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ConnectedCoaches members provide evidence that #CoachingCan change lives

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UK Coaching

UK Coaching (formerly Sports Coach UK) led a campaign to champion the wider benefits of coaching for society. Here, we get a glimpse of the valuable impact it can have on people’s lives as three ConnectedCoaches members tell us what coaching means to them and give us their top reasons for becoming a coach. 

Three people, representing three sports, sharing one passion: coaching. 

Three people driven by a single desire to have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the lives of those they coach. 

When UK Coaching launched its #CoachingCan campaign, it set out to champion the wider benefits of coaching on society. 

ConnectedCoaches Community Champions Kate Offord, Andy Edwards and Sion Kitson epitomise the aims and principles that underpin the campaign, namely that #CoachingCan change lives. 

It has changed their own lives, for one, giving them immense satisfaction and enjoyment, and a warming sense of personal pride. But contemplating the cumulative effect and large-scale benefits their coaching is having on their communities as a whole is even more uplifting. 

There are 2.4 million people coaching in the United Kingdom today. With every coach potentially inspiring tens, hundreds or even more participants during their careers, the whole snowball effect is quite mesmerising. 

It is estimated more than seven million participants are reaping the advantages that coaching brings. These include boosting physical and mental well-being and supporting people’s individual and social development. 

UK Coaching wants to get even more people coaching to widen this virtuous circle, helping get the nation more active and leading healthier lifestyles. 

Kate’s story 

Kate Offord

As head coach of Manchester Triathlon Club, Kate (pictured front row, centre) looks after the interests of a bumper 500 members. 

No wonder she says coaching has taken over her life. But she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

‘Coaching is everything to me,’ she says. ‘Because I am part of such a big club, you really see how much it touches people’s lives.’ 

She gives two examples that illustrate the massive impact individuals or club coaching systems can have. 

One member is managing a serious condition. From ‘struggling to even walk from the lounge to the kitchen a few years ago’, Kate has been there for her every step of the way, including at the finish line when she completed her target of running the Manchester half marathon. 

‘For me, it is things like this that make coaching almost more fulfilling than when I was competing,’ she says. ‘You still get that big buzz from being part of something.’ 

Then there is the series of women’s ‘Go Tri’ days the club has organised as an introduction to triathlon racing, which provide that all-important stimulus to nudge people from contemplation to action. 

‘These are for women who might never have really thought about triathlon. Some who have got involved were still breastfeeding, some have low self-esteem. It was great to help give them that feeling of empowerment. 

‘You become aware that, actually, you can provide that necessary nudge and can influence people to believe in themselves a bit more. 

‘We’ve got people in the club who describe themselves as introverts but you can’t imagine that when you see how they are in an environment in which they are comfortable. 

‘For me as a female, it’s nice to get other women involved. Sometimes, if you have had children, you can feel that you can never get back to where you were. I like reminding people that you can.’ 

While helping develop participants’ skill-sets is an important element of coaching, Kate readily acknowledges that there is so much more to the job than simply honing skills in pursuit of athletic achievement. 

‘Joining a club or joining in a group, the social side is massive and we’ve had quite a few people in Man Tri who have struggled with different mental health illnesses. By joining a club, they are meeting different people and making new friends, getting fresh air and being part of a different environment. Doing some sort of coached activity is brilliant for bringing people together. 

‘People who have been through relationship troubles, for example, can come and do some sort of activity where they are anonymous, get away from old friendship groups and make new friends who they share a common interest with.’ 

For Kate, having the ability to make a difference in people’s lives is one of the big draws of coaching. 

‘At the top level, it is really exciting watching people get better and better. Some people are so receptive that you only have to say one tiny thing to them and it makes a big difference. 

‘Coaching makes you think about how you live your life as well. You become much more thoughtful about practising what you preach. 

‘Things you say impact on different people in different ways. In one person it may just flick a switch and completely change the way they think about things. 

‘I pretty much know all of the 500 members and they’ve all got their own stories, have had their own challenges and got their own reasons for being there, and I feel privileged to be party to that.’ 

Andy’s story 

Andy Edwards

Experienced grassroots football coach Andy talks with an infectious enthusiasm about his love of coaching. 

‘What does coaching mean for me? Whoa!’ He pauses for a second or two, takes a deep breath, then answers: ‘It’s my passion. It’s hugely important. I coach 110 kids on a weekly basis and I constantly remind myself that each one of those kids is really important. 

‘It is imperative for me to be the best I can be and strive to constantly improve because the effect we can have is massive. Not for all the kids all the time, but sometimes, you just get a little window into the attitude of the child and how you might impact on it, in terms of the session or even his week.’ 

He understands fully, then, that coaching is a people business. 

‘Some kids rock up, have a game and go home but for others they have had a tough day at school, they’ve had a tough time with their parents, and they come into an environment where they can just express themselves, play with freedom, learn from their mistakes, trust in each other and learn the importance of playing as a team and growing as a team. These are really important things.’ 

And he echoes the sentiments of Kate regarding the need to recognise the social significance of engaging in coach-led physical activity. 

‘It’s crucial to recognise the impact we have – not just on a sports field but in life,’ he adds. 

‘So, for example, today I had a chat with the mum of my under-16s' captain after a frustrating afternoon when we played some good football but lost. I just checked in with her that he was happy. Little things like that are so important. 

‘Some of the lads I coach at under-15s aren’t that into football but they come along to socialise with their mates and to have a laugh and that’s fine. They are there to have fun.’ 

UK Coaching

Coaching can be challenging, no doubt, but that is one of its attractions – just as it is with playing sport or taking part in some form of activity, which provides its own set of physical and mental challenges. 

Whether coach or participant, rising to these challenges is what makes you stronger. 

And let’s face it, life would be pretty boring if you never stretched yourself. You would miss out on so many enriching experiences, and your personal growth would be stunted. 

‘I can’t think of anything more fulfilling in terms of having a positive effect on young people,’ says Andy. 

‘You get kids to learn and develop through playing games and that is hugely enjoyable. 

‘While on the one hand it is challenging and difficult, because you have to understand the different motivations of every child and try to deliver on that, on the other hand it is actually dead easy as everyone wants to be there. It’s not like going to the dentist! 

‘The kids I have been teaching for a while know I want them to have fun. They know that I want the ball to be rolling most of the time. I’m not there to talk a lot.’ 

Andy has seen a number of parents during his years as a voluntary and paid coach who have done a lot of talking the talk. 

Saying coaches can make a difference is preaching to the converted on a site like ConnectedCoaches, but his message to parents who may be reading the article after stumbling on it online or via social media is to start walking the walk and discover coaching for themselves. 

Drawing on the motivational theory of author Daniel Pink, and his three factors which lead to better performance and personal satisfaction, Andy says of coaching:

‘It really helps you grow as an individual. You’ve got that sense of autonomy when you are designing and running sessions. There is a clear sense of purpose there because you are doing such an important thing, and then that desire to master is a huge motivating factor. I’m sure I speak for thousands of coaches when I say that.’ 

Sion’s story

Sion Kitson

Sion (pictured talking tactics with his players) eats, sleeps and breathes sport. He is a futsal coach and player – the former Wales captain no less – and works full-time as Workforce Development Manager for Leap (the county sports partnership for Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes). 

The coaches he encountered growing up inspired him to want to become a coach himself.

He is an ideal person to interview to promote the #CoachingCan campaign as he freely admits his childhood coaches changed his life for the better. 

‘The impact coaches had on me as a participant growing up, and the value I placed on my coaches to be physically active, was pretty immense and I truly appreciate what they did for me. 

‘They helped me to value sport and physical activity and now I want to give back. 

‘I am coaching a sport that is still relatively new to some people, and therefore seeing people achieve is a big thing for me and a big pull.’ 

Sion got the coaching bug from a very young age, helped by a willingness to take advice and an insatiable appetite to learn. He was thinking like a coach before he had even hit high school. 

‘I’ve always been interested in sport, always been interested in learning and I’ve always wanted to better myself. I was very keen to understand what coaching was all about, their thinking process and how they worked with participants as I realised that would actually benefit me as an athlete. 

‘I started doing that from a young age and it gave me a greater understanding of the sport and of how athletes work. That thirst for learning was one of the reasons I decided to go into coaching.’ 

I ask him what his message would be to someone contemplating taking their first step into coaching. 

‘It will open your eyes to a lot of different opportunities. You will start to understand what motivates people and what makes them tick. You can positively influence those sorts of people in their everyday lives, which ultimately can lead to them becoming more physically active and maintaining that through sport or physical activities.’ 

A call to arms 

Coaches, in their many guises – activators, instructors, leaders, teachers, trainers – are the catalyst to enjoying sport and physical activity. 

They are the agents of behaviour change and, as we have seen, they make a difference to people’s lives in so many ways. 

In a society that has slipped slowly but surely into an inactivity epidemic that is costing the UK economy billions every year, they also hold the key to snapping the nation out of its slumber. 

The intention of this article is to jump on the #CoachingCan bandwagon – a rallying cry to coaches and would-be coaches as we attempt to win the war on inactivity. 

‘Never was so much owed by so many to so few,’ said Winston Churchill. 

Perhaps in the not too distant future an increased number of people will be saying this with conviction about our coaching workforce.

Next Steps

For more information on the #CoachingCan campaign visit the UK Coaching website.

If this story has inspired you to get into coaching, UK Coaching's new online learning course, Discover Coaching, will not only give you a great insight into the fascinating role of coaching but will also help you land your first coaching role. Enter code CoachingCan at checkout to receive a 50% introductory discount.

Got a flavour of what it’s all about and want to get involved in coaching? Find out how via the UK Coaching website.

New coaches might also be interested in our blog Birth of a new career: How to negotiate your first baby steps as a coach where Community Champions David Turner  and Emma Tomlinson  share their experiences to help new coaches.

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