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Twelve Foot Wall

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By sports coach UK Coaching Network Manager Colin Bennett

We're all inclusive coaches and sports development people aren't we? Well I like to think I am but what does it really mean to be inclusive? Recent research shows that whilst women are in the majority in the UK the number of women coaches are significantly lower. Michael Hopkinson, sports coach UK presented at the UK Coaching Summit Are we really welcoming women into coaching  - The numbers show 51% of the UK population are women but women only make up 28% of the coaching population. More worryingly,only 18% of the qualified coaching workforce is female. So why should this be when so many of us lay claim to inclusive interventions, projects and programmes.

Let me take you back in time, to possibly the first mass inclusion project. Think back to the time of the great flood of 40 days and 40 nights (other religious stories are available) and Noah built a giant ark and said all the animals were welcome, a massive inclusion programme which was 100% participation (apart from the unicorns but that's a blog for a different day). But what if Noah had gathered the animals, two by two, and said "you are all animals and you can all enter the ark. BUT I have also built a 12 foot wall around the ark to protect it from undesirable humans. However you are all wanted and you are all welcome and you are all the same as you are all animals. All you need to do is climb over the 12 foot wall and then we'll be off"

Imagine the rush of monkeys and apes, the flight of birds and the slithering of the snakes. The insects doing their thing and the rats and mice scuttling up the wall. But look at the elephants, the cows, the buffalo, the deer, the pigs and even the dogs.

It's a barrier they can never get over because whilst they're animals they're not the same. In fact even something like a snail would be able to climb the wall but not before the rains came thus suffering a time penalty.

Most of the animals wouldn't even have tried to climb that wall they would have just turned and gone home to await their fate. Some would have tried but given up after falling several times and then you would have had the snails still going for it but running out of time. A world of apes, monkeys, birds and insects.

So the next time you look at a session plan, a recruitment plan, a project, a bursary have you really been inclusive or have you just based it on everyone is human, therefore they are all the same, so they'll all be able to partake.

In everything you do think of the 12 foot wall.

Even the information the participants receive at the start of a programme can make them see that insurmountable wall and turn away without even trying. At the recent UK Coaching Summit in Glasgow Leonie Lightfoot from England Athletics showcased their video for coaches to watch who were thinking of going on a course. It demystified what people could expect and also what was expected of them. Check it out as a great starting point for thinking differently.

So are you really inclusive? Or just playing at it?

Are we building 12 foot walls or did someone remember to put doors on the plan?

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