Showcasing the impact of coaching on sport and physical activity

As coaches get their moment in the spotlight, we shine it on some key coaching investments

05 June 2019 Coaching Funding

Almost 2 million people in England coach in sport or physical activity for at least one hour a week.

This week marks Coaching Week, the annual celebration of great coaching and sharing of knowledge.

In 2019, UK Coaching is calling on the sport and physical activity sector to make a #GreatCoachingPledge, to help coaches across the nation benefit their communities.

And Stuart Armstrong, our Head of Coaching, has kicked things off with Sport England’s commitment to coaches in England.

"Our pledge to the coaching family is to work tirelessly to support coaches to be better equipped to provide experiences based on the needs and goals of the individuals they coach," he said.

"We also want to understand more about how, where and why coaching has a negative impact on people participating and reduce the likelihood of that happening. To support people who are under-represented in coaching to get involved in coaching. To change the perception of coaching among the wider public and promote a new model of what ‘good coaching’ looks like."

And while Stuart and all our colleagues at Sport England is focused on building a better sport and physical activity workforce that can give people a positive experience when participating, UK Coaching’s director of coaching is asking people to focus on what it is that makes great coaching.

“Great coaching takes place throughout the UK every day with little fanfare and is a fundamental element of every community,” said Emma Atkins.

“This Coaching Week, we want to celebrate Great Coaching, thank those who deliver it and provoke everyone to make a pledge to continue to help, support and improve coaching.”

So, during the week, we’re going to take a look at how the money we invest and the expertise we provide helps people to be better coaches, and to create better environments for those participating in sport and physical activity.

Will Charlesworth, Notts County Coach Core apprentice

Coach Core

From a studying at a Nottinghamshire college to coaching football in America, via a professional club in England, Will Charlesworth has had an eventful couple of years.

Now 21, he left South Notts College at 18 and knowing that he wanted to coach, but without a path mapped out.

However, through his involvement in the Nottingham charity Epic Partners he was introduced to Coach Core, an arm of the Royal Foundation who target 16-24-year-olds who are not in education or employment and use coaching to help transform their lives.

In September 2018 we announced an award of nearly £1 million to help them grow their operation and continue to match up young people with apprenticeships at professional sports clubs, giving them the knowledge and experience they need to make a career in coaching.

Will was hooked up with Notts County and has not looked back.

“I was coaching a team in St Ann’s already, but then when I got into Coach Core I just became a little more open and they helped me clamp down on a few things and gave me a fantastic experience with Notts County,” said Will.

“It was great to be able to learn on the job as an apprentice. It helped me get out of my shell a little bit and I developed my abilities, my confidence within myself and my confidence with my coaching – it worked out perfectly, as well as it could have gone.

“I was living the life of a coach, doing it on a day-to-day basis, and learning at the same time.

“Not many people get the opportunity to go into a professional club and to learn from them, so I wanted to make the most of it.

“The variety of work I got to do was amazing.”

After a year at Meadow Lane and graduating from Coach Core Notts County kept Will on for a further season.

However, their financial situation meant they were unable to keep him on for a third year and he began to look elsewhere for opportunities.

A family friend put him in touch with a coaching scholarship scheme in America, and in March he embarked on a journey to the USA that just two years ago he would not have thought possible.

“I investigated the American opportunity and if I hadn’t have done Coach Core then I wouldn’t have done it because I might’ve thought it was too out there,” he added.

“But with the confidence Coach Core gave me then I was confident in my ability and took it straight away.

“During the spring I was placed in Birmingham, Alabama, with one of their high schools, doing soccer coaching and managing teams.

“Now, during the summer, I’m at a different base camp every week. I’ve been in Mississippi, I’m heading to Georgia soon, coaching at summer camps all week. It’s going really well and I’m loving the opportunity.

“Everywhere I go, learning different things, experiencing new environments, it’s just making me a better coach.

“It’s a fixed contract so I’m back in the UK in November, but there will be opportunities to go back next year and hopefully I can do that and make something out of coaching.”

Wheelchair handball group at the University of Nottingham

Inclusive Activity Programme

In 2018 we invested £450,000 of National Lottery funds into Activity Alliance’s Inclusive Activity Programme (IAP), designed to help enable disabled people to be more active.

Our own Active Lives Survey data shows that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled, but also that 70% of disabled people want to be more active.

That autumn, students at the University of Nottingham took part in the programme and have since been making a difference to the lives of not just their fellow students, but also disabled people in their local community.

Hannah Webber, the university’s disability sport officer has long been an advocate of inclusive programmes and has, in her role on BUCS’ inclusion board, pushed for other institutions to follow suit.

Having implemented the programme in Nottingham, she hopes more people are able to benefit from its simplicity.

“I think we had about 12 students from a variety of different clubs that did it, and we had someone come over from Loughborough Uni as well,” she said.

“It was really well received. We had really good engagement from the students that were on the course, and from the feedback from them then it’s given them a lot more confidence in delivering to disabled participants in their respective sports.

“I’ve been in post just under ten years and I’ve always been linked in with what was the English Federation of Disability Sport, now Activity Alliance – I’ve always gone along to their regional meetings and I link up quite a lot with our regional engagement officer.

“She keeps me updated with what initiatives and what training they’re pushing out through Activity Alliance.

“She recommended the course and we also got a bit of funding from our local Active Partnership to deliver it.

“It was a no brainer for me, really. The space we needed was fairly minimal. We just needed a sports hall. They had some training materials, some workbooks and other resources for students to work from and take away afterwards which were really quite useful.”

Hannah has also seen the implementation of disability sport champions at the university and hopes to see their influence in the local community, as well as the IAP itself, go from strength to strength in the coming years.

“The programme’s really accessible, and even if you have to pay for it it’s not really that expensive to deliver it, for what you get,” she added.

“We’ve got about 10 clubs that run inclusive sessions and quite a few of those came on the course.

“We’ve also recruited disability sport champions – student volunteers that have done some delivery within their local community.

“We’ve got a local youth club for disabled teenagers and three or four of the champions went there to deliver sessions with them, off the back of doing the course.

“It’s not massive numbers but it is more of a ripple effect, I am hoping it will grow year-on-year.”

For more information about the Inclusive Activity Programme, visit Activity Alliance’s website, email or call 01509 227750.

A group of Our Parks participants jump in the air

Our Parks

From gym instructor to fitness revolutionary aiming to take on the world, Born Barikor’s story began in north London.

Our Parks was born when Born left his job as a coach in a London leisure centre, unable to afford to attend the gym he worked at.

A little bit of motherly inspiration later and Born had swapped the treadmill for trails and embarked on a mission to create an army of ‘Parkers’.

“It all came from my mum, she wanted to be fit and the first thing she would do is go to the park and run around there,” he said.

“She realised that she got bored and needed something to inspire her and keep her going.

“I wondered how many other people feel like that?

“In London you’re never far away from a park, so I came up with an idea to make exercise free using councils and corporations to fund it.

“But ultimately, it was looking at data and insight on inactivity and then showing the organisations that fund the programme, if we can make exercise fun, we will lower obesity and associated issues for the future.

“It started at Waltham Forest, grew within London and is now UK-wide and I’m working with Sport England to help to get into every London borough and work with Active Partnerships.”

Born’s simple idea has been to give those who are either intimidated by a gym, or who simply prefer exercising in the great outdoors, access to a community or like-minded people with inspirational coaches.

Our Parks began with just Born as an instructor, but he is now setting about converting his Parkers – those who participate in Our Parks – to coaches who can help grow the initiative.

“We felt that the skills that make great coaches are not those that can be taught by learning how to do a sit up or a push up correctly, or how to use gym machines,” he added.

“We’ve found that the best coaches are the ones that have been to our sessions, have been Parkers.

“In the UK we have to change the way recruit coaches and make it accessible. We are trying to coach in disadvantaged communities, but the best coaches for those areas and the ones from there, who maybe can’t afford access to a qualification, or they don’t feel like it’s for them.

“This year is all about making a coaching qualification who makes the people we are trying to activate, become activators, and give them the opportunity to share their passion with their community.

“If an industry is going to work, it has got to be geared to the users. Gyms just try to sign as many people up as possible and then hope they don’t attend, whereas we want to give an experience that people enjoy and develop a community.

“By 2020 we want 250,000 Parkers, then go global! We want to conquer the UK and then show the world that our model works.”

A football coach speaking to a female footballer

The Open University

Who watches the watchmen?

Or, more pertinently, who coaches the coaches?

In February 2019 we invested £38,500 in an online course to be developed by The Open University (OU).

‘Coaching Others to Coach’ is set to be launched in July, having been in development for more than six months.

Ben Oakley, professor of sport performance education at The OU, has developed the online course – which will run for free on their OpenLearn website – in conjunction with Dr Alex Twitchen, senior lecturer in sport coaching practice and learning at The OU.

Set to be run over eight sessions and designed to take around 15-20 hours to complete, the interactive course will focus on helping those who support the learning and development of coaches.

“You become a coach developer largely by experience and if you’ve got one of the higher-level coaching qualifications you can often transition into a coach developer role without knowing much about how coaches learn and improve their practice,” said Ben.

“Invariably you can fall back and promote the very approach you are most used to.

“Each national governing body (NGB) will have their own training scheme and they will provide continuing professional development and some support for coach developers but there is nothing systematic, except at Olympic level.

“Nothing has really been developed that addresses this gap at a national level, so this is the first attempt to do that.”

The course has been developed with consultation from UK Sport, UK Coaching and leading practitioners from various NGBs.

And Ben hopes the legacy of the course will be more coaches thinking about and challenging their established practises.

“When people start thinking about their beliefs about coaching and what identity they project, it’s a good start. Then they might begin to see alternative approaches for developing learning relationships, that’s what we’re looking for,” he added.

“Coaching is not a puzzle that can be solved, there’s not a logical right answer to coaching, it’s a bit of a mystery. You’re doing the best you can for your context and your situation.

“You’ve got to try and work out how you impose your personality on that. There is no right answer, but there is definitely effective and ineffective coaching if you keep the participants’ needs in mind.

“Our wish is to see a more coherent and consistent set of principles that inform coach learning and development with more people reflecting on what they’re doing and its impact.”

As a starter, The OU has developed five things anyone can do to support other coaches’ development:

1. Initially concentrate on establishing a sound relationship through listening and building rapport before attempting to ‘develop’
2. Ask a coach how you can help them and respond to their ideas
3. Hold back from imposing your own version of how they can improve and help guide them towards self-identified actions/development
4. Make feedback a two-way conversation which may often focus on to what extent they have met their participants' needs
5. Draw on evidenced-based learning principles to inform how you provide support.