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Applied Coaching Research Conference 2018 - Shaping the Future of Coaching Live Blog

Our first Applied Research Conference has come to an end...

Thanks for joining us in Manchester and online via this blog, we hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have. Don't forget to share the content through your own networks and keep sending your thoughts via #FutureOfCoaching.

As 'Shaping the Future of Coaching' comes to a close it feels a good time to be keeping you up to date with our next major event, the inaugral UK Coaching Conference that takes place at Oriam, Edinburgh from Tuesday 26 - Wednesday 27 June.

UK Coaching Conference

Recognising the Scottish Government's Year of the Young person, the event has a theme of 'Coaching: The Next Generation'. The event will provide an environment for the extended coaching workforce and coaching system manager workforce to network, share, learn and develop.

Keynote speakers, the event schedule and tickets will be announced very soon. To be the first to know when they go live, you can express your interest in attending using this quick online form.

The future is bright, the future is coaching. #FutureOfCoaching.

16:00 Closing keynote: Prof. Joan Duda

Joan Duda is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham and concluded the day’s proceedings with a final key note that touched on her theory- and evidence-based ‘Empowering Coaching’ training programme. This entails working with coaches so that they can understand how to make sport more enjoyable, engaging and empowering for every child at every competitive level.

Through one such Promoting Adolescent Physical Activity (PAPA) project, coaches were helped to understand how to do the above through empowering, non-threatening, coach-centred workshops. As Joan says empowered coaches feel more empowered to coach!

15:45 Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, has launched our new research journal

The Patron joined delegates for the afternoon part of the research conference at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to launch the new publication, titled ‘Applied Coaching Research Journal’, which has been designed to identify key topics of interest and bring them to the forefront of the coaching community. The first volume, ‘Transforming Lives Through Coaching’, was shaped by a part-independent Editorial team of Paul Greaves (Lecturer of Sport, Sheffield Hallam University), Louisa Arnold (Coaching Lead, Kent Sport), Wayne Allison (Coach Inclusion and Diversity Manager, The FA and UK Coaching Board Non-Executive Director) and Beth Thompson (Head of Insight and Learning, UK Coaching).

UK Coaching Patron, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal

Her Royal Highness took to the lecturn to reiterate to delegates how important research is to the coaching industry and how it must be disseminated to the people who need it appropriately. She called the journal a useful addition to coaches’ enthusiasm for coaching; one which is in a readily available and in an attractive format, bridging the gap between academic research and practice.

Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal launches UK Coaching's Research Journal

14:35 Understanding the impact of coaching on participants

Hosted by: Ann Marie Bunyan and Lisa Whitaker, UK Coaching. Facilitators: Julian North, Sergio Lara-Bercial, and Dr AJ Rankin- Wright, Leeds Beckett University

Including guest speakers from participating sports: Phil Gordos, Manchester Magic; Dylan Clayton, British Cycling; and Nathan Jones, England Netball

The room was brimming not just with delegates – including Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, the Princess Royal (patron of UK Coaching) – but with speakers too as a gaggle of lecturers, coach educators and coaches representing a host of sports and organisations took to the floor to drum home the positive, wide-ranging and deep-rooted impact coaching can have on participants.

Leeds Beckett University – commissioned by UK Coaching to undertake a three-year longitudinal study, including nearly 100 participants across 11 sports – revealed its preliminary findings, which suggest marked physical and psychological benefits to coaching, not just for the individual but for the community and for society as a whole.

‘You have to look at it long enough to see change occurring, hence the longitudinal aspect of the research,’ said Leeds Beckett’s Julian North.

Early research has shown that the traditional technical, tactical and physical elements of coaching accounts for 80-90% of sessions. Unsurprising, you might think. But what was not fully anticipated from the research is the level of psychological and social impact that naturally emerges when participants engage in coach-led sessions.

The vision is for all these areas to be enhanced to aid the development of the whole child (dealing with difficult relationships, building resilience and positive behaviour traits, helping with educational motivation, confidence, self-esteem), and not solely the physical abilities and skills of young performers.

The impact of coaching on participants then is transformational, in a holistic sense every much as we know it is in a technical and tactical sense.

14:35 How to design surveys people want to take

A survey fights for your attention just like an advert, Alex Wheatley of Lightspeed tells us, it’s important to connect with the consumer but you don’t have long to do it.

Bad surveys simply “chuck” all the possible information and questions on to a page – Alex showed us a laughable example from a not to be mentioned zoo.

Time to change.

Alex showed the room how to design their surveys better, and given his engaging presentation style, this writer does not doubt the delegates involved will go away and do just that. His top tips included:

  • Have a good story, let users know why they should take part
  • Use a conversational tone
  • Remembering is a task, thinking is more fun
  • Don’t be greedy Give people a goal
  • Make it voluntary
  • Don’t standardise your questions
  • Change question styles
  • Don’t over complicate

Advice delivered in an energetic way and lots to think about. How did I rate it?

A: Excellent
B: Good

13: 45 I learned to play again

Richard Cheetham MBE, Senior Fellow in Sports Coaching at the University of Winchester, stands in front of our Patron, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, and conference delegates to ask, whilst holding a plastic toy boat, “we’re not going to grow up today if that’s okay with you?”

Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal takes part in the session

The rationale behind the ‘Impact of play’ intervention study was to emphasise the importance of incorporating play at all levels of sport participation and the outcomes of Richard’s workshop are to:

  • influence coach education of experiential learning opportunities
  • raise the importance of play.
  • highlight learner empathy and how this influences coaches’ delivery
  • and create authentic learning experiences for coaches.

At a recent warm-up, Richard overheard children saying that they were having a great time before coach came along, pondering his anecdote, he asked the audience “what can we learn as adults when we play?” He continued, “as adults we should still play and revisit play. To be the best children and youth coaches we can be it’s okay to play.”

Richard Cheetham delivering a session with Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne taking part as a delegate

He then instructed the room to revisit their own relationship with play by using the props on their desk. Suddenly, the room erupted with laughter and movement; delegates getting seriously involved with the playdough, ‘Jenga’, ‘Lego’ and balloons on offer.

Richard brought the session to an end by reminding us all to, “never use play as a reward, or as a warm-up. Use it to lift spirits. Remember it’s not about mindless games, it’s about enriching that learning experience by using play.”

13:45 UK Coaching Talent and Performance Melting Pots

Chris Chapman, Development Lead Officer for Talent at UK Coaching explored the findings from their melting pots attended by academics, pathway leads, coaching system builders and coaches about entry and transition points for talented athletes

The session allowed delegates to chat about the golden nuggets that came out of the melting pots

  • Pre Academy Space
  • Physical Development
  • Talent Community

For more info check out this video from Chris:

13:45 Coach-athlete relationships: communication skills

Dean Clark, Senior Lecturer at Hartpury University Centre, and Ben Lovatt, Lead Consultant with The Training Effect, teamed up for a session on the power of communication and connection.

If coaches weren’t fully aware of how indispensable effective communication can be as a coaching tool before start of play today, they certainly are now.

Communication starts with the letter ‘c’, as does confidence, character, creativity, caring, compassion, competence, connection. You guessed it, the C System construct – a framework that underpins the traditional model of coaching by supporting the holistic development of participants as performers and as people.

What do the ‘Cs’ mean to you, delegates were asked?

Using principles from the world of counselling and the theatre, the construct was broken down to allow delegates to interact and examine strategies that can be used for optimal effect in a coaching environment – such as listening and choice of language.

Ben singled out ‘Connection’ for particular analysis, which underpins so much of coaching.

He said that in his role working with hard to reach groups, it is harder to establish a connection as his participants are more resistant to them developing. But buy-in to a club culture is founded upon connection, while coaches at every level strive to ensure players feel connected to their sport so they return week in, week out.

The process of navigating, managing and maintaining relationships and connections through our softer skills is a critical element of coaching, said Ben.

‘In this environment and climate we are striving to create, the coach is seen as the figurehead,’ said Ben. ‘But it should be something participants and coach work on together, collaboratively; something that is collectively bought into.’

13:45 How much do you really know about your learners?

If you don’t get learning design right, you will make learners switch off.

We heard the incredible story of Martin who is visually impaired and registered blind. Martin told us of his experiences of a person who has struggled throughout his learning because the correct provisions were not in place to support him.

One size fits all clearly doesn’t work.

Kelly Brown told us how using insight and research, British Blind Sport in partnership with UK Coaching worked to design a learning journey for people who are visually impaired in a piece of upcoming elearning.

This session looked at the important steps taken:

  • Understanding the need
  • Content from Subject Matter Experts
  • Using focus groups
  • Sharing insight
  • Testing
  • Utilising feedback
  • Launch and share insight

We watched Martin take part in a live demo of the elearning and what a difference it makes when the learner’s needs are considered.

Kelly and Martin’s plea is for all learning designers to really understand their learners and to ensure this is used in the design process. Those present in the room certainly will.

12:20 Deliver fun and engaging sessions

StreetGames’ Ceris and Rus brought delegates in-depth research in relation to young people’s attitudes, motivations, behaviours when engaging in sport and physical activity.

Ceris, Head of Knowledge and Insight at StreetGames, explained that effective engagement revolves around five key points:

Right time - Sport and physical activity sessions do not necessarily have to happen on the weekend; they can happen throughout the week. Don’t focus on convenience.

Right place - Sport and physical activity sessions do not have to happen at a dedicated sporting facility, they can take place at more localised provision.

Right price - Sport and physical activity doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be affordable.

Style - Young people’s motivations for engaging with sport and physical activity vary; not all want to play for England but most want a fun social experience. Motivations will affect the style of a session.

People - Sport and physical activity can be delivered by non-traditional sports coaches (a police community support officer is cited as an example). New training and workshops for community coaches, leaders and volunteers (such as StreetGames’ activator workshops) help train these types of people to deliver sessions.

Playing table tennis during the session

UK Coaching’s Coach Developer of the Year, Rus then demonstrated the above by getting delegates on different tables to work together to set-up and play table-tennis in space available in the room, coaching each other through the process.

As Rus says, “the whole point of exercising is to facilitate learning”. Meet the needs of the learner not of the exercise, promote sport and physical activity opportunities in different environments.

12:20 Collaborative coaching with allied health professionals

Sport for Confidence is a unique social enterprise which forms partnerships between sports coaches and allied health professionals leisure centres and sport clubs.

They create accessible and inclusive sports opportunities by bringing sport and allied health professionals together. Placing health professionals into leisure centres so they can live and breath what coaches do and support participants in their communities.

Research shows that activity can influence our health and health can influence our ability to perform activity. Sport for confidence approach is bridge the gap between health professionals research and delivery. Evaluation of this shows the economic benefit to society when comparing the cost of participation in sport for confidence versus cost for people's care.

12:20 Flipping learning design

Understanding the learner’s needs and delivering in a style that meets these is important to encourage a long-term approach to learning. Mark Scott, Andy Oates and Richard Holmes understand this and demonstrated tools to delegates that should be encouraged including being interactive, videos, online discussions, colourful posters and imagery with opportunities to feedback.

Practicing this, delegates were asked to get involved and review the sessions so far at this conference highlighting that social learning is a great way to understand. This was evident as the room was FULL of buzz, with everyone relishing the opportunity to get their voice heard and hear from those surrounding.

“Everyone turned up throughout the week knowing they were going to have a good time”, Andy Oates of The Albion Foundation told us as he spoke about his experiences and the benefits of this approach to learning.

“I went home with a huge wad of notes, I was stealing idea because everyone was so engaged,” he continued, “you can’t put a price on getting to know what the person to the left of you and the person on the right has to say. Get talking.”

It’s also massively important to listen. Mark talked us through how UK Coaching learnt from feedback from the first delivery of a multi-skills coaching course, by taking the evaluation and implementing the feedback to tweak the course for future iterations.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?! “Get talking, get listening and get involved” great advice from the team - get started by thinking how you can deliver differently.

12:20 Increasing your confidence to deliver to disabled people

Elliott Johnson – Research and Insight Manager at the English Federation of Disability Sport – began by explaining the findings of an EFDS research study into deliverers’ experiences and reactions of providing activity for disabled people.

He revealed that, in one national research survey, 77% of the general coaching population said they had no experience running sessions for disabled people.

Key findings of the EFDS research included:

  • There was a distinct lack of awareness and understanding of the full spectrum of impairments

  • This leads to low levels of confidence

  • Lack of knowledge is a significant challenge for people without experience, creating a narrow frame of reference, with coaches tending to focus on one type of impairment

  • Barriers to getting involved include concerns around health and safety implications

  • The feeling that it will negatively impact on their non-disabled participants.

Chloe Studley is Project Manager for the Sainsbury’s Active Kids for All programme that provides training for teachers, community groups, parents, volunteers, healthcare professionals, carers and support workers to develop inclusive PE sport, sport and physical activity for disabled people.

She took over the baton from Elliott to explain how relevant basic training – such as that provided by Sainsbury’s Active Kids for All Inclusive Community Training – can ensure more disabled people enjoy sport and physical activity by providing new entry points for coaches, practical examples of how to improve confidence, and how by making simple adaptations to activities, disabled people can be more included.

‘The impact of making really simple changes can be tremendous,’ says Chloe, ‘impacting on disabled participants’ physical and mental health, with social benefits and increased confidence and self-esteem.’

11:30 Developing creative learning environments

Presenter Dr Alex Twitchen, Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching Practice at the Open University, asks a full house rhetorically, what’s the purpose of the next 40 minutes?

No need to answer ladies and gentlemen, Dr Alex says, “to help you develop better practices to help your coaches”. The story behind this research comes from Alex’s work as a mentor on the FA’s Coach Mentor Programme. Alex says that coaches would come to him and ask two questions, ‘I’ve run out of ideas?’ and ‘I’ve seen some new ideas on social media but I don’t know how to implement them?’

Alex’s inspiration for his research (solution) was self-imposed constraints. The idea you can do more with less, as the old paradox would have you believe. And the results… not yet… the delegates are working in teams to complete a mini version of the research to draw their own conclusions.

Back to the blackboard: In a nutshell developing creating learning environments is about constraint based learning. Alex says, in game constraints challenge participants and increase progression. For the coach, creative pedagogies (like constraint based learning) not only promotes learning amongst coaches but shifts learning to the coaches and away from a reliance on tutors/mentors/other coaches.

11:30 Supporting participant and coach development through positive psychology: insights for sports coaches and coach developers

The brief stated that Dr Abbe Brady, Academic Director of Sport at of St Mary’s University, would be sharing new ideas and applications on ‘positive psychology’ which have particular value for sports coaches and coach developers.

So what exactly is positive psychology? It is, says Dr Brady, the study of positive emotions and positive characteristics in ourselves and also in the cultures of institutions.

Delegates explored what ‘thriving’ and ‘flourishing’ looks like in a sports coaching environment – which is usually conceptualised as ‘well-being’.

Positive emotions in this type of environment are vastly outnumbered by negative emotions in terms of the language used to understand and communicate feelings.

So the idea of forgiveness, courage, virtue, resilience are in the minority. It is vital coaches learn to tease them out and reverse the imbalance.

The coffee had been flowing freely since doors opened on today’s conference, but in Dr Brady’s interactive workshop, the beverages were of the virtual kind as she invited delegates inside her ‘dynamic world café’.

To help her ideas become ground (geddit!) into delegates’ memories, and to help them understand how they can use the ideas gleaned around positive psychology in their coaching practice, she used visual representations of four key positive psychology concepts – character strengths, positive emotions, gratitude and appreciative reflection/informing reflection.

And in time-honoured coaching fashion, the room was then divided into small-sided groups to discuss the four concepts in detail and how they might be used by coaches to support the holistic development of their participants and their own personal development.

The benefits of engaging with positive psychology then are manifold:

  • It rebalances the problem-focus on development
  • Supports the holistic and humanising approach
  • Resonant with motives for engagement in sport and coaching
  • Well-being is increasingly significant for learning, development and performance
  • Broadens view and extends vocabulary with which to think about supporting people’s development

11:30 #stargazing – transformational leadership in netball

Severn Stars is a newly created Vitality Netball Super League Franchise with its inaugural season commencing in 2017. In this session Dr Anita Navin, Dr Don Vinson Prof. Jean Cote discussed the findings from their Transformational Leadership (TFL) study and how the club has set its foundations for the future through its learning.

The research found there are four dimensions to successful TFL:

  • Idealise influenced – Practice what you preach
  • Inspirational motivation – Believe in your athlete
  • Intellectual stimulation – Involve your athlete
  • Individualised Consideration – Person focused approach

Delegates looked at a number of scenarios faced by Severn Stars and discussed how they would use these principles in each. Discussions found:

  • It is important to support people to get the most out of them, offering two-way support
  • Caring about people is just as important. Finding out more about those involved in your session further than simply the sport they are involved in
  • Communication is key to manage the process between all parties involved in a project

10:40 Keynote two: Clare McGregor

As Managing Director of CIAO (Coaching Inside and Out), Clare is a great believer that coaching can change lives in any environment.

A Cambridge graduate with 25 years’ experience improving services for people in crisis, she is the author of ‘Coaching Behind Bars – Facing challenges and creating hope in a women’s prison’, which made it to the top of Amazon’s ‘Punishment Section’.

‘I didn’t even know they had a punishment section,’ jokes Clare.

Clare is curious about how sports coaches can use Mind coaching (‘the psychology behind who we are is integral to everything we do’, she says), particularly for people who are socially excluded.

‘There is more potential in any one prison than in any Oxbridge college, and it’s high time we unlocked that potential, for all our sakes,’ she says.

Clare wants to use today’s platform to start a conversation with the coaching community to better help marginalised people in our society, and to increase the number of coaches who want to work with, and use their skills to help, people who are socially excluded.

‘It’s luck that takes us most places in life,’ she says.

‘In part, the gifts we’ve been given in life through nature and nurture take us to where we are but it’s not just who you are but who you meet along the way – even the strangers. All those people make us better and stronger, more determined, give us the desire to improve and carry on through adversity.

‘So to judge someone else without living their life, we are really missing a trick.’

Clare defines great coaching as being able to get other people to think for themselves to solve problems.

She uses the acronym BALL to help coaches, which stands for Believe, Ask, Listen, Learn.

For example, says Clare, you can do extraordinary things in six seconds by asking the right question.

Research undertaken by CIAO shows that 94% of people they have worked with say coaching has had a positive impact on them.

10:20 Keynote one: Prof. Ben Jones

Professor Ben Jones from Leeds Beckett University was first up on the stage after a warm introduction from Hugh Ferris to give the opening keynote speech of our applied research conference. After googling ‘bridging the gap between research and practice’, Ben explains he was not surprised to discover that the gap was large one, if not unbridgeable; that research and knowledge contained in university was not accessible to those outside of such institutions.

Prof. Ben Jones presents at the conference

Ben uses the analogy of the ‘love story’ to describe the relationship between research and practice. Research is very slow, wants to think about things, take its time and then solve problems. Where as people in practice keep changing their minds, they keep asking questions, says Ben.

More often than not the relationship doesn’t work out. It’s incompatible. So how do you make the two intelligible; how do you bridge the gap? Ben says to the delegates that the gap exists because those who do research, do research and those who do practice, do practice. They have different skill sets. But, if we move towards a model of co-constructing research; the research questions and join-up members of staff for example perhaps we can make a model where everyone is working towards the same objectives - a blend between a university, a sports club and a governing body - then it’ll be the makings of a good love story one where they all lived happily ever after.

10:10 - And we're off...

UK Coaching CEO Mark Gannon sets the 2018 Applied Coaching Research Conference in motion by telling delegates that it is UK Coaching’s ambition to become the hub of research excellence for coaching in the United Kingdom.

He reminds delegates that UK Coaching’s ongoing research programmes are being used across the sector to shape policy, delivery and practice.

Delegate reading event brochure

And he says he was enthused by the incredible demand for tickets for today’s event.

‘The demand for places has been overwhelming. We have been oversubscribed and we still have a waiting list. It has enthused us that people are so enthusiastic about this.’

09:11 - Welcome to Manchester

A very warm welcome from a sub-zero and snow-covered Manchester as 136 delegates look forward to a jam-packed day of learning at the Museum of Science and Industry, venue for the inaugural UK Coaching Applied Coaching Research Conference.

Research Conference Welcome

Under the theme of ‘Shaping the Future of Coaching’, we will be bringing you written and video updates from all today’s workshops and presentations, featuring – for want of a collective noun – a plethora of leading researchers and experts from the world of coaching and beyond.

Research COnference delegates arrival

Stand by to learn more about the latest innovations in coaching research and how this research is being used to shape the future of coaching.

The information communicated today will fall under these three broad headings:

Apply – the application of research findings into practice.

Impact – understanding the impact of coaching on individuals (participants and coaches) and communities.

Advance – exploring the future of coaching, including the latest developments and innovations in research.

And don’t forget to stay tuned to Twitter too and have your say on the day’s developments and debates by using the hashtag #FutureOfCoaching.

Applied Coaching Research Conference graphic


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