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07 Oct 2021 1,072

Royal seal of approval for the nation’s lockdown coaching heroes

Twenty-five lockdown coaching heroes were recognised and celebrated at the UK Coaching Hero Awards ceremony in Leeds on Wednesday, 6 October.

The coaches, who were voted by the public for their innovations and achievements to keep people moving during the coronavirus lockdowns, each received a memento from UK Coaching’s Royal Partron, HRH The Princess Royal to mark the considerable difference they made to people’s mental and physical well-being.

The winners were:

  • Alyn Gunn (football)
  • Alyson Marks (gymnastics)
  • Amy Chambers (gymnastics)
  • Carmela Chillery-Watson (exercise and fitness)
  • Craig Prime (swimming)
  • Dempsey Andrews (ice skating)
  • Denise Bristow (exercise and fitness)
  • Fraser Buchan (alpine skiing)
  • Greg Robertson (acrobatic gymnastics)
  • Jimmy Brennan (boxing)
  • Josh Gelder (multi-sport)
  • Juanita Steel (exercise and fitness)


  • Karen Webb (netball)
  • Lauren Hardaker (gymnastics)
  • Lee Reade (football)
  • Louise Broome (hockey)
  • Louise Horide (cheerleading)
  • Lucas Silvestre-Capalbo (football)
  • Megan Bennington (gymnastics)
  • Melissa Anderson (gymnastics)
  • Richard Smith (swimming)
  • Roderick Slater (athletics; rowing)
  • Sean Armstrong, Martin Hunter and Scott Rendles (exercise and fitness)
  • Vince Skillcorn (judo)
  • Will Philpot (swimming)

The nation’s PE teacher Joe Wicks and double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes received the largest number of nominations from the public for the awards, and were highly commended by UK Coaching on the night for using their profiles to coach online fitness and activity sessions to adults and children.

As the country was placed into successive lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus, Wicks ran his famous ‘PE with Joe’ series on YouTube, keeping mums, dads and kids engaged in physical activity despite being at home, meanwhile, Dame Holmes took her Military in Motion programme online to support and encourage her participants through a solid seven months of fitness and running sessions, even involving her Alpacas in the fun.

UK Coaching Director of Coaching Emma Atkins, said:

Many congratulations to all our winners. We applaud your efforts and the role you played in your communities, boosting morale and lifting people’s moods in a completely alienating time.

"Helping people to use sport and physical activity positively through challenging times is a privilege and one which carries huge responsibilities, and you took your duties seriously, using your initiative to create solutions to the embargo on most sport and physical activity – looking always to what was possible – thank you.”

UK Coaching CEO Mark Gannon, said:

Coaching is about people and great coaching is people-focused, so we feared the worse for the nation’s coaching workforce and the people they support when the restrictions were implemented. Yet, we are masters of our own fate, and as such thousands of coaches ripped up the rule book and used innovation, technology and hard graft to connect with their participants virtually, delivering great coaching experiences. 

“Naturally, the stories of our ‘lockdown coaches’ were so good that tens of thousands of people used their thumbs to give kudos to their favourite coach. And what a wide-ranging group of winners we have: from producing a footballing booklet backed by Champions League winner Ronald de Boer to creating your own physiotherapy sessions for children with muscular dystrophy as a child yourself, not to mention the hours of Zoom sessions, quizzes and fundraising.  

“You supported, guided and inspired people to achieve goals and transform their lives through something unprecedented. We’re incredibly proud of you – well done.”  

UK Coaching opened nominations to its UK Coaching Hero awards initiative in 2020 after the first major UK-wide COVID-19 lockdown. The charitable organisation wanted to acknowledge the efforts of coaches, who in difficult circumstances persevered and re-thought coaching techniques to deliver legal digital and one-to-one training, utilising sport and physical activity to keep people connected.

From 500 public nominations, a long list of 75 coaches from 65 different places around the UK and representing nearly 40 sports and activities were chosen for public vote. During UK Coaching Week 2021, the British voted for their favourite coach and over 65,000 votes were cast in the ballot.

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