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Coaching the 13 million

The 13 million people who live in low income households are one of the groups with the lowest participation rates in sport and physical activity. Only 26% of people from low socio economic groups take part compared to 39.5% of people from more affluent groups. Half of the people living in poverty are in working families, with two thirds of children living in poverty coming from a working household. My last blog highlighted Amina’s compelling story of how she manged to support her son Esau to take part in sport on a low income.

So what can coaching do? As a starter, if coaches want to be more inclusive and welcome those from low income backgrounds they should consider the following:

  • Challenge assumptions and any negative perceptions about people on low income. Do not pre-judge, assume or tolerate behaviours that people are lazy, disorganised or wasteful.
  • Get to know people. Make this a priority in your engagement. Understand more than activity levels and physical capabilities.
  • Recognise when people are struggling on low incomes. You often can’t tell just by looking at someone if they are struggling or not. Don’t assume that everyone has a lot of disposable income and will be able to take up the opportunities that are presented.
  • Give people advance warning. People on low incomes don’t have a lot of disposable income. If they want to do something they may want to budget and save. If extra equipment, trips or opportunities come up, give people plenty of warning so they can start to plan.
  • Be aware of the stigma of being on a low income. People will feel isolated and left out if they are the only ones not able to take part in paid-for trips, events or extras. They may feel humiliated if they don’t have the right clothes and equipment. How people, especially children, feel when they come to a session significantly impacts on their participation.
  • Come up with solutions together. Do not preach or dictate solutions or advice. It must be collaborative and found by understanding each other.

Read more about Amina’s story ‘Life Beyond Your Session’, which was featured in issue 49 of Coaching Edge. In addition, check out our 'Spotlight on...' understanding more about engaging low-socio economic groups through coaching.

Liz Burkinshaw, Development Lead Officer - Participation, UK Coaching

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