Coaches Key to Olympic Legacy
By John Driscoll, Executive Director (Public Affairs and Communications) sports coach UK
If, like me, you’ve been glued to your TV during every spare moment of the past week, you’ll have noticed a really encouraging aspect of the excellent BBC coverage. As well as using expert commentators who are able to talk knowledgeably about each sport, what has set 2012 apart from previous years is the emphasis given to the coaches behind the athletes.
Time and again, we’ve seen interviews with coaches before, during and after an event, sharing useful performance insights. In the case of the women’s football, we’ve also probably seen more close-ups of Team GB coach Hope Powell than of any of the individual players. All of this has helped to raise the profile of coaches and coaching at a pivotal time.
Much of the wider media discussion is about legacy, of course, and the figures released by DCMS and Sport England just before the Games started confirm that the predicted surge in interest has already begun. Thanks to the detailed research by Professor Mike Weed and his team at Canterbury Christ Church University which we shared at the 2009 UK Coaching Summit, we’ve all known not to expect any “rising from the armchair” by inactive people, but we anticipated that the Games would have an effect on three specific groups – young people, adult “returners” who have previously enjoyed sport and existing sporting types who may be encouraged to play more or try different sports.
In anticipation of this, we’ve been working at sports coach UK for several years to ensure that sports have enough qualified, experienced coaches in place to meet that surge. In particular, we’ve encouraged the Governing Bodies to adopt a systematic approach to workforce development, following the principles embodied in the UK Coaching Framework. In some cases, the NGBs have changed the whole structure of the sport and introduced new ways of playing the game to attract new players. Coaches, of course, are a vital element in sustaining this interest.
The ICSEMIS pre-Olympic Congress in Glasgow last month gave us the chance to share our experience with representatives of sports federations and universities from across the world. For me, the progress which sports have made in the UK represents a pretty impressive success story; I took some considerable pride in summarising the outcomes.
I started by explaining how Governing Bodies have mapped their player pathways in detail, then really identified the needs of each participant group. In turn, that has allowed the sports to plan their workforce needs in terms of recruitment and deployment.
I then explained how coaching in Western Europe traditionally relies on volunteers, a concept which is unfamiliar in other parts of the world. Those volunteers need training and development, and the last 10 years have seen significant strides in coach education through the UKCC, which acts as a benchmark and continuous development tool for coach education programmes in 30 sports.
To provide a rounded picture for delegates to the ICSEMIS session, Fiona Wernham from sportscotland illustrated how a Home Country Sports Council has applied the principles in one country across many sports, then Jane Booth from the PGA explained how the “Right Coach, Right Place, Right Time” has been adopted as a long-term strategy for golf across Britain and Ireland.
When you’re immersed in a long-term project, it’s refreshing to be able to stand back once in a while and review how it has been received and implemented. Researching and preparing the presentation for ICSEMIS gave me exactly that opportunity. It’s not yet a case of “job done” but it is encouraging to see how all the principles which stemmed from the Long Term Athlete Development model have now been embedded within sports’ strategies and are producing real results.
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