My Life is Sport
This month I’m chatting with sport enthusiast, coach, instructor and business owner Marnie Wills. Originally from Australia, Marnie moved to the UK in 2005 and established her own sports education business in 2014. Initially a PE teacher, her goal was to start sports specific fitness holiday camps for children. This quickly developed into a niche offering of early years fundamentals skills sessions in nurseries and the development of a bespoke primary sports education programme. In addition, Marnie also runs SportsFit which brings sports specific training to a large clientele of athletes of varying levels from amateur to international.
Marnie has always been sporty and from doing a range of sports as a child, in particular, playing to a high standard for both England Touch and England Nets Netball. I ask what the trigger from sports participation to doing this as a career was and she tells me “I moved away from PE teaching as there was a lack of progression for me, it was always the male teachers that were beating me to the roles”. In essence, she wanted to make a difference, so she set up her own business – Clubsports London.
Not satisfied with simply running the business, Marnie instructs her own programmes and also manages a team of four coaches and one trainer. When I ask her about how she ensures her staff are up to speed with the necessary training to deliver in such a niche environment, she tells me that the sports coach UK fundamentals workshop is essential. In addition to this, Marnie will also ensure that in every 10 week block of sessions delivered, she herself leads two. “This enables coaches to peer review and provides opportunities for them to learn from one another” she tells me.
In terms of her own development, Marnie brings a wealth of experience and qualifications from Australia and admits “I’m ready as a coach to take my level 3 award in netball but time and money just won’t allow me to commit”. We go on to talk about the support that is available for coaches in the UK: “there’s a lot for you to learn how to coach a sport but nothing that allows you to become a generalist or to coach the coaches” she says, adding that she would like a mentor, someone that she can work with, because although she’s doing a good job on her own, she doesn’t always know how to find the answers she’s seeking.
I ask Marnie why she does what she does, “I love being the motivator” she says “I have passion for what I do as an athlete, a coach and a trainer, and I believe this is infectious. The passion I have comes out and allows my players and athletes to achieve”. Sharing these achievements has led to Marnie using modern technology and media outside of her sessions.
Sports Fit uses groups and pages on Facebook that allows her to showcase what her clients are achieving, “it’s yelling from the rooftops” Marnie says and it demonstrates the importance of engaging participants before, during and after sessions. She has been using Slack, a communication platform which allows different groups to each have their own pages. “I’ve just started using it with the U18’s England Touch players that I coach but I find that this age group is still addicted to Instagram and Facebook” Marnie says. Engaging with your participants via social media allows you to understand more about them, to connect to them and most importantly to track their mood “you wouldn’t believe how many times players have fallen out over a comment or a picture on social media” she says.
Going on to discuss the importance of women role models in sport, “it needs a big boost, things are improving and there is more recognition for women in sport but in coaching, it still needs to get better. There isn't enough awareness of women coaches who are juggling parenthood, young parenthood, pregnancy and coaching”. Marnie questions where the support is that allows women to transition through this stage of their life to become better coaches.
Marnie is completely immersed in sport “I don't have anything else” she says “my life is sport”, and it’s difficult to balance her own participation in sport with all the other things that she does. ”I've had setbacks but I'm not used to failure and this made me reflect on my life and made me prioritise the things that are and will be important to me in the future” she tells me.
Looking to the future, Marnie is clear that her goals include owning her own strength and conditioning gym in London, becoming the head of the England Touch youth development programme, and for her netball club to progress from county to regional level – “It would be nice for my business to make some money too” she jokes.
If you've been inspired by Marnie’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