the years and you get a nice kick when you get a text message after they win something but I still enjoy it as much when the 18-handicapper gets in touch after winning the monthly medal.
“That puts a smile on your face and gives you an extra burst of energy.”