• How writing changed the game

Twenty-five years ago I wrote a book and I haven’t looked back since.

Writing can help with solving problems, coping with setbacks, relieving stress, setting goals, shaping visions, planning success and achieving things you never thought possible.

The book was titled What’s The Story – True Confessions Of The Irish Soccer Supporters. It chronicled the exploits of the Irish fans during Euro 88 and Italia 90. I was hoping it would help turn my life around – and it did – but not in the way I thought.

whats the story front cover image   whats the story back cover image

I was hoping to become a literary sensation overnight, with riches to follow. After all, the Irish soccer supporters were loved by all. They took over the Island of Malta in 1989, qualified for the world cup in Italia 90 and captured the hearts of the soccer world. Sure even the pope got in on the act.

Pope Italia 90 image

The Irish nation went ballistic and 4 million people became soccer fans. It couldn’t go wrong. Millionaire status was around the corner.

But it wasn’t to be. Tracking down the stories of the Irish soccer supporters proved costly.

Most of the stories were documented in pubs. The sessions where mighty but the writing was dodgy. I woke up most mornings with no memory, no notes and no stories. Then I had a brain wave. Buy a dictaphone. So I did.

It took me two weeks to master it – and then I pressed the wrong button and deleted everything. The Dictaphone met its waterloo after a night in the Submarine bar in Crumlin. I went back to a house party and it slipped from my hand into a bowl of punch.

There was another problem. I didn’t drive, and was cycling around Dublin collecting stories. The cycling didn’t bother me; I was fit and could go for hours – till I got drunk. I lost 3 bikes, 2 jobs and broke several bones.

To top it all off, I had no clue of the publishing world, and discovered most of the proceeds went to the publisher and bookshops.

So I ended up penniless. In fact I owed money, and was still paying back for the dictaphone and a bike I lost.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was an incredible 18 months – spent with some of the funniest and most adorable people in the world.

The connections and friends I made were also invaluable – and the stories were incredible; in particular the ones from Italia 90.

But most importantly, the book was a mental milestone. The previous fifteen years had been difficult and I needed to prove to myself I was good at something. And it worked. When the book was published – my confidence soared and it gave me a renewed sense of hope.

I start applying for jobs using my author status as a CV. It was all I had. I’d left school at 14, and by the time I’d reached thirty, I hadn’t a skill to my name. Except for soccer – and the fact I’d represented Ireland. But now I’d written a book. Surely that would stand for something?

So I applied for an administration job in a local Youthreach centre. I would be good at that, I thought. So I was bamboozled when I went for the interview and was asked to type a letter from a computer.

The manager looked at me and we both laughed. I hadn’t a clue about computers, and certainly couldn’t type. Sure if the truth were known I couldn’t even spell.

“It’s ok” – she said. “I didn’t bring you here for an administration job. I’m more interested in your soccer background. The trainees need activity and we need a soccer coach – would you be interested”?

A feeling of excitement washed over me like never before. “Wow – “that would be amazing, but I have no coaching qualifications”. “That’s ok” she answered – “If you can write a book I’m sure you can be good at coaching”.

Her name was Helena Caulfield and her belief in my ability to become a coach changed my life.

So there it is – that’s how writing changed the game. It started a positive cycle that led to several other game changers. It also continues to play a major role in my life today.

Writing is my main choice of therapy as mental challenges crop up along the way. It’s helped me write much of the educational and marketing materials at my college. I’ve written two books since the one mentioned here – and will write more.

I cant recommend writing highly enough – and for anyone who thinks they cant write – here’s another story. When I re-entered education at the age of 30 my literacy skills were weak because of my early school leaving – but I got help, and within three months was obsessed with writing. I haven’t stopped since. So if I can do it, anyone can.

I believe that writing has played a role in the success of my training company and I believe it will do the same in the next chapter of my life: the Winning Minds Movement.

It changed the game for me and it could change it for you.

DOK – founder – Winning Minds Movement

Next up: How soccer changed the game