Everyone has got it in them to do what I do
Following my previous blog where the focus was support from behind the scenes, this time I’m chatting with Abigail Boswell, a self-employed personal trainer, triathlon coach at London Fields Triathlon Club and instructor for Our Parks UK.
Prior to doing all of this Abigail worked in marketing and gradually became more involved in sport and particularly triathlon, which she found was beginning to take over more of her life. Being made redundant gave her the opportunity she had been looking for and so she signed up for a personal trainer and triathlon coaching course at the same time. Abigail had fully thrown herself into her new career and becoming a coach.
Abigail has taken the transition to self-employment in her stride. Her background in marketing has allowed her to establish her own website, blog and social media presence. In fact she questions whether sometimes she spends too much time promoting the business rather than actually coaching. Any regrets? “Like any big change you are always going to have doubts” she tells me, and working alone can be difficult she says, but goes on to say that she has found the sports community very friendly and approachable and has always been able to reach out to others for support. “I wouldn’t have done it without this support” she says “having a team around you is important, and there is a lot of support out there is you are determined to find it”.
Having been an active member of London Fields Triathlon Club at a time when they were looking to grow their coaching team, Abigail continues to tell me how the club supports her. As part of a team of coaches she frequently uses the other coaches to sound out ideas for training or coaching. As Abigail now heads into her level 2 qualification, she is taking on the role of head coach at the club and has found few barriers to her development. She believes that she has been quite fortunate in that most of the barriers are internalised, “being confident in my abilities” has been the major factor and Abigail has found that talking these through with her husband has helped her to see things more clearly.
It’s clear that Abigail has a great support structure around her to help with her development. She talks passionately about her work as in instructor for Our Parks, about how helpful they’ve been and about what an influence Born Barikor has been on her, “he’ll always make time to talk to you” she tells me. Not content with all that she currently delivers, Abigail has recently trained as an indoor cycling instructor which has enabled her to start coaching indoor cycling sessions for the triathlon club and has led to a new contract to teach classes at the Lee Valley Velopark. She’s visibly excited about this as it is providing her with an opportunity to work with some great coaches in such a stunning venue.
Having recently attended a Women In Sport conference, Abigail found the speakers motivational and insightful. She found the research findings were useful in helping her to greater understand the landscape in which she works in. She tells me that she came away from the event “buzzing full of ideas”. I ask if the conference made any change to her behaviour as a coach “yes” she says without hesitation, “it made me stop and reflect, to reassess my purpose and goals.”
Abigail is conscious that she works in an industry that trades in superficiality, quick fixes and body image. “That isn’t why I got involved” she says “I’m not jumping on that bandwagon, I’m not going to create an Instagram profile with pictures of me in a bikini doing headstands because that’s not what I stand for”. Abigail’s approach is to try to get more people involved for the right reasons, “people come to me because they want someone who is not too threatening, there’s no point in creating a façade online because when people meet you that breaks down immediately”. To this end she has designed her website in a way to make people want to come to her for the right reasons. She goes on to tell me that “I don’t want people to have to rely on me to workout, that’s not sustainable and I work to help people become independent exercisers. I want people to gain confidence and knowledge to be able to take care of themselves.”
In addition to coaching, Abigail likes to keep active and is keen to share that passion with others and see people’s eyes light up when they succeed. “I wasn’t always super sporty, it’s been a gradual progression over the last decade” she says, “my mum was a major role model, she used to run and I used to get dragged along to the events as a child and this had been a big influence on me”. Abigail keeps spreading her perception of what she is able to do, and is continually pushing her boundaries. “Everyone has got it in them to do what I do, it’s helping them find it that I see as my responsibility” she says. I get the feel that Abigail is a reluctant role model to others and finds this responsibility a challenge.
To end, I ask Abigail what she thinks she’ll be doing in 5 years’ time, “I’d like to be the one helping coaches learn the ropes. I’d also love to be able to deliver an ‘under one roof’ coaching service”. It’s fair to say though that motivation and drive won’t be a problem will be far from a problem for Abigail.
If you've been inspired by Abigail’s story and want to get involved in coaching but don't know where or how to start, check out sports coach UK’s Reach campaign. You'll find hints and tips as well as case studies about women who are succeeding in coaching.
Steven Bentall, Coaching Network Manager, sports coach UK