25th March 2022

Coaching Update - Latest from the UKA Development Team

The UK wide Coaching Strategy was launched on 27th October with a series of four ‘open’, virtual roadshows delivered to provide a greater level of detail and to add more context around key content contained within the strategy. It was reiterated during these engagement sessions that this is very much a strategy for the sport, a UK wide coaching strategy, not a UK Athletics strategy. There are, and will be, multiple stakeholders involved in the delivery of many of the key objectives and we all have a role to play in its implementation and roll out. Something that we must continue is the communication and engagement with the coaching community at all levels of the pathway.

Athletes and Coaches have provided feedback and strongly indicated a need to evolve the way we approach Coach Education so that we help and assist coaches to improve and develop. There is a demand for further learning and development opportunities beyond ‘coach’ level (Athletics Coach and Coach in Running Fitness). To date, we have made progress in developing a new role-based framework that is both flexible and adaptable. This will see the development of ‘Advanced’ coaching awards which link to the specific environments in which the coaching workforce operates. Within each role there will be modular learning that considers the coaching environment, the population and technical specialism required at every stage.

One of the key objectives contained within the strategy is the establishment of event specific Advisory Panels. Panel members were appointed, via a recruitment process, at the beginning of this year across the seven areas of specialism (Sprints & Hurdles, Endurance, Jumps, Throws, Combined Events, Para and Children). The list of panellists can be found here.
The inaugural meetings for each panel have now taken place and we must thank all panel members for their time, input, energy and enthusiasm. Initial discussions have been wide -ranging and these will evolve over time. We have started to look at how the panel can positively influence the evolution of the new Learning and Development Framework for coaches. Some of the other areas that the panels have identified can be found below:

More technical input within the new Learning and Development Framework

In line with the consultation that took place in the summer of 2021, there is concern that we currently don’t develop enough technical knowledge within the coach qualification system. Although coaches have been able to access additional technical workshops as part of the CPD offer within the HCAFs, there is a consensus that this could be more structured and accredited if it comes into the new Learning and Development Framework. As a result, the panels are working on modules with technical content for all events to be brought into the Advanced Coach roles. This includes specific modules for coaches of Para-athletes and Combined Events athletes, those working with children as well as Sprints & Hurdles, Endurance, Jumps and Throws.

There has been significant discussion and general agreement that many coaches learn best ‘in situ’ (whilst coaching!) and recognition that programmes provided in local environments, such as the development and mentoring provided across the home countries, and mentoring programmes, have enhanced coach learning over the years. The Advisory Panels support the plans for this approach to be brought into the Learning and Development Framework, where coaches are supported in their own environments to integrate and apply their learning and knowledge.

Physical Literacy for children needs to take pride of place

There has been deep discussion and emphasis on the need to have specialist coaches, who understand physical literacy and the importance of laying the foundations required to develop effective movement skills in young athletes within the sport. Although the Coaching Assistant and Athletics Coach courses advocate this approach, many coaches find it difficult to implement. There are multiple reasons; it may be the way the club / groups are structured, the sheer numbers in the sport, availability of facilities or equipment, the impact that the competition framework has on young people, etc, etc. The feedback has indicated that allowing coaches to specialise in this area would help and assist in both developing confidence and the practical application of this philosophy.

Valuing coaching and accountability is key

The panels have discussed how we, as a sport, look to value coaches. This could lead to the introduction and alignment to professional standards and the potential to increase the number of paid coaching roles within the sport. A key message is that there is a difference between ‘professional’ and ‘paid’. There are many volunteer coaches who offer a very professional service and are highly effective in the environments in which they operate and we must also recognise the great value and benefit this brings to our sport. Establishing more paid roles within the sport could lead to more coaches able to dedicate more time to coaching, learning and progressing their knowledge and we must also reward non-paid roles through recognition and gratitude. Another recommendation is that we create a public facing Coach Register that includes licenced coaches detailing the level, the role, the qualifications and further training of the coach as appropriate.

Passing on information from expert coaches

Quite rightly, many of the panels have questioned how we are going to ensure that knowledge in the sport is passed on and not lost when our most experienced coaches move on. There are a good number of coaches with high levels of knowledge and expertise and we must ensure that this is passed on as widely as possible. The CPD workshops and mentoring programmes that have been delivered over the last number of years, and continue to be, have done a great job in this space and the Advisory Panels recommend that this is aligned and joined up, throughout the UK. With all five organisations working together, we have an opportunity to create better connections and, where appropriate, bring Communities of Practice together, which allow for a or wider transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise.

Next steps
Many of the Advisory Panelists are now working on learning outcomes for their Events before the next meetings which are scheduled for May.

As outlined in the strategy we are looking to establish a coaching body that can further support coaches. We have taken advice from industry experts with regard to establishing a Coaches Association that can promote, protect and represent athletics coaches. As we are all aware, coaches usually put the interest and welfare of their athletes first but coach welfare and support also should be prioritised. As the UK Coaching Strategy details:

Our Coach-First philosophy where the welfare of the coach as a person needs to be prioritised along with our aim of supporting their improvement as people – not just as coaches.

In line with this philosophy, we would like to further understand how our coaching workforce can be effectively cared for. Liverpool John Moores University (led by Dr Colum Cronin) are currently working with UK Coaching on a research project exploring this topic. They will support our wider understanding of it and will bring us advice on how to help you flourish. This is an important topic, for us, because retaining coaches is a challenge, and research also demonstrates that coaches experience burnout. The survey is for coaches from all sports to complete and asks them about their experiences and what care they may need. The results of the survey will be used to inform UK Coaching’s and our support for coaches as well as for academic purposes. Further details are available on the survey but we would be very grateful if you could complete it and share it with other coaches within your network.

If you have any questions about this, please contact the project research officer Amy Hardwick A.E.Hardwick@ljmu.ac.uk