Evolution of the modern children’s coach

It is not just living organisms that are continuously evolving.

Cultures and societies change over time, shaped by advancements and innovations in science, education and technology.

And the coaching industry is no different.

It too must refine and adapt its methods and practices in line with breakthrough areas of understanding, or risk becoming a victim of its own inflexibility.

A reluctance or refusal to act on feedback, search for improvements or root out defects in working practices is an example of closed-loop thinking.

Such a culture would lead to outdated coaching models being indefinitely maintained – a perpetuation of the status quo.

Imagine if an anti-bullying campaign failed to reflect the rise in cyber-bullying, having overlooked the evolving interests and motivations of the millennials brought about by the rapid evolution in technology.

You can see how a non-evolving, stagnant coaching industry would be far less effective.

Coaching the whole child

Thankfully, the coach education landscape is evolving considerably faster than biological evolution, with UK Coaching one of the major pioneers of change.

Fresh from the development of a brand-new workshop that has transformed the way fundamentals of movement are being taught, UK Coaching has rolled out a new workshop aimed at developing children at primary school age, aptly entitled ‘Coaching Children 5–12: The Next Generation’.

The workshop serves as a practical example of how evolved thinking and the latest academic research can help to enhance the development of children as individuals – improving confidence and competence in their physical abilities, and equipping them with valuable life skills they will need to contribute to society.

UK Coaching’s Development Lead Officer for Children, Schools and Safeguarding, David Turner, and Jon Woodward helped design the new iteration of the ‘Coaching Children 5–12’ workshop, which draws together the research of reputed children’s coaches from across the country on the most critical topics.

Two intrinsic coaching models that help underpin children’s development as people and performers, and which feature in the workshop and accompanying resource book, are the ‘C’ system and Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) , while there are individual sections dedicated to child physiology, cognitive considerations and behaviour management.

‘It is a new evolution,’ says Dave, who explains the reasons behind the revamp.

‘So we are not just throwing the old one away necessarily. We’ve got the holistic model to work from, which is our ‘C’ system of coaching that was put together for the previous version of the workshop. And now – while we are still using that as the holistic model and baseline to work from – we have some really exciting new research and sections that we are going to take coaches through and deliver in a practical sense.’

‘It is taking what is already out there and making it current, new and innovative,’ agrees Jon. ‘There is better research out there to make coaching more informed.’

Children’s story

The improved model has been well received by those who attended a series of taster sessions.

Josh Stevenson is project coordinator for Notts County FC Football in the Community. He has integrated ideas from the workshop into his coach planning and delivery, which he believes has enhanced the learning of the schoolchildren he works with.

‘It is just nice to get different ideas and a fresher outlook on coaching children, as you do start to get into the same mindset and way of working over a period of time,’ he says. ‘It provides you with the stimulation to implement different ideas.

‘It was very active and very hands-on. I think if you sit a lot of coaches in a classroom environment for too long, people will start to switch off.’

This view was echoed by colleague Claire Wilmott, who is the mental health coordinator for Notts County FC Football in the Community.

‘At some of the courses I have attended, you just sit there and listen as someone talks to you. But coaches, I think, learn more through this kinaesthetic approach to learning.’

Best of both worlds

Any coach education programme should strive to achieve the right blend of theory and practice.

Combining the two is a more emphatic method of facilitating professional development.

Jon was delighted with the client feedback and feels they have arrived at the perfect mix: ‘The challenge is to make the workshop wholly practical, while the resource book is there for you as a guide if you want to know a little bit more, or a lot more, about the theory involved.

‘The workshop is really an introduction to coaching; a starting point to make coaches think differently.

‘On the course, we cover a lot of things in a little bit of detail, showing coaches how they all fit together. But if you want to know more of the why behind the what, then the book is there to stimulate your interest a bit more.’

Each section of the book has been written by someone at the cutting edge of coaching research.

Dave adds: ‘We have some really high-level academic theory that has gone into the resource itself that coaches can unpick in their own time and be confident that it is pioneering information in terms of coaching children.

‘But the flip side of that is the workshop has got really fun, engaging practical sessions – because there’s no point in having a coach who knows all the theory but can’t deliver it in a practical sense. So we are trying to do two things at once in the same place.’

Next Steps

Coaches: To find a ‘Coaching Children 5–12: The Next Generation’ workshop running near you, visit the UK Coaching Workshop Finder.

Organisations: Find out more about how to organise the UK Coaching (formerly Sports Coach UK) ‘Coaching Children 5–12: The Next Generation’ workshop.

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