Coaching in the UK

The role of coaching in participation - new briefing paper

Thu, 13 Mar 2014

In spite of a large amount of research material and anecdotal evidence, we believe it’s important to provide further clarity on the role played by coaches in increasing and maintaining participation in sport. This briefing note summarises the value of coaching in helping people to play sport and stay involved.

We believe that good coaching brings more people into sport, increases their enjoyment of sport and makes them more likely to stay involved in sport. Fitness and enjoyment are even more important benefits than increased skill or performance levels.

Around six million people in the UK receive coaching each week (2.3M adults; 3.6M children). Among adults, women have a slightly higher take-up of coaching than male participants. Increased fitness is the most frequently quoted key benefit of coaching (by 72% participants). Over two-thirds of people (69%) believe that coaching enhances their enjoyment. Research also indicates that a good way to promote participation in sport is through an emphasis on the enjoyment and social benefits of physical activity.

Coaches provide experiences that can hook participants on to a sport for life. They give extra motivation and encouragement through their enthusiasm and knowledge for the sport(s). Good coaches also show concern for safety and psychological comfort including the sensitive topic of body image. Such sensitivity to participants’ needs and the ability to create individual or group programmes is the key to inducing and sustaining participation.

It has long been recognised that coaching helps participants achieve their sporting goals. Research into exercise psychology found that participants who do reach their goals are more inclined to be physically active for an extended portion of their lives. Coaches can help this process through positive changes in players’ perceptions of their competence and higher levels of success.

The document also outlines how activators fit within the coaching family. Activator is an informal term, used in different ways.  Most sports need inspirational individuals who motivate people to take part and stay involved in sporting activity.  The activator could be an interested parent, a retired athlete or a well qualified coach. Activators may take on a variety of roles; the common theme is that they provide opportunities for participants in an inspirational manner, leading them to return to the session, club or sport in the very near future. 

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