Coaching in the UK

Key message from UK Coaching Summit in Northern Ireland - coaching is people inspiring people

Fri, 09 Jun 2017

HRH The Princess Royal

HRH The Princess Royal at the UK Coaching Summit in Northern Ireland. Photograph: ©UK Coaching


“Hundreds of thousands of thousands of coaches will never know how many lives they’ve changed; their influence has never been more crucial,” said Graham Little, speaking at the UK Coaching Summit, which took place in Northern Ireland on the 6-7 June, at the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa Hotel, in Newcastle, Co. Down.
The Northern Irish TV presenter and journalist was compère for the two day event, and from his closing remarks it was clear he had experienced what coaching is really about: ‘people inspiring people’.

Organised by UK Coaching in partnership with Sport Northern Ireland, the purpose of the Summit was to empower and inspire positive changes for anyone receiving coaching and anyone providing coaching.

The theme of the Summit: ‘Extending Our Reach’, was aptly titled to reflect coaching’s new broader definition – that great coaching impacts on many aspects of our lives and not just on the transfer of sporting skills. Echoing this message further still was HRH The Princess Royal, who made a surprise visit to the event.

Make the best possible use of talents.

Against the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains, the Princess – patron of UK Coaching, addressed nearly 200 delegates, from across the UK and further afield in the hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Her speech encouraged the spreading of coaching connections, and the idea that we need coaches at all levels – because coaches can help others become successful individual athletes, or people who make the best possible use of their particular talents.

The Summit was officially opened by Sport Northern Ireland’s Chair, George Lucas followed by UK Coaching’s Chief Executive, Mark Gannon. The audience – including Princess Anne – were also treated to a keynote speech given by Dr Michael McKillop, an Irish Paralympic gold medallist and world champion middle-distant runner, and his father Patrick, his coach. The duo talked about the idiosyncrasies of their successful father-son, coach-athlete relationship.

Delegates, who were mostly leaders and operational staff from organisations that support those who coach, across the sport and physical landscape, and from wider organisations including education, health and local authorities, then attended a variety of practical workshops and breakout sessions. Some also chose to take their learning outside the classroom by going to one of three unique sessions held at the Sport NI Outdoor Activity Centre in Tollymore. These sessions mixed theory with climbing, orienteering and mountain biking.

Graham Little, Eimear Brown and Dara Hamill

Opening day two of the Summit, Graham Little interviews Straight2Swimming coaches Eimear Brown (left) and Dara Hamill (right). Photograph: ©UK Coaching


Day two followed much of the same format as the first, and opened with a poignant interview between compère Graham and Coach Eimear Brown, discussing her involvement with Straight2Swimming – a programme devised by Philip and Edel Convery at Belfast Swim Club, to help youth affected by scoliosis by giving them access to closed swimming session, which allows them to overcome the fear of sport due to self-consciousness or pain.

“The most emotional moment of my entire life.”

When asked if she could sum up what kind of experience the programme had had on her life, Eimear said:

"A little girl came to me about six months into our first year...she came into the pool, shaking; nervous, and she wanted to get out after five minutes and she stayed in for ten, and the next [session] 15 and a year and a half later, after all this work, she took her first three swimming strokes by herself.

"It was the most emotional moment of my entire life; I started to cry, her mum started to cry and this little kid was looking at me like 'why are you crying, I'm just swimming'. It was incredible and a moment I will remember for my whole life. I've coached for years and I've never had a moment that's just so important and worth treasuring."

The Summit was brought to a close by statements from Alan Curran, Sport Northern Ireland's Performance Systems Manager and Iain Kennedy, sportscotland's Sport Development Head.

Each year the event is hosted by a different home nation and in 2018 it’s Scotland’s turn. A ceremonial handover was completed between Alan – on behalf of Sport NI, and Iain – on behalf of sportscotland.

Iain Kennedy

sportscotland's Iain Kennedy makes his closing statement. The Summit will be hosted by sportscotland in Edinburgh in 2018. Photograph: ©UK Coaching


Nearly crying.

In his closing statement, Iain invited delegates to attend next year’s event, which will be held in Edinburgh at the Oriam Sport Performance Centre on the 26-27 June, and praised Sport NI for their hospitality.

"I felt that the most important thing about coming to a Summit was the whole experience,” said Iain.

“It's all about the location, the venue and the setting; coming to somewhere that inspires you, that motivates you - not only the environment but the people in it. It's the complexity of formal learning and informal learning; it's the emotion that you get when you listen to people’s tales of what they've done and how they've done it. A couple of times I’ve nearly been crying because I could relate to what was being said.

“I also think a couple of other key things is the networking and the socialisation and the brilliant innovation of the [Sport NI] guys have done this year in the cultural welling of [this Summit]; I think totally the whole experience of coming here to Slieve Donard and Tollymore has been absolutely fantastic.”

George Lucas, Chair of Sport Northern Ireland, said:

"Sport NI was delighted to welcome this year's UK Coaching Summit to Northern Ireland, and supporting UK Coaching in organising the event.

“Coaches play a crucial role in making sport happen at all levels within local communities, and the Summit is a great opportunity to engage with colleagues from across the UK, to collaborate and share learning on the work we are all doing to support and develop our sporting workforce."

Mark Gannon, Chief Executive Officer of UK Coaching, said:

“Sport Northern Ireland pulled out all the stops and what was really nice is they tried to do something different.

"I was really excited about the diversity of people [at the Summit], from all sorts of backgrounds. And some of the outcomes [from the sessions] were community outcomes, they were not sport outcomes, they were using physical activity and sport as a medium to bring about a positive outcome for a community.

"That's the key message for me from this conference; this is about coaching and people inspiring people. It doesn't matter what context it's in, whether it's business; whether it’s executive coaching; whether you're a parent of a kid, it's coaching - it's inspiring people.

“There’s so many fringe benefits to coaching I think that’s the bit we’ve got to appreciate and actually maximise. And understand that it does have a bigger impact than just performance sport, not that we should forget performance sport, it’s critical that we keep that, but the impact of coaching and changing people’s lives is huge.”

For a run down of all the action from across the two days - read our live blog.

And access all event photography.


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