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From Caught Up in to Beating Antisocial Behaviour

Voices of Incredible People series: David Walsh – Community Development Officer for Sporting Communities

Six ‘Voices of Incredible People’ (VIPs) were invited to share their inspirational coaching stories to a group of partners, leaders, coaches and participants at an event hosted by UK Coaching and Sport England to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Coaching Plan for England

While their individual motivations for starting out in coaching are as diverse as their backgrounds, there was a common theme running through the compelling collection of personal journeys: the transformational power of coaching.

We believe it is incumbent on the industry to spread empowering stories like the ones told by our six VIPs, as not only are they Incredible People but also Very Influential People, who can raise awareness of the importance of coaching through the emotional impact generated by their experiences.

David’s story started off as a sad one. His father (Dave Walsh) died trying to rescue two boys from the sea as he looked on. 

This tragedy happened when David’s dad went into the sea at Ingoldmells near Skegness, to rescue David’s cousins aged 10 and 13. 

Aged 10, David felt powerless as he couldn’t do anything to save his father. He attempted to run in after him but was held back by a member of the public. He also witnessed repeated attempts to revive his father on the beach.

These events had a profound effect on his confidence, self-esteem and mental health. This loss also triggered depression in David’s mother, who very quickly became dependant on him for her own emotional needs. As the foundations of his childhood crumbled, he had to take on the adult responsibility for the day-to-day running of the family home. 

As an outlet for David’s own grief and frustration, he began to seek solace with undesirable friendships outside of the family home which rapidly escalated towards a path of antisocial behaviour and association with a toxic gang culture.

Ben Rigby, the Managing Director of Sporting Communities, first began working with David Walsh in 2009 with a Derbyshire-based charity. At this point David was a participant in the Alvaston-based community football session, which targeted young people at risk. 

After a year of volunteering, at the age of 17 Ben took David on as an Assistant Coach so that he could develop his skills and continue on the positive path he was embarking on.

It was not long before David was promoted to Lead Coach, showing excellent skill and motivation, not only as a coach, but as a role model and mentor to other young people. The behaviour within the Alvaston youth community improved due to other young people seeing the pathway that David was on and wanting to replicate that themselves. 

There was also a surge in volunteers helping out at the Alvaston session and Alvaston young people volunteering at their annual road race event. David went on to win ‘Coach of the Year’. 

When Ben set up Sporting Communities in May 2012, Ben then asked David to join him in helping to provide a new, ethical, high quality sport and social development service within Derby City and David gladly agreed.

David now delivers a range of different sports across Derby City, in particular targeting disadvantaged communities. His innovative, inclusive approach to socially engaging participants and building a positive relationship that makes people feel inspired to try new sports and regularly participate is one which continues to have a fantastic response. 

Many of these coaching sessions are done outside on public facilities such as Multi-use Games Areas and open green space. The vast majority of participants accessing his coaching sessions are ones that cannot afford to access a local sports club and would not otherwise have the capacity to engage in sport. 

In all of the areas that David delivers diversionary activities through sport, there have been year on year falls in anti-social behaviour and increases in both wellbeing of participants and community cohesion. David has used sport and coaching to completely change his life. 

We asked David what success would look like to him from a coaching perspective?

“I want to re-establish Derby City’s youth and family services and I want to use sport and play to engage as many participants as possible.

“I would like to see these sessions in all 17 wards of my city and act as a safeguarding mechanism to protect each community.”

David was shortlisted for the 2018 BBC Unsung Hero Award, and a short film charting his coaching story can be seen here.

Voices of Incredible People

Read the coaching stories of the other five VIPs who spoke at the Coaching Plan for England and Diversity Event

Six of the best

You can read more about David’s journey on our UK Coaching Ambassador’s page, where he goes into more detail about why he fell in love with coaching... 

“I want to help as many people as possible make the right choices in life,” he said after being named 2017 UK Coaching Children's Coach of the Year. 

Coaching has helped me develop as a person. I’m more confident and happy and I go to sleep every night with a smile on my face, knowing I have made a difference to someone’s life. I love my job, which makes such an impact on my mental well-being – just enjoying what I do.

“Sometimes people just need that one positive encounter to shape their whole future. It happened to me and through coaching I’ve gone on to help thousands.” 

Related Resources

  • Coaching Key to Helping Young People Make Better Choices

  • The Importance of Friendship Groups in Sport

  • Moving Ahead with Mentoring


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