Profile-PhotoAs a Skill Acquisition Specialist I empower athletes across all sporting dsiciplines to perform their best in competition. Ineffective practice is why most athletes fall short of peak performance. Practice MUST transfer and Skill Acquisition is the route to achieving that. Skill Acquisition is the perfect blend of Coaching Science, Sport Science and Sport Psychology. All three domains are in constant flow during a session as I connect with an athlete to unlock their potential.

My route to Skill Acquisition started over 20 years ago as a coach and accelerated during my degree in Sport Science at Dublin City University (DCU) and my PhD in Skill Acquisition at the Research Institute for Sport & Exercise Science at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). I have studied under some of the world’s leading Skill Acquisition specialists; Dr Rick Shuttleworth, Dr Paul Ford and Prof. Mark Williams.

In Liverpool I further developed my skills in performance analysis, eye-tracking technology, video analysis and skills testing. I had the opportunity to work with the EIS, GB Shooting, UEFA, Chelsea FC, St Helen’s RLFC, Scottish Curling and many more. I lecture in Sport Science in the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). I am also a guest lecturer in Skill Acquisition at University College Dublin (UCD).

My career as a Skill Acquisition specialist has afforded me great opportunities to apply and present my work around the world.

Belgrade-SerbiaBelgrade, Serbia – Head of Sport Science Support – World University Games. I liaised with the coaches of 69 athletes from 9 sports over 3 weeks of competition for Team Ireland to positively impact performance for their respective events.

JapanNagoya, Japan – 7th World Congress of Science and Football (WCSF). I presented my work on how expert free-takers practice and engage in deliberate practice by choice. The presentation showed that through the development of expertise, elite level athletes engage in more deliberate practice as a result of their quest for continual performance improvement.

EnglandLiverpool, England – European Congress of Sport Science (ECSS). I presented my work on the practice characteristics of expert athletes and how these trainable traits can be adopted by those looking to achieve expertise and more especially how already expert athletes can retain their expertise and continue to improve through their careers.

ScotlandGlasgow, Scotland – International Convention on Science, Education and Medicine in Sport (ISCEMIS). I was invited to present a symposium in association with the World Commission of Sports Science on “The transfer of the Expert Performance Approach from the research domain to the practical environment for athletes and coaches”. It proved to be a fascinating event discussing the elite athlete performance strategies of the Skill Acquisition team from UK Sport.

ScotlandEdinburgh, Scotland – Edinburgh Science Festival. I was invited by the Physiological Society and the Royal Society of Biology to take part in a debate titled “Olympians: Born or Built?” I debated for the “Built” side of the argument against Prof. Yannis Pitsiladis (recognised as the world’s leading sports geneticist) on the “Born” side. The event was chaired by 3-time Paralympian Dr Dan Gordon.


CanadaMontreal, Canada – The North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) Conference. I am presenting my research at a special conference workshop titled “Seeing the forest and the trees: Theoretical and practical issues in Sport Expertise”. It promises to be an outstanding event (organised by Dr Joe Baker and Dr Nikki Hodges) with Prof. Jocelyn Faubert presenting his remarkable work on perceptual-cognitive skills training.


British AssociationThe British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences

European CollegeThe European College of Sport Science

ExpertiseThe Expertise and Skill Acquisition Network

AmericanThe North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity

Selected Publications

Ford, P. R., Coughlan, E. K., Hodges, N. J., & Williams, A. M. (2015). Deliberate Practice in Sport. Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise (Eds. J. Baker, & D. Farrow). Routledge, 347-362.

Coughlan, E. K., Williams, A. M., McRobert, A. P., & Ford, P. R. (2014). How experts practice: A novel test of deliberate practice theory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition, 40, 449-458.

Coughlan, E. K., Ford, P. R., McRobert, A. P., & Williams, A. M. (2013). How skilled Gaelic football players practice kicking: Deliberate or not? In Science and Football VII, (Eds. B. Drust, & H. Noyume). London: Routledge, 231-236.

Ford, P. R., Coughlan, E. K., & Williams, A. M. (2009). The Expert Performance Approach as a framework for understanding and enhancing coaching performance, expertise and learning. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 4, 451-463.

people say

  • “I was coming to the end of my career (or so I thought) when I started working with Ed. He made me feel like I had years more in me because of his infectious approach to coaching but also because of how specific he makes everything for every athlete he works with. He tailored physical and skills sessions exactly to my needs to ensure there was a maximal transfer to the competitive environment. Because he looks at everything in such detail he’s always able to find innovative ways to practice a skill without it becoming monotonous”.

    Michelle Fahy
    Michelle Fahy Senior Irish Basketball International
  • “Ed Coughlan is the best trainer I've ever worked with. He works tirelessly to get you to your goals. Constantly helping you to strive for better by making sure every practice session matches the demands of the game, not just physically but also technically”

    Gavin Maguire
    Gavin Maguire Senior Irish Table-tennis International
  • “Ed had a massive impact on my free-kick development and progression. I always felt I was getting the very latest that sport science could offer and yet he delivered it in a highly accessible way. Before working with Ed I was unaware of how important my vision and coordination was to my ability to become consistent. Every session we did together was loaded with match intensity simulation to ensure it transferred to gameday reality”.

    Cillian O'Connor
    Cillian O'Connor Mayo GAA Footballer
  • “Everything I did with Ed had a purpose. Every part of every session was designed with competition in mind. His understanding and application of the sport science principles of training make significant improvements inevitable; which is exactly what I experienced. He is not afraid to challenge tradition in pursuit of a better method of coaching and his unique coaching systems are designed to empower the athlete to be self-sufficient in the heat of battle”.

    Orla Drumm
    Orla Drumm Senior Irish International 1500m Athlete
  • “I wanted to sharpen up my decision making on the field and worked with Ed to improve this area of my game. We ran through some innovative yet relatively simple exercises that were designed to increase reaction times whilst making the right decision. I really felt the benefit of these sessions and if you are looking for those extra inches that can help you to excel in your respective fields, then I would recommend Ed Coughlan without hesitation”

    Chris Barrett
    Chris Barrett Mayo Senior Footballer
  • “I know Ed since 2012. Before I met him I’d never even heard of a skills acquisition coach. But from day one he challenged me to look in even more detail of how each player was or was not executing each skill. He was often tasked to help out a player who may have been going through a shooting slump and those one-on-one sessions resulted in huge gains for the athlete. Ed has a unique way of dealing with athletes and his infectious personality makes his challenging sessions highly engaging. Players just buy into what he is doing right away. The more and more I work in sport I see how valuable people like Ed are. I have been blessed to work with many great players and coaches over the years but I must say that ED is the most impressive person I have come across”

    James Weldon
    James Weldon FECC & FIBA International Basketball Coach
  • “I had the pleasure of working intensively with Ed over a sustained period of time with some of Irelands top Juniors in tennis. Ed's principal role was to coach on the physical side but more specifically with the skill acquisition development of the players, such as decision-making and spatial awareness. Many of these Juniors are now top senior tennis players in Ireland and much of this is due to Ed's unique ability to engage with the athlete, build a relationship with the athlete and thus develop the athlete through the field of skill acquisition”

    Jamie Pilkington
    Jamie Pilkington ITF Professional Tennis Coach
  • "I have worked with Ed Coughlan for the past 15 months. I am a current member of the Dublin Senior Hurling Team and before meeting Ed my goal was to improve my decision making. Ed showed me exercises that really tested my concentration skills and put me through tasks that required me to carry out complex activities that tested both my technical & cognitive skills. Ed clearly explained to me the reasoning for such activities which helped me to understand what I was doing.  Because of Ed's work I really feel all aspects of my game have greatly improved. As somebody who is involved in a High Performance Environment I think the expertise and knowledge that Ed brings really gives teams and individuals an advantage over opponents. Ed is always there to answer any of my questions and offers help and advice when needed."

    Niall Corcoran
    Niall Corcoran Dublin Senior Hurler
  • “Ed Coughlan, was my strength and conditioning coach throughout my athletics career from 2004-2013. His attention to detail as a coach is outstanding, he never leaves any stone unturned, and he’s always so up to date with the most current research and techniques. Ed always kept me on my toes when the negativity or laziness crept in. He worked me hard but it was so worth it and all the hard work and dedication paid off in the end. Ed is one of the most reliable people I know and he was not only my coach but also like a psychologist and good friend to me. I would highly recommend Ed as a coach, he will transform you”

    Linda Byrne
    Linda Byrne Irish Olympian, London 2012