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UK Athletics

Credits and Coach Licence Renewal

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There are many excellent coaches supporting athletes in the UK at every level.  They are working with beginners, emerging youngsters, seniors and podium stars.  There are also good coaches, mediocre coaches and poor coaches.  It is crucial for our sport that all coaches are guided and supported in continually improving. Good coach education and professional development are key in this.

One element of the coach development system that has been adopted in recent years is the awarding of credits for attendance at courses, conferences, and other events that might contribute to a coach’s ongoing learning.  This system is unworkable and will therefore be removed with immediate effect. 

The current system

UK Athletics operates a licensing system whereby every coach is required to hold a valid licence.  The licence contains a picture of the coach, some personal details and a record of coaching qualifications and professional development.  Whenever a coach undertakes some professional development, this can be recorded in the licence.  UKA (and other organisations) allocates credits to certain activities – particularly for attending conferences and squad activities, or for some aspect of research.  Typically 1 to 4 credits are awarded for different activities; this has been done on a fairly ad hoc basis.

A coach must have accumulated between 2 and 9 credits (according to level) to be entitled to renew his/her coach licence. 

Why the current system has value

The system can record professional development for coaches and can potentially encourage some coaches to undertake activities that they would not otherwise do. 

Why the system requires change

It is impossible to quantify the value of a professional development activity.  The learning from such activity differs for each coach according to his/her knowledge, experience, coaching context, learning styles, motivation to learn and to a wide range of other factors. One coach will benefit enormously from a coaching conference, another will learn little at the same conference.  One coach will learn nothing new from reading an article; another will gain valuable new insight into an aspect of strength and conditioning from the same article and become a better coach as a result.

If professional development activity leads to an improvement in the quality of a coach’s coaching, it has been a successful and worthwhile activity.  If a coach attends a superb workshop which is full of insight, new learning and practical ideas, but actually changes nothing in his or her philosophy or coaching practice, then it has been of no practical value and therefore not worthy of credit for the coach.

The system has become unworkable.  The scale of activity is such that monitoring every coach and giving worth to each activity is impossible.

Once qualified as a coach at a particular level, there is no reason to assume that the coach is any less skilled after 1, 3 or even 5 years if he/she has been coaching regularly during that period.

Evidence from Australia suggests that a credit system does not increase coach commitment to professional development.

Some coaches deliberately ceased their involvement in professional development activity in the belief that the credits system is patronising or insulting.  

The changes

Coaches should be encouraged to assume responsibility for their own professional development.  They should undertake activity, not because it will allow them to build up credits, but because they believe that their coaching will improve as a result.

As a result of evaluating the credits system, the following changes will apply:

  1. Coach re-licensing will be dependant upon the renewal of the Disclosure Check in the relevant home country (CRB/EDS/POCVA), currently a 3 year cycle.

  1. Coaches will be re-licensed automatically if:
    1. the disclosure is ‘clear’
    2. there is no evidence that the quality of coaching delivered by that coach has declined

  1. Any recorded professional development activity will be viewed as contributing to learning and qualification at the next level rather than re-qualification at the current level

  1. A system for the quality assurance of coaching is being developed.  This is dependent upon 2 processes: direct observation of coaching; and analysis of athlete development, performance and improvement.  Once this system is in place, coach licence renewal will become dependent upon the coach being able to demonstrate competence at the appropriate level.  This will be introduced in 3 phases:

  1. Phase 1 (by 2008): Athletics Coaches who are employed directly by UKA (the responsibility of UKA)

  2. Phase 2 (by 2009): Athletics Coaches employed by other parties (the responsibility of the employer, guided and supported by UKA and the home country federations)

  3. Phase 3 (by 2011): Coaches who coach without remuneration (the responsibility of the club, university, school, local authority or other agency, supported by UKA and the home country federations)

  1. Great coaches never stop critically evaluating their own performance and that of the athletes with whom they work.

  2. Great coaches are continually seeking to be better

  3. Great coaches never stop learning

  4. UK Athletics welcomes and applauds the fact that many coaches engage in ongoing and continual professional development

  5. UK Athletics will continue to direct and develop a wide and diverse range of opportunities for coaches to learn.

For further information contact the UK Athletics Coaching and Teaching team on 0870 998 6800 or your National or Regional office.

Callum Orr

Head of Coaching & Teaching