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Inclusion. It’s just common sense.

By Sarah Cohen, sports coach UK Development Lead Officer

I’ve been working in this role now for four years and during that time I have spoken to a lot of people from under represented backgrounds who play sport and coaches who coach them. One thing I have learned is:

Each of us is an individual

Now, doesn’t that make your coaching practice easier? No. Not really? You are a good coach. You know how to differentiate to develop people with different abilities and learning styles in your session. But.......

“I need to know how to coach disabled people.”

“I need to know how to coach women. They are different to men, aren’t they?”


It is my firm belief that to be a more inclusive coach you need the following in your toolkit:

1 An outline knowledge

Learn about impairments: Nothing too in-depth – you’d be there for a year if you went on a course to learn (for example) ‘how to coach people with visual impairments (VI).’

You think about the spectrum of people with VI: essentially it ranges from someone who needs glasses to see right through to someone with no useable vision at all.

Q: How do you learn each coaching technique for each individual? Why would you need that?

A: you can’t and you don’t. Just get an understanding of VI and ASK THE INDIVIDUAL.

Learn about the inclusion spectrum to make your approach to differentiation clearer for you. Understand how women & girls want to be coached. Be aware and understand what you can do to welcome more people who aren’t just white, middle class men (in most cases) as coaches into your sport. Create appropriate environments that welcome more women and people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME) to participate.

2 Have confidence

From knowledge and understand comes confidence. A lack of confidence stops coaches from welcoming disabled people into their mainstream sessions. Be pro-active. Recognise that as a coach you probably will coach disabled people at some point. Read about it. Ask the individual. Welcome people from under-represented groups into your sport.Which brings me onto the third point.......

3 An understanding of how to coach in an inclusive way

This is the real key. Recognise that people from under-represented groups may want to access sport but currently don’t feel welcome. Just ask the individual:

  • What do you want out of my sessions?
  • Do you need any support to achieve your own goals?

....and work from there.

At the end of the day the more inclusive and welcoming you are as a coach, the more people you will potentially have both participating and coaching in your sessions.

Have a think. What one thing will you do to be more inclusive for your sport?

Have a look at the sports coach UK’s resource bank section on Inclusion & Diversity Coaching which holds loads of information about how to coach more inclusively and directs you to where you can learn more about different under represented groups.


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