My Development as a Coach
By Dave Turner: sports coach UK Development Lead for Children and Schools
For my latest blog I thought it would be nice to write about how I personally became a coach and the huge positives this has brought me over the past few years. Now this might sound like a sales pitch at first! But please bear with me as I hope to use this blog to also dispel a few of those myths about coaching that seem ever present.
By the end of my time competing in athletics I was quite disillusioned by the sport. The inevitable injuries, and the realisation I’d be doing it for half of my life, among other things, all contributed to the need for a break. But the most important factor was that there was no one to coach me when I returned home after four years at university.
I can’t pinpoint a day or event where I decided to begin coaching, so the trigger was probably a combination of things: realising there is more to life than work and Game of Thrones, seeing that a lack of javelin coaching in my home town 15 years ago had turned into a complete absence, my waistline. Whatever it was something clicked and I decided now was the time.
The first two things I did on my journey were to approach my former athletics club, who surprise, surprise, were desperate for a new coach. I then got in touch with an old friend and training partner and offered to do some training with her. I was just beginning to developing my coaching skills and trying to remember what all the coaches I’d worked with had taught me! Working with an old friend in this way turned out to be a really useful way to ease my way into coaching after completing my Level 1 qualification with the governing body.
My club offered to pay for my Level 1 qualification, but I said let me pay and if coaching is right for me I’d be very grateful if you could help me out with my Level 2 qualification. I can’t promise that all clubs and sports will be able to help, but you don’t get if you don’t ask and there is also information on funding opportunities in the Funding Opportunities for Coaching Guide on our website.
When I began coaching I had one athlete to coach, but that snowballed almost instantly when people saw those rusted metal spears coming out of hibernation. It was so exciting for me to see that athletes could see javelin taking place and thought I want to give that a go. Equally it terrified me to think no coach, no javelin! So within weeks we had a decent sized javelin squad and a year later that squad took four out of a possible six gold medals at the Lancashire County Schools Championships.
Was it masses of technical knowledge being passed onto the young athletes that created this quick turnaround? Very unlikely! I believe it was the opportunity to take part in the activity in the first place, with a bit of structure and a lot of enthusiasm. In fact when I come to think about those confidence boosting occasions when my coaching has been praised, it’s not technical knowledge that people comment on, but my enthusiasm and passion for the event. Enthusiasm can be as contagious as the common cold it seems!
Which brings me to my top tip for becoming a coach and deciding if it is right for you...if you love your sport I’d be very surprised if you can’t become a high-performing coach. That should be your starting point, not ‘do I know everything these is to know about my sport’.
People still get so hung up on the technical knowledge, I’m guilty of it myself! But most of the feedback from my mentors has actually been around worrying less about explaining technical intricacies and just making the session clear, simple and fun. It works for all ages, even adults. Nothing amuses me more than when I reflect on the fact a cunning tutor has tricked me into learning without my realising...well coaches can have the same effect. So in essence the one thing I and other newcomers to coaching usually worry about, technical knowledge, is actually quite far down on the list of things that will make an immediate impact with participants.
The next step for me is being a part of the National Coach Development Programme for javelin. I’m excited and nervous about this in equal measure, one of my heroes is one of the coaches! So I’m trying to follow my own advice, the key is NOT to worry about becoming the world’s leading technical expert on day one, but to be enthusiastic and love your sport or event.