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Coaching moments of 2017

The publication of UK Coaching’s research ‘Coaching in the UK’ revealed that over nine million adults experienced the broad benefits of coaching in the last 12 months, and the majority agreed that coaching had improved aspects of their physical and mental well-being – reinforcing the belief that great coaching transforms lives.

The reach of coaching and its positive influence on participants didn’t go unnoticed in the sphere of elite sport and performance either. In another year of jam-packed sporting action, many coaching moments were savoured, demonstrating the power of the coach-athlete relationship. Here are a few of our favourites. 

The coach who saved AJ’s life

Anthony Joshua, AJ to you and me, is Britain’s heavyweight boxing man of the moment. This year he retained his WBA, IBO and IBF world heavyweight titles by defeating French-Cameroonian fighter, Carlos Takam, in front of a sell-out crowd at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

However, it was the fight before Takam which put AJ front and centre, beating titan of world boxing, Wladimir Klitschko, by technical knock-out at Wembley.

AJ is generally known for his humility and down to earth persona on camera, so it came as no surprise to see that he took time out his ridiculous training schedule to visit his former Finchley ABC coach, Sean Murphy, to give him a brand-new, souped-up BMW. This was AJ’s way of saying thanks to a man who introduced him to boxing and as he says, ‘saved his life and stopped him becoming a criminal’

 AJ and coach, Sean Murphy,

AJ and coach, Sean Murphy, reminisce about Joshua’s rise from boxing at Finchley ABC to becoming world heavyweight champ. Photograph: ©Daily Mail/BBC


Coaching the unconquerable

Our very own Prince Harry created the Invictus Games; the international adaptive multi-sport event in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and veterans take part in sports, including, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball and indoor rowing.

The third edition of the games, which takes its name from the Latin for unconquered/undefeated, took place in Toronto, Canada, where the British team won 87 medals. One medal they didn’t win, however, was sitting volleyball gold, which instead went to team Georgia. Coached by Brit, Richard Osborne, the Georgians were undefeated in the tournament, winning every set of their four matches before beating GB 2-0 in the final.

What is remarkable about the story is that three years before, ahead of the first Invictus Games in London, Richard was invited to provide coaching support at the sitting volleyball pre-competition training venue and found himself working with the Georgians. The team comprised mostly of young, single or double leg amputees, who sustained their injuries during the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, had little experience of playing competitive sitting volleyball and only one spoke a little English.

Despite the challenges, Richard would keep in contact with the team, coaching them from a distance via Skype and uploading videos of drills (executed by his team in Portsmouth) onto Facebook and YouTube for them to watch and implement. Their hard work eventually paid off and within three years the new boys of sitting volleyball were gold medal winners.

“I’ve had an incredible journey with the Georgian armed forces”, Richard said on Twitter.

“We thought it might be a good idea if we could continue the relationship even though we were separated by thousands of miles by introducing some cyber coaching. We are like brothers, and we do call each other brothers, there is very much that kindred spirit amongst us.”

Richard Osborne celebrates with Georgian team

Richard Osborne (middle, red jacket) celebrates with the Georgians after winning gold in Toronto. Photograph: ©GettyImages


The apprentice and his master

The 2017 UCI Road World Championships took place in Bergen, Norway and Britain’s best result (aside from team bronze in the men’s time trial) came when young buck Thomas Pidcock coolly took the junior men’s individual time trial gold– making him double-world champion, having won gold in the Cyclo-cross World Championships earlier in the year.

After receiving his medal and the prestigious rainbow jersey, Tom sought out his coach, Stuart Blunt, who was watching on. A bystander’s timely photograph caught the congratulatory hug – a priceless moment between an athlete and their coach. Stuart sent his own message of support at the time, simply tweeting a picture of Tom on top of the podium and the words: ‘That’l (sic) do dude, good job!!’

 Thomas Pidcock and Stuart Blunt
Junior double-world champion, Tom Pidcock (L) with his cycling coach, Stuart Blunt. Photograph: ©SusanAnn


The revolutionary coach

What a packed summer of elite women’s sport we had. The likes of the Women’s Cricket World Cup, the Women’s European Football and Hockey Championships, and the IPC Para Athletics and IAAF World Athletics Championships, put the spotlight on elite women’s sport like never before.

Adding to the excitement was England’s women’s rugby team, who were unlucky in their attempt to win back to back rugby world cups, losing to the Black Ferns 41-32 in what was an exciting final in Belfast.

Head England women’s coach, Simon Middleton, was naturally full of praise for his girls, saying how proud he was of everything they’d achieved.

But perhaps the moment we should focus on is his reaction to the decision by the RFU to give the England women’s team match fees for individual games for the first time, describing it as a revolution.

"It's been a tough process, but we've reached agreement," Middleton told BBC Sport.

"We are 100% behind it. The deal was always coming, it was just a case of what it would look like. It's an unbelievably exciting time.

"It's a revolution in this sport and that's exactly what we want. The girls can genuinely look at the sport now and see it as a genuine way to make a living, and that's how it should be."

Simon Middleton

England women’s head coach, Simon Middleton, welcomes ‘revolutionary’ match fees for women’s rugby. Photograph: ©Action Images / Steven Paston


Gold medal sprinter shouts-out his coach

A night to never forget, Mo Farah has just run an excellent 5000m race – his supposed last on the track before switching to road – but was pipped to gold by Ethopia’s Muktar Edris, the expression on his face was one of disappointment and the 50-odd-thousand at the Olympic stadium were equally as shocked, banking on Mo for GB’s second gold of the championships.

But they didn’t have to wait long before the medal rush came in. An hour after Mo, GB’s women’s 4x100m relay team – Asha Philip, Desirée Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita – flew round the track and won silver. Then 20 minutes later GB’s men’s 4x100m team, consisting of Adam Gemili, CJ Ujah, Danny Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, held off the Americans to become World Champions.The Olympic stadium figuratively erupted with joy.

With his gold medal freshly around his neck, Adam Gemili, gave a shout-out to coach Christian Malcolm, whose expertise as a former 200m sprinter for Wales and GB helped both quartets to the podium.

"Christian as a former athlete has had the experience and he knows how to approach us," Gemili told BBC Sport Wales.

"He knows what to say and when to say stuff. We get a lot of freedom, so having someone with his sort of knowledge in the sport, it's brilliant."


The world cup winning coach

England’s Anya Shrubsole steps up to the crease and launches a monster bowl, the ball bounces low under India’s Rajeshwari Gayakwad’s bat and cracks the stumps behind her. Cheers go up from the stands, England are winners of the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup.

Yet a year before, England had been defeated by Australia in the 2016 World T20 semi-finals by five runs and head coach Mark Robinson gave a frank post-match press conference detailing the team’s shortcomings in fitness and mental toughness.

In the months between he went about changing the problems and in a post-World Cup interview with ESPN the English players gave their honest views about why the changes had paid dividends.

Fran Wilson, England’s right handed batsman and right arm off break bowler, said:

“He's very honest with us - if we need something, some feedback which isn't something we necessarily want to hear, but in the long run is going to help our game, that is something for me the biggest thing the coach has done for me. Growing up I didn't want to be told what to do because I thought I was right, but the environment he's created is this open and honest environment where everyone's opinion counts and everyone helps each other.”

Mark Robinson

England women's head coach, Mark Robinson, talks to Anya Shrubsole (L) and Heather Knight. Photograph: ©Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley


Medal fit for a King

For the first time ever at a World Para Athletics Championships, coaches received medals alongside their athletes.

The coach’s medal, introduced by organisers for both the London 2017 IPC World Para Athletics Championships and the IAAF World Athletics Championships, recognised the unique and valued relationship between athletes and coaches and was given to athletes during their own medal ceremonies to present to their coach or significant adviser.

In recognition of his diligence and support, British wheelchair athlete, Kare Adenegan, who won silver in the T34 100m at the Para Athletics Champs, presented her coach, Job King, with the medal.

As president of the International Paralympic Committee, Sir Philip Craven said at the time: "Coaches are the unsung heroes behind the scenes and it is fantastic that they will be rewarded for their efforts in coaching medal winning athletes."

Job King and Kare Adengan
Coach Job King (L) shows off his world para-athletics coaching medal alongside athlete Kare Adenegan. Photograph: ©Job King / Kare Adengan


What are your favourite coaching moments from 2017?

Share them with us at @_UKCoaching and use the hashtag #CelebratingCoaching


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