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22 Aug 2023 358

The Design Principles Behind UK Coaching’s Coach Development Programmes

UK Coaching has proudly launched its ‘next generation’ of Coach Development Programmes. Take a deep dive into what makes our 2023 Programmes so progressive, as we highlight key features and benefits of our new-wave approach to design and delivery.

In this first instalment, we focus on how we are working collaboratively with different partners to enhance the diversity of the coaching workforce and foster diversity of thought to enrich the learning and development environment for performance pathway coaches.

Writing about your own organisation’s latest forward-thinking development programme and announcing it as a model that sports should follow is a very easy thing to say – or type into a keyboard – but without solid proof, you open yourself up to criticism for making empty claims.

At UK Coaching we pride ourselves on creating and delivering modern and bespoke learning and development opportunities for coaches to enhance their knowledge of and skills relating to coaching, with in-situ leadership support too that is inclusive, inventive, and individualised.

Now that we have talked the talk about our Coach Development Programmes, let us take you through the evidence to support the use of our design approach as a model for emergent practice

We have developed some design principles for our programmes that we would like to share,” says Coaching Team Lead Tom Hartley. “We feel that by articulating some of the principles we follow, it could be valuable to the wider system.”

We will explore the mechanisms employed to foster a supportive, empowering, and autonomous learning environment in the second instalment – looking at how the programmes:

  • cater to the different needs and preferences of coaches 
  • offer a range of formats, themes, and durations
  • utilise an interactive digital resource 
  • deliver tailored content from global experts.

But first thing’s first: how did we move towards a more representative group of coaches on this year's Focus, Horizon, Elevate and Explore Programmes?


A diverse approach to diversifying the workforce

UK Coaching is fully committed to ensuring that the process for embedding Equity, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EEDI) is a golden thread running through everything we do.

That includes taking positive action to improve diversity and inclusion at all levels, including on the performance pathway.

Our Development Programmes align to our company values (We Collaborate, We Coach, We Care, We Champion Innovation) as well as core EEDI ambitions set out in our EEDI strategy:

  • To work collaboratively across the sector and internally to ensure that all we do is inclusive by design.
  • To build on diversity of both people and thought.
  • To diversify coaching and the supporting infrastructure.
  • To promote externally what we role model internally.

This year the Coaching Team and UK Coaching EEDI Manager Jessica Capelli Beavan spent a considerable amount of time and space thinking about how we start to diversify the coaches on our programmes,” says Tom.

The process started with understanding the moment: What was the current landscape? What story was it telling?

UK Coaching’s Coaching Team conducted an EEDI survey and commissioned Leeds Beckett University to conduct research to understand more about coach biographies. 

“This helps us now and will help us in the future, as it serves as a benchmark,” says Tom.

Findings were then shared with the UK Coaching Diversity Expert Group to canvass opinion. 

“One of the big things that came out of those conversations was creating an opportunity for coaches to self-apply for programmes rather than being nominated by their sport. 

“So, we’ve got a parallel approach now where sports can still nominate, and coaches can self-apply. 

“We invite coaches to share their information with their sport. This allows governing bodies to engage with coaches who may be unknown to them, and who may bring more diversity in terms of background, experience, and perspective.”

Thirty per cent of this year’s cohort have come from self-nominations.


Taking steps towards transforming the coaching workforce

While progress in increasing the diversity of coaches has been made – “it’s small steps but we are more diverse than we were this time last year” – Tom is the first to admit there is a long way to go.

He says more resources are needed to support efforts to break down barriers for historically under-represented groups and address the root causes of the lack of diversity in the coaching workforce.

Everyone could do more with the right resources. But there is also a broader challenge to consider. The pool of coaches that we are drawing from do not reflect the diversity we aspire to. So, we’re treating the symptoms rather than the cause.”

The Coaching Team have worked hard to blend diversity and collaboration – two of the hallmarks of the new Coach Development Programmes – together.

The 2023 programmes leverage collaboration to improve both the diversity of performance coaches on the programmes and consequently diversity of thought – both inside the learning environment and in the community ‘think space’ that operates outside.

Giving an example of how collaboration complements efforts to diversify the coaching workforce, Tom explains that the Coaching Team and EEDI Manager facilitated several online sense-making sessions with sports – entitled 'Fostering Diversity through Collaboration’ – at which governing bodies were encouraged to share the challenges they are facing around diversity within their own domains and share any potential solutions. 

“What came out of that process was that sports are after solutions, and quickly, around diversifying their workforce. We also discovered that although sports can really vary, the challenges they were facing were similar.

“Now we don’t have all the solutions, but we’re a few steps further down the path to knowing who a lot of these people are because of the mechanisms we have put in place. From our point of view, we’re making small changes that will lead to a big difference over time.”

UK Coaching’s Coach Developers and Programme and Pathway Managers will continue this collaborative approach by creating a space – “we’re calling it a think space” – for sports to come together to talk and connect, which UK Coaching can support and steer.

We’re not the experts telling sports, ‘You must do this’. We’re side by side with them, initiating the conversation and creating a space where people can come together and say, ‘I need some help’.

“We are modelling the collaborative approach that we’d like sports to take, and I think what we’re finding is there are some common principles that are starting to emerge – though they will play out differently in different sports because their context is different. 

“Our role then is a thinking partner for a sport who wants to try and diversify their workforce. By proxy, the coaches who then come through to be part of our future programmes will be more representative of the communities that they serve.”


Diversification of sports: The results speak for themselves

While UK Coaching has a responsibility to support coaches from UK Sport-funded sports, we are also committed to having a diverse range of sports represented on the programmes.

“We want to actively find coaches from sports that are Paralympic sports and progression-funded sports – like skateboarding, breakdancing, surfing – that sit outside of that,” says Tom.

“We’re not stopping any coach from any sport being involved. There is just some prioritisation for us in terms of where the funding sits.”

The evidence is in the outcome, as this year there are 37 different sports represented across the four programmes, ranging from traditional sports like hockey, rowing, swimming, and boxing, to emerging and diverse sports such as skateboarding, surfing, cyclo-cross, and American football (and everything in between).

“Without a shadow of a doubt we want to work with coaches who are impacting on future Olympians or people on that trajectory,” adds Tom.

But from a diversity of thought perspective, we recognise that by getting coaches in from a wide spectrum of sports, you get a marvellous cross-pollination of ideas.

“You don’t have to do too much to stimulate the conversation. Coaches recognise quite quickly that while their context is different, they have a lot of shared challenges.

“Everyone on the programmes will have a better experience if we have a broader range of people involved.

If it’s just the same pool of sports every year, then the water becomes stagnant to an extent. We’re trying to inject new ideas and stir the water, so it helps coaches find different ways of solving their problems.”

A year of challenges, opportunities, and adventure

UK Coaching’s development programmes are set to enhance the way coaches at the performance stage of the athlete development pathway learn and grow. 

We are committed to supporting coaches in their respective ‘home’ environments and creating the ideal conditions for them to experiment, evolve, excel, and diversify in their work.

As Tom concludes: “It's going to be an exciting year as we work alongside a highly credible group of coaches from diverse backgrounds and sports, all while staying true to the purpose of UK Coaching: Here for the Coach.”

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

A really positive mix of collaboration, connection and community."

– Horizon coach James Coles, Director of Rugby at St Benedict's School, Ealing.

Part Two: Diving into a Seascape of Learning

In the second instalment, we shine a spotlight on learning design and how our new approach empowers performance coaches to shape their own learning journey. 



Supporting coaches to develop their knowledge and awareness of coaching behaviour, practice design and goal-setting.

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Supporting coaches to explore key themes in performance coaching, including coach welfare, ethical decision making, coach-athlete relationships and performance planning.

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Supporting female coaches to gain clarity and confidence to commit to their ongoing personal and professional development needed to advance along their sport performance pathway.

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A new coach development adventure, where the experience and journey will be co-created with each individual in the cohort of coaches taking part.

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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