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CSP Coaching Conference: Day 1 Round-up

With a theme running through this year's conference of "Making coaching everyone's business" it was great to arrive on day one to find so many County Sports Partnerships represented. With various new sports strategies being worked on from Government and down through Sport England and sports coach UK there is obviously an appetite to make coaching business critical and to ensure the sector is ahead of the curve.

It is a time for change, coaching is a massive driver was one of the messages from Stephanie Maurel, Strategic Lead for Clubs & Workforce at Sport England. Setting the scene by asking the room who had been active in a sporting context over the last week or month, Stephanie showed that being inactive wasn't only the stereotypical "couch potato" but for various reasons in people's lives it could be you or me that hasn't managed to do anything. It may be that it rained last time and you didn't go out or you had to work late. So we need to understand where people are in terms of life when we try and engage with them.

If you search for sporty images you will find a plethora of teams and competition and you realise that the sector currently best serves the sporty not the majority. There is the "sporty gang" and we, the people in coach development tend to be in that gang. We want people to come and join us when in fact we need to go and find out about them and join their gang.

Both Stephanie and Naomi Shearon, Sport England's Strategic Lead for Behavioural Understanding, spoke about making behaviour change real and how we need to keep using our energies and efforts to keep meeting the needs of the participant. People now want to do sport with family or friends with almost a third of people in the country wanting to do this.

What does that mean for workforce? How do we meet the demand, when the participant wants it and how they want it.

Sport England are looking to their vision of "A diverse workforce providing great experience to an active nation" as a platform to start the work around this business critical element and making coaching everyone's business.

Justyn Price the Head of Coaching at Sport England is leading the development of the Coaching Plan for England and asked the telling question of "why?"

Taking a business savvy look at coaching, Justyn brought alive the plan and how we need to develop a coaching workforce that offers people the coaching they want, how they want it and when they want it. Research of top customer service companies tells us we need to make coaching easy to get into and a positive experience for the coach - we need to take care of our front of house workforce. We need to challenge the system to be insight led and to understand the enabling role that we will have with our customers and it needs to be a simple approach to make it a business critical service.

For both the participant and the coach we need to care about the physical, the mental and the emotional health of everyone and if we can successfully do that for the workforce it will led to customers having a great time.

For real behaviour change Justyn challenged us to go back to our offices and assess whether our systems at the moment design out people from different/diverse demographics. And whether EAST (Easy, attractive, social, timely) is already embedded in our systems. If we are designing out people then we are cutting down the potential workforce that could suit this new way of thinking.

And showing impact, all good to great businesses will collect data. We need to do that but what is the purpose of that data? What are we trying to say or understand? We need to take the insight, the research and the business learnings to make our systems fit for purpose for the 21st Century.
But if we think differently about how we recruit, retain and deploy a workforce then we also need to understand the participant, the customer.

Habits and shortcuts shape our lives says Naomi with a chocolate cake and diet drink as an example. A lot of what we do in life is based on assumptions and previous learning and our decisions can be taken very quickly. Decisions are not always taken because it's good for us but rather what we want at that time. So if we continue to say "but it's good for you!" won't necessarily move people to action. We need to understand their cues and triggers, the why and the when to ensure we have the right messages and the right workforce.

We understand more about people than ever before - how we all tick and what this means for sport. We are mainly driven by emotions, stories rather than statistics (check out the Christmas TV adverts from large stores) plus emotional barriers are just as important as practical barriers.
We're programmed to be social and to fit in - what people around us do makes a big difference to what we do. Who hasn't posted something on social media to "keep up with the neighbours"? Yes technology has a role but the social gathering is a much stronger reason for people to take part.
We also prioritise the Now over the Future - we process immediate benefits and cost over longer term goals. We need immediate results fast.

Part of that is how do we work as coaches? How do we build a sense of reward, where is the peak of your session? What will the participant take away?

Talking about diverse markets it was great to get a large slice of insight into the female market through Leanne Norman (Leeds Beckett University) and Marina McGoldrick (Executive Coach).

Roughly 25% of active coaches (from 1.1 million) are female. But why is it important to re-balance our coaching workforce? At the moment we have a smaller workforce to deploy, a smaller pool of coaches leads to a smaller pool of athletes and a greater burden on existing coaches, less positive experiences for existing coaches and a knock on effect for future coaches.

Leanne backed up these figures through research that has been carried out and if you link that with the earlier speakers then you can start to understand the need to effectively use insight to create an appropriately qualified workforce. Do our systems take this work into account when building interventions and we are challenged to raise participation? Thought provoking!

The research from Leeds Beckett University lead to working with a number of women coaches to talk about their well being, coaching relationships and influencing change. This was interesting in terms of not just measuring the coaches but then supporting them further which in itself was a system change. Marina found that to develop the coaches properly a holistic approach was needed. They needed to understand their individual pressures and triggers from their life outside coaching as well as inside. We need to listen to the coaches as well as the participant. How do we treat each other?

I liked the following key points from the speakers which were to share good practice, train both male and female coaches to understand each other's needs and recognise your female coaches.

After all the theory it was good to see an actual intervention in practice and the 6 West Midland CSPs had worked together to produce their "Women Make Coaching" campaign. Taking learning from the Project 500 session delivered at last year's conference the CSPs created their campaign to build and grow from that good practice and are 6 to 8 months in and are starting to see the fruits of their work. They have worked successfully with several NGBs and the NGB and Coaching tabs on their reporting now looks healthier and they have used it in relationship building with local NGBs  to great effect.

The day culminated with the official launch of the Reach campaign, supporting women in coaching. Building on previous projects that had focussed on women in coaching, Reach aims to start to evolve the system. It's about working with partners to work together to bring about change. The ambition is for more women to be involved in coaching from non traditional backgrounds, the existing coaching workforce to support and grow women to help widen the workforce, taking some of the burden and becoming role models for everyone.

Check out and register now at: www.Reachintocoaching.co.uk.

A thoughtful and engaging day one of the Coaching Leads Conference which brought home the need to use all the insight and research that is available. To look at behaviour change, emerging markets and a diverse workforce to compliment the needs of the participant. To work in partnership with traditional sporting organisations but also other businesses to create a rounded, appropriate workforce for both the now and for the future.

Colin Bennett is Coaching Network Manager for sports coach UK.