The constant demand for improvement has been the cornerstone of Kilkenny’s remarkable title haul since the turn of the millennium, according to All-Ireland winning manager Brian Cody.
Fostering a mentality where players constantly challenge themselves, where questions are forever asked irrespective of the number of Celtic crosses in the back pocket has been key to delivering 10 All-Ireland crowns in 15 years, says Cody.
The current crop of Kilkenny hurlers, and those who have departed the scene in seasons past, he added, are defined by their genuineness and honesty, claiming “a real spirit of togetherness based on the respect for every person involved is why we have been successful”.
“When dealing with success you have to be very vigilant. That is when you really have to look at your set-up, your structures and your team and dissect it with a fine tooth comb. The question we ask is now that we are successful what must we do to stay successful,” Cody revealed.
“You can’t stay the same. You have to constantly challenge yourself for improvement because there is always somebody queuing up behind you wanting to kick you off your pedestal. If you don’t challenge yourself and constantly look for improvement then you stay the same, you will disappear into the group very quickly.
“If you don’t have success, you have to have the attitude what I am doing wrong, what can I do to improve? When you are successful the attitude must be the same, if not greater. If you stay as you are you are gone. When you are successful you say everyone is giving 100%. 100% is 100%. You win an All-Ireland semi-final and you have the final in three weeks time, or the replay in three weeks time and you know in your heart and soul that where you are right now is not good enough. At the same time you know every player is convinced they are giving 100%. So where do you go?
“It is amazing where you can go when you challenge yourself, when players challenge each other and realise you can never exhaust the potential of the mind and the body to get you to a higher level. You might say we are already giving 100%, but it does work. When you are working within a group giving 100% and can get a further 1% improvement from every person, add the whole lot up together and it is a nice little figure. For when your back is to the wall you know you will be able to find that extra per cent. It is all about challenging yourself and others. That is the recipe of success.”
Kilkenny, under the stewardship of the James Stephens man, tasted All-Ireland final heartache in 1999, 2004 and 2010, failing to reach the decider in 2001, 2005 and again last year. On each occasion, there was no pat on the back from management, no hard luck stories spun. Kilkenny simply were not good enough, reasoned the manager, the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s ‘Powerful Bodies’ seminar organised by the Mater Private Cork.
“If you think you have all the answers you are kidding yourself. There are no geniuses out there, no experts. No one will ever get it completely right. There will always be something you can improve on. If you are complacent and thinking we have this sorted, that is a dangerous feeling.
“When you don’t achieve what you want to achieve don’t think of it as hard luck or we didn’t get the rub of the green. That is kind of making defeat acceptable. That is saying it will work out the next day. When you don’t win the reason is not hard luck, the reason is you are not good enough. The challenge is to make yourself good enough.
“Setting standards is not enough, you must set very, very high standards. Essentially, I would always think of our training pitch as a centre of excellence. Because if you don’t experience in training what you are going to experience in the real world, in Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Croke Park, if you don’t experience that in training then you are going to be in trouble when it comes to the real test.
“Bringing professionalism to your set-up is so important. The setting of standards, making demands of yourself, making demands of the players and backroom members and constantly looking for improvement from everyone is so important. The great thing is, from my experience, the more that demands are made of people the more they like it, the more they enjoy it. Because everybody’s ambition is to be part of a set-up that is going to be the absolute best.”
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