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Relationship Management team on the UK Coaching Summit

This year’s UK Coaching Summit was definitely one for celebrity spotters, with an opening address from HRH The Princess Royal; Rory McIlroy coincidentally joining delegates for breakfast, and Anthony Statham, Sports Development Manager for Active Sussex, watching Greg Wallace tuck into poached eggs at Heathrow airport.  

The common message, consistently touched on throughout the two days was that: To provide great experiences you need to understand the person or the people in front of you. That's the starting point, coaching is a people first thing. This conference was about coaching and people inspiring people.

For those of you who were unable to attend this year's Summit, or for anyone who wants to reflect back on the event, the Relationship Management Team at UK Coaching have put together a collective blog - sharing their personal highlights and thoughts from Northern Ireland.

Coaching Behaviours Framework - Ollie Holt

Ollie Holt

Over the two days at this year’s UK Coaching Summit we heard about the importance of coaching behaviours especially ‘people skills’ and ‘soft skills’, such as an easy going relatable personality, building strong inter-personal relationships and developing trust between people.

Craig Blain presented UK Coaching’s latest thinking about behaviours – a newly created Coaching Behaviours Framework. This framework can help organisations to identify the range of coaching behaviours that someone needs for a particular purpose – or put another way for a particular audience or group of people such as children, adults who are inactive or adults who wish to maintain an active lifestyle.

There is a simple process for organisations to follow:

  • Ask your audience to describe what great coaching looks like to them.
  • From these responses identify coaching knowledge, attributes and behaviours.
  • Group these findings into four categories:
    • People: how a person interacts with others.
    • Personal: how a person views themselves and the world around, including beliefs and philosophies.
    • Practical: how a person delivers experiences of sport and/or physical activity.
    • Place: how a person caters for place, environment and audience specific nuances.

A completed framework creates a Coaching Persona; in essence the DNA for effective coaching with that specific group or audience. This Persona can then be used in a number of ways to ensure that participants experience the coaching behaviours that best meet their needs, abilities and motivations. It can inform how people are recruited, the provision of learning and development, and underpin how people are deployed.

Sadly, the Coaching Behaviours Framework is not a crystal ball that can predict the future. What it does do is embrace a philosophy that effective coaching takes place for a specific purpose, and that great coaching should not be centred solely on the skills and mechanics of delivery. Great coaching must start with people. It must begin with the human interaction that creates compelling experiences, and ultimately transforms lives.

People Inspiring People - Jenny Buckham-Hedges

Jenny Buckham-Hedges

Reflecting on the recent UK Coaching Summit, my initial feeling was one of disappointment.  Not because the Summit wasn’t an excellent event, and certainly not because the sessions weren’t engaging.  The reason was that I had only managed to get to two sessions.  Every time I was about to head off to my allocated workshop I was caught by someone who wanted to catch up, or to make my acquaintance.  Frustrating. But then I recalled one of the key points that had stuck with me from one of the sessions I did make it to.  Karen Roberts, an Olympic medallist in Judo, was talking about what she thought coaching and coaching coaches was all about: ‘It’s just interaction between people to get better’.  

This indeed was the theme that had run so strongly throughout the whole two days. Coaching is about people.  We weren’t hearing about coaching football or coaching netball, we heard about coaching people. About improving experiences for people.  Sport may be the vehicle but people are the beneficiaries.

All of a sudden I felt happy that my two days spent interacting with different individuals who needed advice or direction, or just to have a conversation, was actually two days exceptionally well spent.

The King is dead, long live the King - Pete Ezard

Pete Ezard

So the challenge has been set.  As we move into an era where our coaches need to be more reflective of society and cognisant of their role in a much wider marketplace, is the sector ready for this challenge?  The Slieve Donard hotel, the venue for the 2017 UK Coaching Summit set the scene for two thought provoking days.  Two days which have asked many questions of the sector, but equally provided guidance on how we can make the industry ‘fit for purpose’.

Following an inspirational keynote from Michael and Paddy McKillop and a surprise visit from HRH Princess Anne, I attended Premier Education’s session ‘Extending the reach beyond the School Gates’. Andy Heald’s passion for coaching in schools was evident and it was clear he wanted the sector to work collaboratively to ensure that coaches working in this environment were appropriately trained and qualified.  

Premier Education’s franchise model gets this right and clearly their success is built on a strong rationale for having sports coaches in education, but equally on having the right coaches delivering sessions in those environments.  But as Andy pointed out, ‘are we doing enough?’  Are we producing enough coaches with the skills to work effectively in schools? Do our education programmes allow for skills to be developed in this area?  Fascinating questions that challenged the audience which included governing bodies of sport Governing Bodies, UK Coaching members of staff and perhaps critically the Youth Sport Trust.

The same challenge was set in the second session I visited, ‘Empowering Coaches’.  Dr Juliette Stebbings from the University of Birmingham asked if governing bodies of sport were doing enough to produce coach education qualifications and continued professional development that reflected the needs of their participants.  Supported by significant research and insight, Dr Stebbings and colleagues had produced a workshop that stressed the need for coaches to ‘empower’ their participants and this was being used effectively by Street Games as part of their Doorstep Sport Clubs programme.  Her challenge was that more is needed to be done in the governing bodies of sport world and that qualifications needed to reflect the ‘how’ as much as the ‘what’.

My final session of the day, ‘Education for All’, continued to challenge our traditional coach education system.  A dynamic session from Rus Smith at Street Games and Andy Grant, challenged the sector to think about different approaches to learning and assessment.  As we consider widening our reach in the marketplace, the session challenged the audience to develop learning programmes that where more accessible and affordable.  It certainly provoked a great deal of discussion amongst the delegates as the challenge of a flexible approach to learning was tempered by the need to still have quality assurance and regulation mechanisms in place.  I’m sure the discussions continued well into the evening.

So many things for the sector to consider, particularly governing bodies of sport.  But is it fair to put all the challenges on their doorstep or indeed question whether they are doing enough to produce fit for purpose coaches and coach education qualifications?

There is no doubt the sector is moving on as we have to understand a much wider coaching family that works in multiple environments engaging with a huge range of participants.  But I think governing bodies of sport are embracing change, and are acutely aware that their workforce and learning programmes need to reflect a much broader marketplace. To fully embrace the change will take time, but if forward thinking developers and practitioners such as Andy, Juliette and Rus continue to challenge the system and work collaboratively with other partners, then I think we are well positioned to develop a workforce that is appropriate for a range of environments and more crucially fit for purpose.

The Great Outdoors - Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson

This year’s Summit was a little different for me as I was based in the heart of Tollymore forest home to the Sport NI Outdoor Activity Centre and filming location for Game of Thrones. Delegates took their learning away from the usual classroom surroundings and into the great outdoors, taking part in activities such as indoor climbing, mountain biking, orienteering and problem solving to explore coach development challenges, issues and opportunities.

People often say ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ but my experience up at Tollymore reminded me of a blog I read saying the exact opposite ‘if it isn’t broken, consider breaking it’. Listening to the delegates on the buses back from Tollymore each day talking about their experiences and how they had been inspired, really hit home the need for us to be creative about how we support coaches to learn, develop and grow.

The planning team for the Summit had been brave and tried something new despite already having a successful formula for delivery in place, hopefully that bravery and willingness to try something different rubbed off on those who experienced  different ways of learning out in Tollymore.

Change shouldn’t just happen when it’s necessary, it should happen when it’s possible.

To find out more about what went on at the Summit view the live blog.

In this bright future you can’t forget your past - Dan Owen

Dan Owen

With my introduction to the company, I immediately acknowledged Sports Coach UK as having strong foundations, which could act as a launch pad towards a future beyond its horizon. As the opening key note speaker, the inspirational Michael McKillop, spoke about the challenges he had faced and overcome throughout his life and career, he displayed a quote from Dennis Waitley:

“There are two choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist or accept the responsibility to change them”

Like a phoenix from the flames, UK Coaching spread its wings at the 2017 UK Coaching Summit at the picturesque Slieve Donard resort in Northern Ireland, and re-established its new “true north” – People. Passion. Progress. Setting out its mission to put coaching at the heart of physical activity and sport with the purpose to help transform lives through coaching.

Inspired by the presence of Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne, guest speakers brought their A-games to inform and motivate the assembled delegates with insight, products and coping strategies to help bring the UK Coaching vision to life. As with any experience in my life, I reflect on the learning experience based on the power of the messages I can draw into my own world or the world of coaching and workforce development in Wales. This was one that I will carry with me…

My first session of the day saw me head to the Grand Ballroom with CJ and Rob. Both presenters spoke with passion and conviction about the role the Premier League Kicks programme played in the development of inner city youths from multicultural backgrounds in the Leicester area. A collaborative deployment partnership between Leicester City Community Trust and Leicestershire Police; the partnership seeks to make participants more world aware and promote equal opportunities, based on their four pillars of: Educate, Express, Participate and Empower. The scheme creates community cohesion, inclusive practice and community partnerships through peer mentoring and connecting multicultural communities through sports and sports coaching, integral to its success is placing the right coaches appropriately trained with the right attitudes. With all the talk around Brexit, this initiative inspires to educate and enlighten. The programme helps to save £100,000 on an annual basis by preventing its participants entering the judicial and prison system, by creating and funding employment, qualifications and life opportunities. Extremely confident in their approach the programme experienced tangible results, but this was down to the following mantra:

“Brand is one thing…our professionalism and the way we work is what makes a difference to young people and communities.”

This is a lesson that I and UK Coaching will heed and should be heard by every club in the UK.
The highlight in learning on day one for me, saw dusk beginning to settle over the Irish coast, but began with the words:

“We’ve been on a five-year journey.”

Neil Graham, Scottish Rugby Union’s (SRU) Training and Education Manager, defined the journey that the SRU has taken since 2012. Recognising their operation was entirely paper based, including a 37 page application process! The SRU identified that they had no presence in the 60 second digital world. Recognising digital intervention was required to support essential face to face delivery, the SRU tried and failed in three attempts by 2015. An endearing revelation demonstrated the resilience that sport develops when the time is taken to analyse and reflect and learn from one’s experiences. A mistake is only made if the same thing is attempted twice, each time the SRU revised its approach and by January 2016 had been introduced to HIVE following the reflections from a World Rugby conference. Having implemented the HIVE platform, they now engage 5310 users on a regular basis, a staggering 81% of their active workforce. HIVE requires one administrator, allowing the SRU, with their stated figures, to drastically extend their reach and provide…

“…opportunities to blend our learning approach…”

Affording increased operational capacity and editing capability they now empower their membership the ability to design and share their own content within their online communities.

Hive Learning, Senior Sports Partnerships Manager, Chris Murrel was integral to the establishing of the platform with the SRU and has allowed the SRU to revolutionise their coach development practices. More information can be found at www.hivelearning.com

Within my reflection on this platform presentation, the coaching community of Wales will undoubtedly benefit from the expertise of HIVE learning, and we will be calling to action Neil Graham to share his learning journey with our coaching network in the very near future.

With the day’s education placed to one side, the evenings learning opportunities began. With any conference setting the biggest opportunity to share, and learn in the experience of others, is during the networking opportunities. Hugh McCanns played host to a truly Irish experience and indulged the stories and knowledge of the delegates from each of the home countries and sports organisations alike – exploring what the new horizon of coaching and learning looks like, utilising the discussions of the day as a catalyst for a world and wealth of wisdom to unfold.

For me, the highlight of the day two sessions embodied the whole conference and what UK Coaching’s new voyage has the potential to achieve. Fronted by University of South Wales’ (USW) Dr Ceri Bowley; he described a partnership engaged in by USW and the Football Association of Wales (FAW). Their endeavour, Educating Coaches to Develop Young Peoples Life Skills. Many young footballers dream of lacing their boots and playing in the Premier League. The reality, 0.0017% make that dream a reality. The comparison is that 100% of those people have the reality to become better people – coaches possess the innate power to support a player to, in Ceri’s words:

“…apply a learned skill from sport into their real life situations.”

In order for this to happen the coach needs to understand the person’s motivation in order to make an impact. Creating an attachment with a person in order to influence and convince.

“Nobody remembers their first coach because of how technical and tactically minded they were.”

I was inspired when Dr Bowley made effective use of modern technology to interact with the audience in the form of www.PollEverywhere.com to gauge the audience’s understanding of what life skills means – simply text your answer to the posed questions to capture instant responses – an innovative way to benchmark knowledge in the room and create an instant flipchart.

Dr Bowley said:

“Coach Education never promised to be the be all and end all…”

“…it’s how coaches use their knowledge to connect with people in the world to be more productive.”

Part of Ceri’s PhD research was to consult with key stakeholders in grassroots game in Wales. On the back of which, three intervention modules were created in consultation with Coach Educators, Academics and what Dr Bowley called ‘Prac-ademics’.

The modules have been integrated throughout the FAW coach education structure and involve tuition and practical application instruction in the development of:

  • Interaction and Social Skills
  • Discipline
  • Respect
  • Leadership
  • Organisation
  • Personal Control

Key within this tuition is understanding the coach’s behaviour to given situations to promote consistent responses from their player. The modules promote the challenge of educating parents, reaction to competitive and non-competitive sport and the reaction to winning and losing – is the coach’s behaviour key within influencing those around them?

His overarching approach:

Present the Message >> Reinforce in practice >> Transfer into life

A simple model, but an effective model! With impact on over 2000 coaches and 32000 young people – the modules have impacted on 20% of 11-15 year olds, an astonishing achievement.

With this expertise on my doorstep, it’ll definitely be worth investing in a coffee to pick through more of Ceri’s grey matter.

Was the Summit a success? In my eyes, if I learn even a small thing, it is worth the investment. To learn more than a small thing is inspiring, so for me, bring on Scotland 2018 – I am inspired!

NB Presentations from the event are now available via the UK Coaching website

To see some of the key messages from the event, take a look at our round up or read the live blog we delivered throughout – here you’ll find interviews with presenters and delegates as well as attendee tweets from the two days.

Don’t forget to register your interest in next year’s event, this will take place in Edinburgh from 26-27 June. By letting us know you want to attend, you’ll be the first to hear when ticket information is available.


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