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18 Dec 2020 211

Thought leadership article: 2021 to be the year of the coach

UK Coaching's Chairman Atholl Duncan reflects on the year 2020 and offers his thoughts on why, in the new year, we'll need the coach more than ever before.

This has been one of the most anxious and stressful periods in recent history. We’ve seen massive disruption and tragedy on a scale you could never imagine.

We’ve also seen people adapting at real pace, with a different mindset to solve the challenges we’ve faced.

We’ve made field hospitals in weeks, not years. We’ve delivered a vaccine in months, not decades and millions of people started working from home in a matter of days – a situation that was previously unimaginable.

The challenge now is how we can apply that mindset of thinking the unthinkable, and our new pace of change, to tackle the problems we will see as we come out of COVID.

The problems for society are colossal. We’re looking at widespread youth unemployment, widening inequalities, a physical and mental welfare crisis and massive challenges around the funding of sport and facilities at all levels.

The health and well-being of the nation is at a crossroads and at the centre of it stands the coach. It is coaches who have and will continue to help society get through this. In my eyes, coaches should stand alongside our health professionals as people who are equally important to the health of the nation but to do this, we require a major shift in mindset.

This is the moment for people to realise the value that a coach brings - the importance of coaches in bringing communities together and helping individuals live happier and healthier lives. The 3 million coaches in the UK reach into every corner of society – we’ve got to stop thinking of sport and activity as a pastime and start thinking of it as an integral part of the nation’s health.

Show society their importance

And who better to be advocates, ambassadors and evangelists for sport and physical activity than our army of 3 million coaches - inspiring people in every city, town and village across the country. It is our job to show society of their importance and release their potential.

We celebrated these people changing lives in communities at this month’s UK Coaching Awards and we will continue championing them in 2021.

UK Coaching’s role is to be there for the coach, by inspiring, supporting and providing the highest quality development and training. Like many others, we have undergone an organisational transformation to ensure we are in the best shape to make a greater difference to communities.

A defining moment

Coaches do such a vital job across the sporting landscape, so UK Coaching is working with Sport England to see how we can continue to support these coaches, both financially and through learning and resources. We have also developed a hybrid approach to coach development and moved much of our learning online, delivering support in a much more accessible and high-quality way.

I think when people look back in fifty years’ time, they’ll see it as a defining moment. A period when society realised the pressures on our public health services and the need to evolve from treating health, to actively encouraging good health.

And in my opinion, this is facilitated by one person and one person alone - the coach - and we’ve never needed them more than we do now.