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21 Aug 2020 136

Thought leadership article: Return to coaching team sports

UK Coaching's Policy and Partnership Manager Heather Douglas's thought leadership article on the return to coaching of team sports.

This week netball was the latest team sport to be given the green light to return to play, with grassroots leagues to resume in September in a revised format. This is a huge step for many sports who primarily play indoors, and the return of netball will positively impact so many women and girls across the country.

I have always been a team sport player (never any good at racquet sports!). There are so many benefits to being part of a team – in business as well as personally – and I truly believe that team sport is where the magic lies.

Team sports help build strong relationships, dependency and trust, and instil a level of responsibility as you never want to be the one to let the side down. You are critically thinking all the time, making thousands of decisions as the game unfolds. It teaches you discipline, acceptance of rules and you learn to control your emotions and respect the officials’ decision (most of the time!).

Above all, team sport teaches you that life is not always fair, but it builds your resilience, improves your physical and mental well-being, boosts your self-esteem and gives you a real sense of belonging.

I have also been a coach of team sports, which is such a rewarding experience. The feeling you get when you see your squads thriving is immense.

The role of a grassroots coach extends far beyond the actual activity – you are the medic, the counsellor, the best friend, the critical observer, the cheerleader, the logistics manager, the administrator, and the time keeper, all beyond the coach’s remit of Plan, Do, Review.

So, it’s no wonder coaches emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are cautious about the additional responsibilities they are faced with.

DCMS released their Return to recreational team sport framework last month for England and those who coach team sports have many things to consider, including:

  • Club preparation, including Test and Trace
  • Travelling to and from training and competitions
  • Social distancing during play and during breaks
  • Use of equipment, including ball transfer for sports such as football, basketball and cricket
  • Increased hygiene and record keeping
  • Injury treatment

There is also specific guidance for coaches and other officials. There is even guidance about not shouting - this could be welcomed in children’s team sports.

Clearly the coach’s responsibilities have always been important, however, coaches are feeling increased pressure to get things right.

We’ve produced some useful resources to support the coach’s return to play.

  1. Plan
  2. Do
  3. Review

Supported by these resources, many coaches have returned confidently -– they tell me they have spent an increased amount of time planning their sessions for every eventuality, and then actively reviewing post session. This is great from a coaching process point of view as planning and reviewing is often deprioritised to the actual delivery of the session (check out our top tips on reflecting on your practice).

However, we have and will continue to see coaches who are nervous about returning to coaching, particularly to coaching indoor team sports.

Each sport has slightly different guidance, including the number of people involved and the ratios of coaches to participants, so it is important that coaches seek guidance from their individual sport. It is also worth noting that not all sports have had their guidance agreed with DCMS, so do keep a regular eye on Government guidance.

We want coaches to feel safe about returning to coaching and we want to ensure that our volunteer coaches feel it is a choice to return, rather than an obligation.

Coaching has a profound impact on participants and contributes to the positive mental and physical wellbeing of all involved.

Coaches, look at the guidance, talk to other coaches who have already returned and above all, continuing enjoying what you do – delivering great coaching experiences.

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