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UK Coaching Team
30
Talent and Performance Self-care and development

Laura Sargeant’s Coaching Journey: ‘Better Yourself to Better Them’

Club Support Officer for the North of England at England Boxing Laura Sargeant started out as one of the few female coaches in the sport. By simplifying organisation, the free Spond Team App gives coaches like Laura more time to do the things they love – like coach! This resource has been developed in partnership with Spond

"Coaches don't always know how good they are. The best ones are modest about it, they'll always try and help you."

Club Support Officer for the North of England at England Boxing Laura Sargeant has been coaching since 2007.

When Laura started out, she was one of the few female coaches in the sport. Now, she’s developed her skills to the point where she coaches for England on the Talent Pathway and is head coach for her regional female squad. She understands just how important it is to measure your development as a coach.

Starting out in coaching

“When I first started training in the gym and took my assistant coach badge, I knew little bits, but really I was clueless,” Laura explains. “It’s like taking your driving test: it’s only once you’ve passed that you learn to drive.” 

“I’m a strong person, but at the time there were almost no women in boxing coaching, so it was pretty tough. I remember getting shot down badly when I’d only been an assistant coach for a few months. It was a regional championship and this ‘old school’ coach stood up and said, ‘what do you know about boxing? Be careful you don’t snap a nail!’ I was furious. I said, ‘if you want to know what I know, get out in that ring and I’ll show you.’ The other coaches all laughed at him and after that, it was fine.”

“Times have changed, fortunately boxing is a much more welcoming sport.” 

Laura understood, though, that she’d have to prove herself. 

As a coach, you always have to be learning. If you don’t, your athletes won’t get any better. You have to better yourself to better them.”

Top tips for developing your coaching

  • Talk to other coaches at competitions.
  • Get a coach developer or shadow another coach.
  • Talk to your athletes, get feedback.
  • Practice self-reflection after each session. Reflection is the first step towards planning.

“On the England Talent Pathway, you learn so much. You have to adapt, work with new kids. I always thought I was a decent coach, I never thought I knew everything. But now, when I look back, I think I didn’t know nowt!”

Laura has a coaching mentor and also mentors a regional squad of female coaches, who she sees at least once a month. “I’ll go and watch and take part,” she says. “I’ll put them in charge of a particular session or ask them to work with me on it and then afterward we’ll talk. A lot of it’s about giving them confidence. Even the very best make mistakes, you need to stop worrying that the boxer knows more than you.” 

What advice would she give other coaches on how to improve? 

Go to as many coaching sessions, competitions and meet-ups as possible. You need to work with other coaches. They all coach differently. Watch them, steal ideas and techniques."

Strategies to develop yourself

If you don’t have access to other coaches, Laura recommends talking to the people you coach, instead.

“Talk to your athletes. I ask the kids before and after every session, ‘what do you want to do? What do you need to work on? How did you find that? Do you think that benefited you?’ I ask if they understand and they know me enough to say, ‘that’s not working for me, what about if we did it a different way?’ They teach you as you teach them.”

Getting feedback

  • Regularly ask athletes what they liked about the session, what they didn't like and what they would change if they could.
  • Occasionally ask athletes for three things they think you do well and three things they think you need to work on.
  • Some will be happy to answer directly or on apps, others may prefer to do it anonymously. Hand out paper and leave a feedback box for them to put it in.

“Self-analysis is the hardest thing,” Laura says. “I hate it, talking about myself, but it has to be done. In the car on the way back from every session, I work on reflective practice. I question myself and think about how different elements of the session went. What didn’t work? Did I explain this in the right way? What can I do differently next time?” 

Laura does volunteer coaching four nights a week and most weekends and from the beginning found it very rewarding.

I knew coaching was for me right away, seeing the difference you can make with the kids in the gym. That’s your reward, kids listen, take it on board, and it makes a difference to their performance. When a kid gets her hands raised in the gym or masters something new, that’s your appreciation.”

The free Spond Team App supports coaches by enabling them to:

  • Request feedback.
  • Share training plans.
  • Involve athletes in setting objectives.
  • Send direct messages, either 1:1, between group members or across the full group.

Free Spond Team App

The free Spond Team App makes organising easy. Using Spond to help organise your sessions will leave you with more energy for the activities you really enjoy - like coaching!

Learn More

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UK Coaching Team