Great coaching has the power to transform lives.
Almost 80% of active coaches believe that their coaching makes a difference to their participants, while 77% of participants say they enjoy being coached and 72% believe coaching improves their mental health and wellbeing.
According to UK Coaching figures, more than three million people give up their time every year to coach in sport and physical activity, with more than nine million people receiving that coaching.
But there are some groups in society who are not represented in these coaching figures.
Women are significantly more likely than men to have never been a coach, while 65% of those who do coach are in the ABC1 social grade – higher than the overall population.
And with just 22% of coaches being black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME), we are investing millions in supporting under-represented groups in coaching.
The FA: Supporting BAME coaches
From Sunday League on the local playing fields to the FIFA World Cup with the eyes of the world on you, that journey can’t happen without a coach.
In each of the last three years we have invested £2million in The Football Association to specifically help coaches.
That investment is part of a wider, £10m-a-year, project to improve the standards of grassroots coaching, support and increase the number of coaches from under-represented groups, make qualifications cheaper and more accessible, and to support and improve the provision of school sport.
Among the many projects funded by this investment is a bursary scheme that gives 100 grants a year to BAME coaches wishing to get their UEFA B coaching licence.
That equates to £60,000, along with another £60,000 a year for female coaches, and is then supported by investment in County Coach Developers and mentors to aid the bursary recipients as they undergo their coaching courses.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic and we’re indebted to Sport England, who have helped us to do this,” said FA coaching inclusion and investment manager Dr Wayne Allison.
“That £600 is massive. Anecdotally, and from the research that we do, the feedback we’ve got from the coaches has been overwhelming in terms of how good the project is – it’s life-changing.
“The idea is for opportunity, to help people and to support them, to give them the opportunities that they need.
“It’s initially part of a bigger picture of addressing the under-representation of BAME coaches right the way through the game – whether it be grassroots or, with mentoring, into the pro game through academies.”
Dr Allison gives the example of Liban Mude as an illustration of just what an impact the £600 bursary can have.
A bursary recipient in recent years who went from working two jobs, while also coaching at Barnet and London Bees, Liban is now employed by Queens Park Rangers as their assistant lead for youth development having progressed from his UEFA B licence to receiving another bursary and also completing his A licence.
“It’s things like that which are really rewarding,” the former Bristol City striker added.
“We don’t just hand out bursaries and say ‘there you go, fend for yourself’.
“We get them back and show them what the UEFA B looks like, get them into St George’s Park, make them feel loved and show them that there is support out there – which they might not be aware of – like grassroots mentors and County Coach Developers.
“It’s also an opportunity to network with likeminded bursary coaches, they’re all in the same boat.
“We try to bring them together and help and support them as much as we can. Those support days are really, really, important.”
Since the mentoring scheme launched in 2014, it has worked with 3,192 BAME coaches, as well as 3,353 female coaches and 1,109 disabled coaches.
With Dr Allison emphasising the importance of tracking a coach’s progress, via the mentoring scheme, to give them the best chance of being a success.
And he also praised UK Coaching for highlighting the value of coaches to all levels of sport, with their inaugural Coaching Week in 2018.
“It’s a great initiative,” he concluded. “It has got everybody thinking coaching and it does affect everybody.
“UK Coaching are involved in a lot of national governing bodies, so the work that they’re doing – and I know it’s a lot of good work – we have to be proud that we are involved in it and are contributing.”
Project 500: Supporting female coaches
In 2013, with 70% of coaches being male, there was an obvious imbalance in the coaching workforce.
That stat, and the reaction to it, gave birth to Project 500 – an initiative that launched on International Women’s Day that year, with a goal of recruiting, developing, deploying and retaining 500 female coaches across the south east of England in two years.
That target was exceeded and the organisation has continued to flourish in the three years since, with coaching network officer Louisa Arnold driving the project.
Project 500 provides subsidised training workshops, access to coaching bursaries and a network of female coaches all focused on the same thing – coaching and recruiting more coaches.
Louisa herself is a netball coach and understands the trepidations that females have about coaching but is now driving a quiet revolution that she hopes will soon be nationwide, not just limited to the south east.
“As I embarked on my formal netball coaching journey of qualifications and workshops I didn’t think I would be good enough,” she revealed.
“All those things I now know to be myths, but in the early hours before your course there are great big coaching gremlins in your ear… I’d never played to any standard myself, I have never really been coached before, I don’t know enough technical stuff and of course everyone else will be county standard!
“It turns out, the most important qualities in a coach are motivation, passion, enthusiasm and an ability to inspire.”
Sport England provided the funds for Project 500 to create a suite of videos showcasing what they do and the lives they have changed, as well as paying for a part-time social media manager to grow their audience.
Both the videos and the social media manager have been a success and now Louisa has grand plans for the second five years of Project 500.
“We’d love to expand on the funding we received from Sport England to make our video and develop our social media,” she added.
“We’re looking to engage with more national governing bodies and other key agencies like UK Coaching and Women in Sport to try and extend the female workforce further, and make even more of the online support we have managed to achieve so far.”
Whatever the next five years hold, though, Louisa’s belief in what Project has already achieved will always hold true.
“Coaching to me is all about making a positive difference to others,” she concluded. “So, if you enjoy being active, smiling, laughing and seeing others achieve I would highly recommend volunteering to coach.
“Start off by watching and then maybe helping out as you feel more confident, no sport can ever have enough female coaches!
“We offer bursaries depending on county you live in, but the majority of times we find that coaches just want to feel supported and part of something.”
StreetGames: Supporting disadvantaged coaches
It's a testament to the fine work they have done, and continue to do, that StreetGames was chosen to be one of the seven charities to benefit from donations to the Royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
The couple visited StreetGames projects Doorstep Sport and Us Girls Wales on their first official visit to Wales, four months before their wedding.
The Prince had also previously been associated with the charity that was founded in 2005 and aims to make sport more widely available to disadvantaged young people – making many visits to their projects in England.
But StreetGames does not just put on sessions for disadvantaged children, it offers those young people the chance to develop their own lives by becoming a coach.
Rus Smith is at the heart of what StreetGames does, with the senior tutor developer helping to coach coaches and spread the work that they do.
“We link sport to the lives of those in disadvantaged communities – predominantly young people who live in those communities,” he said.
“One of the big things about a young person’s journey as a coach is that it’s not easy.
“And overcoming some of the barriers that people face is part of the process of becoming a coach, being recognised as a coach and being retained as a coach.
“For us, connecting people’s journeys is a key bit and using both formal and informal learning and mentoring to make that connection.
“That process then produces better sessions, better quality in the communities in which they live, which will see them retained and give great coaching experiences to more people.”
We have supported StreetGames since their inception and, since 2010, have awarded the charity almost 6.5million over 15 grants with projects in London, Manchester and Birmingham all benefitting.
StreetGames’ project base had grown to 965 in 2017 and the charity has a mantra to change lives, change sport and change communities.
And Smith, who won the UK Coaching coach developer of the year award in 2017, recognises the part that we have played in StreetGames’ success over the last decade.
“We have to thank Sport England for their support in helping to link the workforce so that we can roll out programmes to the front line of those disadvantaged areas and create great young coaches in those areas where there can be lots of barriers to becoming a coach,” he added.
Rus, and the rest of the StreetGames team, encourage young people to lead their own sporting sessions and therefore drive their own social change.
Their way of working is known as ‘Doorstep Sport’, which means bringing the sport to the players, rather than the other way around.