Social Coaching: beyond performance

Last week I was reminded about the immense power of coaching at totally opposite ends of the participation spectrum. On Wednesday (30th April) I spent most of my day on the road, travelling to a sports coach UK partner event in Nottingham, where approximately thirty of my England Coaching Network colleagues met to discuss our strategies on supporting the coaches involved in UK’s talent landscape.  It was a massively powerful day and really resonated with me as a coach. I was forced to reflect on some of my own past and present experiences of working within the talent and performance domain. I love talking about talent development and contemplating ways to support our local talent coaches as well as developing new strategies and skills to improve my own coaching and my athletes.
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However, on Thursday I attended two very different events which couldn't have been further from the talent topic and yet have so many connecting threads, and were, to my surprise, equally inspirational.

The Active Women’s Project
For the past couple of years I’ve sat on the steering group for Catch 22’s Active Women Project, delivered in Southampton. As the project is coming to an end we reflected on the many of positive outcomes alongside many of the challenges.

Ange Pilgrim of Catch 22 talked intimately about the stark nature of local challenges that often go unseen by many people in the local area. She described the prevalence of domestic violence, children in poverty, increasing numbers of children excluded from schools and sexual exploitation. More specifically we discussed how application of the right sport or physcial activity, led by skilled, passionate and sympathetic coaches and volunteers can play an important role in supporting people of all ages who are dealing with a whole variety of personal, social and economic challenges within our local boroughs.

Over the course of the Active Women’s project (the programme has been running since 2011) Cacth 22 have engaged over 1200 girls and women, delivering more than 30 different sports and involving 68 coaches and volunteers. With a further 3-months of delivery left, not only are they likely to attract more women to sport, but will have provided local people with an opportunity to socialise, communicate, share experiences, laugh, compete and improve both their physical and mental health. Its clear that whilst the project has experienced its fair share of challenges, the success of this project will be told in the stories of the people who have experienced even the smallest acts of kindness from a range organisers, coaches and volunteers who have supported the project since its incpetion.

Rise of the Social Coach

For anyone who hasn’t yet seen our latest Inside Coaching Magazine, the Rise of the Social Coach is just one of a series of articles where we’ll attempt to highlight the value of coaching beyond that of ‘sport for sports sake’.  As a product of the competitive sports system in the UK myself, I have an inherent passion for sport.  Its that passion that motivated me to represent my country in two sports, become a coach and for the last 20-years work in sports development.  However, on Thursday I was invited to Southampton Solent University’s third Coaching Symposium where I had the good fortune to meet a new generation of sports development practitioners who not only understand the immense power of sport for development (aka sport for [social] change), but are making a difference to the lives of many local people.

The event was an opportunity for 2nd year BA Coaching and Development students to present their Coaching Innovation Projects.  CIPs (as they are commonly known) allow students to identify a social problem and consider how coaching can make a positive change to those people most effected by the issue.  Whilst in the past student have focussed on working with younger children, taking advantage of Sport Solent’s excellent work with the City’s Primary and Secondary school network, a number of this year’s projects have explored some of the more challenging features of Southampton’s socialscape.

I spoke to a variety of groups, quizzing them about their interests, their approach and their intended outcomes.  Whilst some were forced to contemplate issues that had not yet occured to them, for the most part the students were articulate and well-informed.

Project topics ranged from tackling numeracy and literacy within schools, to working with the unemployed to minimising isolation in the elderly.  There were more than 20 groups presenting on the night, all of who demonstrated an unwavering belief that their respective projects would help people locally to become more confident, more active, more connected. The golden thread running throughout the projects was a will to improve quality of life and it was this, for me, that made the efforts of the CIP groups, so endearing. 

As one of a number of CIP mentors I truely felt a sense of pride not only for the groups I have worked with, but for every student who has put time into developing a programme aimed at demonstrating the vast power of the social coach.

I want to thank Kevin Harris and his team for allowing me to be a part of project and long may it continue to grow and develop, ensuring that the next generation of Sports Development practitioners have an unyueilding passion and the skills to make life better for future generations to come.

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Posted on 02/05/2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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