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22 Jul 2019 330
Rapport Building and Communicating Coach Developer

Developing the Developers

A case study with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) charting their collaboration with UK Coaching over the upskilling of tutors on the All Stars Cricket Programme

  • The case study analyses the impact and effectiveness of UK Coaching’s new ‘Developing the Person in Front of You’ workshop
  • The workshop is underpinned by three core principles: Connect, Understand and Thrive
  • It has been developed as an extension to the 'Coaching the Person in Front of You' workshop 

The success of any partnership project depends on two critical components: Close collaboration and careful planning. 

When the ECB chose to team up with UK Coaching to add an extra layer of training and support to their All Stars tutor programme, it was an informed decision, knowing their partnership would be founded upon a shared ethos.

Both organisations believe passionately that, when it comes to workforce and participant development, a person-centred approach is essential.

All Stars Cricket aims to provide children aged five to eight with a great first experience in cricket. It is about creating a welcoming environment where the emphasis is on kids having fun, enjoying physical activity and playing together, and inviting the whole family along for the ride.

Tutors delivering the All Stars Activator Course need to connect with activators and make them feel part of the ECB family, understand their individual reasons for wanting to volunteer and help them thrive in their role of delivering a fun eight-week programme to children. And they must achieve this in a single two and a half-hour face-to-face session.

For me, our Developing the Person in Front of You workshop links perfectly with the All Stars ethos, which is about getting kids to enjoy the activities first and foremost," says UK Coaching Workforce Development Lead Officer Esther Jones. 

"We need people to understand children and appreciate that if you can engage with somebody and make them feel they can thrive then you are going to hook them on sport and physical activity.

"Coaches taking our Coaching the Person in Front of You workshop learn how to deliver the best experience for their participants. But behind the coaches sit tutors, mentors, anyone in the workforce with a role to develop coaches. Our ethos is to give them the best experience possible to empower them to go out and develop people, and this is why we devised an extension to the original workshop."

Setting off a chain reaction

Esther and the UK Coaching team devoted a lot of time to working with the ECB to understand the specific aims of the organisation and the programme, exploring in depth the wide-ranging needs of All Stars activators, and therefore the needs of tutors. They quickly identified that a core value of the governing body, intrinsic to everything they do, was to put the person at the heart of coaching and coach development. 

There was a reciprocal recognition of the power of the tutor to set in motion a positive chain reaction. Tutors empower activators by giving them the confidence, enthusiasm, knowledge and tools to go and work with participants. They in turn model the behaviour of the tutors, adopting the same person-centred principles to help their participants flourish and have an excellent experience of coaching.

As progressive thinkers around the development needs of tutors, it was a perfect fit of philosophies. The ECB then asked UK Coaching to deliver their new workshop at the ECB Annual All Stars Tutor conference, comprising events in London, Bristol and Leeds.

Addressing a group of 30 tutors – all full-time members of staff for the ECB – Dan Garbutt, Regional Youth Participation Executive (South-West and Wales), stressed the desire to attract, develop and support a wider spectrum of people into the All Stars activator workforce to meet the needs of its participants.

Activators for the programme, explains Dan – who doubles as ECB lead for the All Stars tutor workforce – "are not just your traditional cricketers". 

Many have no cricket background and little or no practical coaching experience. Indeed, of the 4,500 All Stars activators supporting the scheme, two thirds are new to the sport. 

Which is why being able to flex our delivery to those cohorts and adapt it to who we have in front of us is so important.

And it is the reason we engaged in this process with UK Coaching: to acknowledge how important it is to connect with and understand the activator in front of them, and allow them to reflect on their practice.

"It is all part of our aim to create a diverse coaching workforce, getting parents and people from the community involved in coaching cricket and to take cricket into community centres and, if necessary, out of the elite environment."

Be prepared to break the mould

Dan explained to tutors that the composition of the All Stars Activator Training Course had been put together as a framework to follow, not a blueprint to stick to. Activators are encouraged to adapt the sessions if the need arises.

And this was something UK Coaching Lead Tutor Adam Colley was at pains to reiterate when he delivered the Developing the Person in Front of You workshop to tutors at the John Charles Centre for Sport in Leeds.

"If you are delivering the two and a half-hour face-to-face All Stars Activator session, those who are attending are all going to want different things from it," said Adam.

"So, what you deliver should not be rigid; it’s for you to pull apart and mould and blend to how it fits with your group of activators, coaches or players to suit them.

That’s why the UK Coaching workshop is so important, because it emphasises there is a different need and want for everyone who comes on a course, whether tutor, activator or coach, and it teaches tutors that it is imperative to form connections and seek to understand the person in front of us first as individuals before we can seek to help and support them with their individual needs."

How many of us (if we are honest) strive to understand others before we seek to be understood ourselves? "Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply" (Stephen R Covey). Active listening is just one simple method we can use to understand the individual on a deeper level.

Tools and techniques a CUT above!

The three core principles explored in the workshop – Connect, Understand and Thrive – are simple enough to remember. But in case you forget, it might help to think of it as a fitting acronym for a powerful framework that proposes to help activators cut their teeth in coaching cricket while developing their confidence so they can cut it as an inspirational children’s coach!

Tutors were given plenty of ideas to reflect upon as they learned, through a series of innovative strategies and fun interactive games, the importance of engaging with people and building connections, and how to hone their skills around understanding to help their activators, and ultimately their participants, thrive. 

"We want participants to have a great experience and activators to have the best experience too," explains Adam – a former All Stars activator himself – about the need to make learning fun and person-centred.

And that includes the workshop delivery. ‘For us as lead tutors we must practice what we preach. So, it is about how to make sure the principles that we are getting across to our learners, that we are living that through our delivery as well.

"I try to give them different games they can use in their sessions to help them underpin some good practice they are doing already, which they can then share with other tutors. And hopefully there may be one or two lightbulb moments when they think, 'Ah, I can do that!'."

Learning how to break the ice

Yorkshire Cricket Board Development Manager Gareth Davis felt the flash of inspiration on the very first task, when Adam set a challenge that sent tutors scattering and chattering. 

Gareth explains: "When our activators come onto an All Stars course, the more information we can have about them, the better it sets us up for the session. So, what resonated with me were the strategies for facilitating connectivity and how we can best engage with activators and parents.

"One of the activities was a random sheet of ice-breaker questions that asked us to mingle and find out a bit more about people in the group, including what other skills people had. So, for example, can they juggle, have they got a red car, a sibling, what’s their favourite song – things we haven’t got access to. 

I will definitely use this exercise to build those early connections and understand more about the skills and backgrounds of my activators. Imagine finding out they can juggle! They’d be amazing as an activator, as part of the activator role is being the type of character who can engage with children and have fun."

For Gareth Moorhouse, Cheshire Cricket Board Clubs and Participation Manager, the big takeaway from the workshop was learning about how to create environments in which people can thrive, with an appreciation that ‘thrive’ will mean different things to different people. He says it has helped him reflect on his own tutoring skills.

"It’s not just about teaching people cricket skills, it’s about enlightening activators to go on and inspire others. And that means understanding what makes people tick in order to help them achieve their goals for getting into coaching.

"Everyone gets into cricket, into tutoring and into activating for a different reason, so trying to understand what motivates them helps us to shape our practice and tailor our response.

"By [understanding and connecting] it allows us to have that flexibility and adaptability when you’re tutoring or coaching. So while recognising there is a central theme, it’s about not sticking to the script all the time and appreciating that everybody reacts differently to different situations and so learning to sprinkle a bit of personality into the mix. At the end of the day, we are all working to one goal essentially, which is to give everyone a fantastic experience in cricket."

Here to help

UK Coaching’s workforce development team is keen to work with more partners around utilising and fully maximising the power of the Connect, Understand and Thrive principle to develop tutors, mentors and coach developers. 

As Dan testified, UK Coaching can offer a highly bespoke service, committed to supporting the wider learning journey, beyond the coach and participant.

"UK Coaching asked us about our programme and about what we would need and created something that would be suitable for that," said Dan. "To be able to put into practice a pilot that is bespoke for our programme and works with our tutors to be able to deliver that was just what we were looking for.

"We’ve had comments from our tutors that it’s really clear the UK Coaching staff have done their research in terms of understanding All Stars cricket, and that’s come across in the delivery."

Want to upskill your tutors, mentors and coach developers and promote a person-centred approach? Curious about how Developing the Person in Front of You might look for you? Get in touch to discuss running the training for your workforce.