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UK Coaching Team
Organising and Planning Self-care and development

Breaking Down Barriers: Tackling Racism in Sport

In this recording of a Time2Learn session, Head of Sport at AKD Solutions Ladi Ajayi explores how coaches can create supportive and accepting environments for all

Establishing a welcoming environment can help you tackle barriers to participation and support the growth of diversity in physical activity and sport.

This recorded webinar covers:

  • understanding cultural competence in coaching
  • identifying the effects of poor coaching practice on participants
  • strategies for promoting cultural competence in coaching
  • building a culturally competent coaching environment.

Understanding cultural competence in coaching

At [02:15] in the recording, Ladi explores what cultural competence within coaching looks like through a helpful framework.

  • Able to adapt to individual participants, teams, and environments.
  • Understanding about different cultures: family backgrounds, religious beliefs, and cultural norms of participants or teams that you are not familiar with.
  • Level of interest: seek to understand individuals or teams that open honest and authentic dialogue.
  • Plan for multicultural interactions, where teams, groups, or competitions are made up of multiple people from multiple backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities.

Cultural competence in sports coaching

The proficiency of a sports coach to recognise, respect, and respond appropriately to the cultural values, beliefs, and practices of athletes from various cultural backgrounds. It involves developing a deep understanding of cultural diversity, promoting inclusion, and tailoring coaching approaches to meet the unique needs and aspirations of athletes from diverse cultures."


How does cultural competence contribute to effective coaching environments, participant development and coach development?

How do you demonstrate cultural competence in your coaching?

What can you do to improve your cultural competence?

What support might you need?


Identifying the effects of poor practice on participants

At [09:40] in the recording, Ladi discusses the effects of poor practice on participants including the physical, psychological, and social factors that should be taken into consideration in your coaching practice.

Click into the tabs below to consider the physical, psychological and social factors that could affect your coaching.

It’s vital to understand the individual, including how they want to be coached.

Example: When participants are observing Ramadan, coaches need to be aware of fuel systems and fasting for long periods of time, as this could affect the training or competition period.

Be aware of different cultures and the beliefs within them.


  • In many cultures, elders are respected. Participants will treat all persons older than themselves with respect regardless of their knowledge and experience.
  • In other cultures, music cannot be played during a session.
  • Some cultures do not allow men to touch women who are not family members.

Be aware of the individual needs of participants.


  • Celebrating a competition or result by going out for a drink together may deter some members from attending because they don’t drink alcohol.
  • Coaches need to be mindful of the different types of skin and hair. Participants may need to take longer to put cream on their skin or wear a swim cap to cover their hair from chlorine.


Are you aware of the physical, psychological, and social factors that affect your participants?

What factors do you need to find out more about?

How might this improve your coaching?

What impact might this have on your participants?


Examples of cultural insensitivity or ignorance

  • Participants not acknowledged or left out of the team.
  • Stereotyping attributes of a participant, for example, assuming a Black African should be good at running.
  • Participants lose marks because they don’t conform or look like the sport dictates, such as having a unique hairstyle.

There were tons of sports offered at my school, but some in particular were pushed to me because of my cultural background. There was an expectation that I do athletics, there was an expectation that I play basketball."

Runner, #TellYourStory campaign, UK Sport and Sport England

Impact of cultural insensitivity or ignorance

  • Participants leaving the team, physical activity or sport.
  • Participants can be ‘pigeonholed.’
  • Lack of confidence, diminishing motivation, anxiety, and depression.

I lived in a predominantly white area. So, I never felt I like I fitted in. And I felt really sad as the trainer could have done more to engage the group. Physical activity outside the house is just not for you. That’s not what you're supposed to be doing. There are knock-on effects of that."

Female Muslim participant, #TellYourStory campaign, UK Sport and Sport England

Strategies for promoting cultural competence in coaching

At [27:00] in the recording, Ladi looks at the strategies that you and your organisation can put into place to promote cultural competence.

Strategies for promoting cultural competence in coaching:

  1. Providing coaches with training and education on cultural competence.
  2. Developing inclusive coaching practices that value diversity and promote equal opportunities for participants.
  3. Encouraging open communication and creating a safe space for participants to express their cultural needs and experiences.
  4. Implementing participant-centred coaching approaches that consider individual cultural backgrounds, preferences, and strengths.

Building a culturally competent coaching environment

At [31:40] in the recording, Ladi identifies how you and your organisation can build culturally competent coaching environments.

Building a culturally competent coaching environment:

  1. Creating policies and guidelines that promote cultural competence and prohibit discriminatory coaching behaviours.
  2. Fostering a diverse and inclusive coaching staff that reflects the cultural backgrounds of participants.
  3. Encouraging collaboration and learning among coaches from different cultural backgrounds to share insights and experiences.
  4. Evaluating and assessing coaching programmes for their effectiveness in promoting cultural competence and addressing potential areas for improvement.


What strategies or approaches does your organisation already have in place to promote and build culturally competent coaching and environments?

Which do you think could be improved on? How might you and your organisation improve on these?


Have a go

Write down the names of your 10 most trusted people whom you would turn to in any situation. 

Once you have written your 10 names, think about how they match against protected characteristics. 

What race or ethnicity are they? What is their gender? Age? Ability or impairment? Educational attainment?

What do you notice about your trusted 10?

How similar are they?

What might be the benefits of diversifying your trusted 10?

What steps will you take to diversify your trusted 10?


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Related Resources

  • A Guide to Diversity

  • Understanding Unconscious Bias

  • A Guide to Inclusion


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