Coaching Hampshire & IOW unveils new Talent Coach Academy

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight has been a hot bed for talented athletes for a number of years.  Names like Kelly Sotherton (Athletics), Theo Walcott (Football), Ben Ainsley (Sailing), Peter Charles (Show Jumping),  Peter Waterfield (Diving), Euwan Thomas (Athletics) , Alex Danson (Hockey) and Dani King (Cycling) are synonomous locally, nationally and on the world stage.

However, what we rarely recognise is the wealth of coaching experitise that helped these once unknown stars realise their talent potential.  In other words who are the people behind the athletes and what do they know that could help the next generation of coaches carry on the county’s proud tradition of harnessing sporting talent.

For the past four years our Local Coaching Network has started to create some targetted opportunities to support coaches who work with today’s and tomorrow talented athletes.  All four of our Universities have made both general and very specific contributions to helping coaches understand the needs of talented athletes, elite training environments and the subsequent coaching behaviours required to develop performance.  Equally school sport and PE has made a substantial contribution to engaging interest and developing a passion for sport in our young people as well as providing a competitive platform to allow some of our talent to flourish.

In 2011 Coaching Hampshire & IOW introduced Talent Coach Breakfast Clubs  and Talent Foundation workshops which seemed to appeal to a large number of designated NGB talent/performance development coaches as well as a growing number of club coaches who have been developing talent in isolation for a number of years.  Initial feedback was positive and we plan to build on that foundation over the next couple of years.

Nevertheless, we feel that we can do even more and are teaming up with sports coach UK, a number of NGBs and our local Universities to create a new Talent Coach Academy to recognised and support of the work of two specific groups of coaches.

What is Talent?

This is no easy question and is one that smarter men than me have struggled to define.  It is, however, useful to make a disctinction between the use of the word ‘talent’ and its scope for the sake of clarity across our work.  Talent on the on the one hand can be used to describe someone with the raw material (usually in the guise of physical attributes) to develop world class performance in this or that sport.  This notion of talent is not easy to quantify (see Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers, Daniel Coyles ‘The Talent Code’ or Stuart Armstrong’s ‘The Talent Equation’) and is not always realised, but it is a notion commonly used by governing bodies and coaches the world over. 

The the other notion of talent we’ll be using in the Academy is that whereby a coach demonstrates ‘a talent’ to consistently create an environment to realise performance potential in a series of athletes over a series of years.  These coaches may not always work in the talent/performance end of the spectrum, but nevertheless play an important role in ensuring athletes aspire to love their sport and make continuous progress.  These coaches by definition ensure that we maximise the talent pool by keeping people involved in sport, develop a passion for a wide variety of sport and help develop the [growth] mindset of athletes (young and older) that will help to achieve their goals and fulfil their potential.

So our aim will be to on the one hand we will work with those coaches who work with talented athletes and on the other hand work with coaches who demonstrate talent [in any coaching domain], whether that be in recreational, talent development or performance sport.

The Talent Coach Academy

Our talent academy with be comprised of four key components: –

  1. Player-centred, coach led philosophy
  2. Identification and Recognition
  3. Learning and Support
  4. Reaserch and Development

Each of the components will involved varying levels of delivery.  For example, the Learning and Support component will involve a series of bespoke workshops looking at athletic performance, mindset, long-term athlete development and deliberate practice.  Workshops will aim to build a bridge between athletes, coaches and parents, acknowledging the importance of the critical role each of these have in realising talent.  In addition we’ll be working closely with Southampton Solent University to encourage coaches with Talent Athletes to join Solent’s newly developed MSc in Athletic Development & Peak Performance.   Finally, mentoring will also play a key role in both identifying talented coaches and supporting any coach who wants to develop some expertise in coaching talent.

Whilst the Talent Coach Academy concept is new, we are building on existing infrastructure and good practice within our coaching network.  So what, you may ask, is new?

Even the most genetically advantaged still need to be nurtured and those without the advantage could potentially overcome their disadvantages and be even better given the right kind of support.

Stuart Armstrong, RFU

In the past despite the efforts of a variety of partners in the county, our support for coaches working with talent has been ad hoc and patchy.  Whilst some governing bodies do a lot support their appointed English Talent Pathway Coaches, there is generally inconsistent support for this wokring in clubs.  Our plan aims to link the expertise from identified by governing bodies and other coach development programmes e.g. Sport England’s STRIVE programme and UK Sport’s INSPIRE/ASPIRE programme, to those coaches working day-in, day-out with the talent on the ground.

Furtmore whislt we hope to create a bridge for those coaches aspiring to work at the performance end of sport, we also want to support and recognise the efforts of those who are essential to maximising the size of our talent pool by creating the spark for the athlete who aspires to one day turn their potential into greatness.

The Talent Coach Academy will officially launch this summer, but keep your eye out for updates a new events being added to the calendar over the coming weeks.


Posted on 05/06/2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. As a coach on the British Triathlon coach development programme, Kaizen, I would be interested in hearing more about opportunities at the academy. Is there a contact to talk to? How do you express an interest?

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