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29 Aug 2023 309

Diving into a Seascape of Learning: UK Coaching Empowers Coaches to Shape Their Own Learning Journey

UK Coaching has proudly launched its ‘next generation’ of Coach Development Programmes. Coaches now have the freedom to collaborate, co-create, explore, experiment, and engage with resources and knowledge in a way that suits their individual preferences.

In the second instalment of our exploration of the growth and development of UK Coaching’s Coach Development Programmes, we focus on programme design and showcase the process we go through and principles we employ to foster a supportive, empowering, and autonomous learning environment.

Coaches enrolled on UK Coaching’s 2023 Coach Development Programmes can look forward to a seascape of learning.

You’re free to scour Google to find out what that means, but we’re not sure it will shed any light on the matter, so allow us to save you some time. 

We have coined the term to describe our progressive, and expansive, learning strategy. 

Think of a seascape and it may conjure an image of a wide-open ocean; a metaphor for preparing to take a deep dive of discovery, as you navigate the depth and breadth of your development journey.

You may picture a coastal landscape shaped by centuries of currents, waves, wind, and rain. Undoubtedly you will have to weather storms and choppy seas when coaching aspiring young athletes, which will shape you as a coach. Our programmes will help mould you holistically into a better all-round coach capable of holding your course through the turbulence of life and coaching.

Being a performance coach is rarely plain sailing and always unpredictable, but it can also be exhilarating and rewarding. And with UK Coaching at your side, you are not alone on this voyage of discovery. 

“Being a performance coach requires a unique set of skills and presents its own set of challenges. Balancing the demands of coaching aspiring young athletes with other aspects of life can be complex, to say the least,” says UK Coaching’s Coaching Lead Tom Hartley.

For Tom, ‘seascape of learning’ describes the exciting new approach UK Coaching has taken to designing a learning experience that caters for everyone’s needs.

This year, instead of delivering content to coaches at predetermined dates and times, following a linear learning path, we are embracing a seascape of learning where coaches get to navigate their own learning journey by being given the freedom to collaborate, co-create, wayfind, and explore.

“There is no set route through our programmes. Every coach can forge their own path to align with their own personal development needs and areas of interest, with the guidance and support of our expert team.”


Autonomous learning: A core principle of our programme design

The year’s suite of programmes – Focus, Horizon, Elevate and Explore – utilise the latest research, technology and best practices in coaching. Aligned to the UK Sport Coaching Framework, they challenge coaches to think creatively, critically, and collaboratively, and to apply their learning in diverse and dynamic situations. 

Click on each programme link to find out which coaches and which sports make up the ‘class of 2023’.

“Through years of experience in developing and delivering programmes for coaches, we have come to realise that coaches in this space often face limited opportunities to explore their own development needs, struggle to expand their professional networks, and find it difficult to strike a harmonious balance between coaching and other areas of their lives,” adds Tom.

That’s why our design principles focus on fostering an environment where coaches receive an exceptional level of support, are empowered to take ownership of their learning journey, and have the autonomy to explore the depth and breadth of their professional development.”

With around 160 coaches across the four programmes, UK Coaching offers the largest cross-sport performance coach development programme in the country, providing tailored support based on the individual needs and context of each coach. 

This year’s cohort of coaches will have access to face-to-face sessions and social learning spaces, online peer-to-peer learning opportunities, a wealth of content created in partnership with subject matter experts from around the world, and mindset and behaviour profiling tools.

“This content can be consumed in a manner that best supports each coach, regardless of where they currently stand on their learning journey,” says Tom.

We feel our programmes are unique in design, concept and approach.”

Tom shines a light on each learning tool and support mechanism UK Coaching is employing (below) but first presents a summary of the subtle differences between each programme.


A coach developer is your companion and critical friend

There is a lot of ambiguity in how the coaching industry defines and uses the term coach developer. 

Coach development is a distinct process from coach education and, to clear up any misunderstanding, Tom explains how UK Coaching deploys its team of coach developers.

A coach developer, says Tom, is there to be a coaching companion; a thinking partner; a critical friend to the coach – supporting the person rather than a curriculum.

The intention of our suite of programmes is to offer support and to encourage coaches to consider how they want to make best use of the coach developers at their disposal. 

“There is no catch. There is no one here trying to mark you or assess you; we are genuinely here to help you be the best you can be,” says Tom.

Explaining the fine distinctions between each programme, he adds:

“On Focus (aimed at coaches), we recognise that coaches working with athletes at the performance stage of the athlete development pathway probably need a sense of community, rather than a primary focus on one-to-one coach developer support. So, we have set up learning groups, initiated by a coach developer, whose role is to create an environment that fosters meaningful conversation.

“Whereas on Horizon (aimed at head coaches and senior coaches), the role of the coach developer is to be that one-to-one support. They will be in situ with a coach three times through the year, with opportunities to debrief and chat. It is very applied, and the coach developer visits the coach in their environment. So, it’s personal support. The only consistent thing is that every coach’s support will look different based on their needs.

“On the Explore programme (aimed at coaches, head coaches and senior coaches), it’s slightly different again as it is co-created. Coaches have an idea of the path they want to tread, and we will ask them: ‘What do you want your experience to be over the next nine months? Who do you want to meet? What do you want to learn? What don’t you want to learn?’ 

“Every coach is assigned their own one-to-one coach developer, but we can tap into our pool of coach developers to offer specialised support depending on their differing wants and needs. So, Phil, who I’m supporting one-to-one and who is a fencing coach, comes to me for X, Y, Z, but may go to Marianne to get A and B.

“So, it’s giving coaches more autonomy in their holistic development. We want to give coaches a voice and choice in their learning and development rather than it being linear and prescribed.

Elevate is the female coaching programme and is very much based around community and network, recognising that a lot of female coaches in that space need a professional network of support to help them develop their coaching knowledge and advance along their sport performance pathway.”

UK Coaching’s seascape of learning

Interactive digital resource

To enhance the learning experience, our creative team at UK Coaching has designed a digital, interactive magazine. This magazine provides coaches with the freedom to choose the breadth and depth of their learning. It delivers tailored content from global experts, including on-demand videos and podcasts, allowing coaches to engage as much or as little as they desire, depending on their development priorities, schedule, and motivation.

Some of the brightest academics in sports research deliver on some of our content.

Social learning spaces

We have placed a strong emphasis on social learning, creating numerous opportunities for coaches to collaborate and make sense of their experiences alongside their peers and subject matter experts. This flipped learning experience enables coaches to tackle real-life challenges and engage in insightful discussions with the guidance of industry experts.

Curated content and collaboration

To deepen their knowledge, our digital magazine hosts numerous links and connections, leading back to the UK Coaching website, where coaches can access curated content to broaden their understanding and expertise. This grants coaches greater autonomy in their learning and development journey.

Through our three levels of on-demand content, our sense-making community, and curated signposting, we aim to foster stronger connections between research and coaching practice. 

We also encourage user-generated content to further support individuals connected to coaches on our programmes. This ensures that learning remains highly contextualised and relevant to each coach's unique needs.

Chart your course to coaching excellence!


Organisations: Could you assimilate some of the ideas and strategies you have read about into your own programme designs? 

Coaches: How do you want to grow as a coach? What are your goals, challenges, and aspirations?

If you are a performance coach looking for a way to take your coaching to the next level, we hope you have been left with a sense of FOMO and have been inspired to apply for next year’s Focus, Horizon, Elevate or Explore Programmes.

If you work for a governing body, don’t miss the boat next time. Nominate a coach you feel deserves an opportunity to benefit from this exciting seascape of learning.

And for those enrolled on this year’s programmes…  bon voyage!

Get in touch with UK Coaching at [email protected] to see how we can help you with your coach development programme.

Part One: The Design Principles Behind Our Programmes

In the first instalment, we focus on our collaborative approach with partners to enhance the diversity of the coaching workforce and foster diversity of thought.

Read it Now

Take a look at the names of the coaches taking part in the Focus, Horizon, Elevate and Explore Coach Development Programmes, and the sports they represent.

Full Story

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