Coaching heroes - their stories

We speak to five coaches to find out what coaching means to them

Mini-tennis coaching

We invest millions of pounds into coaching, have developed a coaching strategy for the nation and worked with UK Coaching to implement it since it was launched in November 2016.

But money is worthless without the talented and dedicated coaches who work so hard to deliver an active nation.

There are 150,000 full-time coaches in the country, with a further 120,000 who are part-time and another 600,000 participating in casual coaching.

And for Stuart Armstrong, our head of coaching, it is these people – and all other potential coaches – that are the real heroes.

So we spoke to them, got their experiences and compiled them as examples of how coaches can not only make a positive impact on other people’s lives, but also their own.

Emma Wood

Name: Emma Wood

Age: 36

From: Bridgwater, Somerset

Activity: Running

Where Emma coaches: Highbridge Ladies Running Club

Emma’s coaching journey: I only began running in 2014 when, after my dad was airlifted to hospital and saved by their quick response.

The day before, I had been talking to a friend about doing the Royal Marines’ Commando challenge so I went out and bought some trainers and started the couch to 5km programme.

I raised £220 but later that year my mum’s cancer returned. She wanted me to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support so I entered the Taunton half marathon for 2015, one week after the date we set our wedding for – giving my mum some dates to fight towards.

My mum fought but the treatment did not work, we moved the wedding forward, got married and had a family holiday before we lost her on January 11, 2015.

Three months later I crossed the finish line of the Taunton half marathon having raised more than £1,000 – 13.1 miles for my mum.

When I found running, or rather when running found me, I trained alone and with no structure. I found a ladies’ running club – Bridgwater Ladies Running Club – and this was amazing for me.>

After mum passed away I carried on running and I began coaching with Highbridge Ladies Running Club, a club I set up, in April 2017.

My coaching started in week one with Highbridge! I had absolutely no coaching experience prior to this project.

When I was a coach at Highbridge I took 31 women from complete beginners to running 5km in just six weeks.

I was helping with technique and form, and five of these ladies even became run leaders within eight weeks. 

At Highbridge we don’t just have a run club, we have been successful in building a community. We’re more a cross between the WI and Girl guides, only we run races!

Rik K Wood

Name: Rik K Grover

Age: 55

From: Warminster, Wiltshire

Activity: Diving

Rik’s coaching journey: Due to my love of the underwater world and marine conservation, I wanted to share my experiences and allow others to have the same.

I’m a PADI qualified master instructor and have been doing it for 20 years now but absolutely love giving others the opportunities to witness and experience things that the majority of the world’s population will never see.

Due to my passion for diving, I find it extremely therapeutic to teach it and take part in it. I’m offering true ‘life experiences’.

I have been gifted with be able to train and offer experiences to a whole new world for a great number of individuals.

To be able to teach and qualify people with a world recognised qualification in a sport that I absolutely love is just fantastic, truly life changing.

I have had many entry level students go on to become ‘professionals’ – from Divemaster’s to fully-fledged PADI instructors.

I would definitely encourage people to get into coaching but find a sport or activity that you have a passion for, not just something to ‘make some cash’.

Your students/participants will pick up on that.

Sam James

Name: Sam James

Age: 38

From: Swindon, Wiltshire

Activity: Ability sessions

Where Sam coaches: Swindon Borough Council

Sam’s coaching journey: I have a physical disability myself and I knew from personal experience the lack of mainstream provision for disabled people and the lack of awareness as society has perceived disabled people to be completely different to those who do not have any disabilities.

I love being a role model for them and encouraging them to be able to achieve their goals whatever they are.

I have had clients who have gone on to achieve things they thought they couldn’t, once they saw me doing it.

Im the senior lead coach for Swindon Borough Council and organise all the sessions, any guest instructors, etc

Im mainly involved with the trampolining, athletics and our multi-sports club called Swindon Champions.

The main challenge in the job is that no disability is the same and so how each individual deals or copes with good and bad days is completely different.

The biggest challenge I found when I started was the very mixed ability group, where some are very able and understand everything and others who are the complete opposite.

But working with them daily/weekly helped overcome this as I was able to observe them and see what they were good at and work on these points so everyone feels successful. 

The whole job role has completely changed my life, not only is my own disability improved but it has helped me out in other ways – making new friends to improving my own mental health and outlook on life. I am also a lot happier personally.

Katie Wales

Name: Katie Wales

Age: 29

From: Oxford, Oxfordshire

Activity: Football

Where Katie coaches: Oxfordshire FA, Chinnor FC, Queens Park Rangers, ACS Hillingdon School

Katie’s coaching journey: I’ve coached across several organisations for a number of years. 

I am passionate about growing the game and, in particular, giving girls the opportunities that my generation did not necessarily have.

I’d like to get to a place whereby we eradicate any barriers that exist and prevent girls getting involved in sport.

It’s not entirely selfless either, there is a massive satisfaction factor from seeing the outcomes of the time and effort you put into developing young people, be it better equipping them for football or for life in general.

There is a quote about how a coach will impact more people in a year than some do in a lifetime - it’s both a privilege and great responsibility which I subscribe to whole heartedly!

I have become a master of logistics and advanced planning! Coaching in London, Oxfordshire (sometimes on the same day), balancing a full time (and more!) consultancy career, and of course home life as well.

A lot of people look at my lifestyle and don’t understand how I do it, but the coaching really complements all the other areas and I simply wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t fulfilling.

It has also helped me interact with such a wide variety of people, with different backgrounds, different challenges, different motivations.

Having to quickly assimilate what makes people tick is now my day-in-day-out, and developing emotional intelligence really influences the relationships you can build, be it in a coaching, work or life context. 

I am not sure I could pick out a single area within my coach development which has not stretched beyond the boundaries of the coaching context and into other areas of life.

Iain Howard

Name: Iain Howard

Age: 42

From: Shrewsbury, Shropshire

Activity: Cricket and basketball

Where Iain coaches: Sentinel Cricket Club, Shrewsbury Dribblers, School Games, vulnerable groups

Iain’s coaching journey: When my marriage broke down in 2011 I realised I needed to find a new direction in the face of a bad time in my life.

Having been a keen sportsman all my life and wanting to do something that gave back to the community I chose to start a journey in to coaching, cricket was the natural fit as it’s my favourite sport and the one I have the most talent at.

At the same time the opportunity to start the basketball club came about and I decided to get that up and running at the same time as a way to get fit and meet new people.

There were few barriers to volunteering once I was put in touch with the council leisure services team and the County Sports Partnership.

In fact, I’ve often had to turn offers down due to a lack of time – I work full time as well as co-parenting my son.

The cricket club and CSP were able to help with my coaching qualifications as well as my safeguarding and first aid courses, which was brilliant.

Volunteering has given me a huge amount. I have made new friends from different countries through the basketball club some of whom are in my closest circle of friends now.

The cricket club has become like a second family and are a constant in my life that I rely upon. My son joins me when I play and coach and he is (sort of!) getting in to cricket as much as I am.

The basketball club has brought together people from different countries which you don’t see so much in Shropshire.

We have players from Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Spain and even China that play or have played with us.

I love our little international gathering on a Monday. I think it’s also helped spread a little more understanding and friendship at a time when the world seems to want to become more insular.