The vast majority of employed and self-employed sports coaches and instructors engage with people who participate in sport for recreational purposes. These people want to enjoy themselves, have fun, improve their skills and be part of a welcoming social and sporting experience. Yes, if possible, they want to develop their skills, but they want to do so in an engaging way; they don’t want to be put under undue pressure from an over-ambitious and zealous coach.
In many cases, the coach is the main contact for people who want to play sport and if the experience and engagement they are being provided with by the coach is not up to scratch they will walk away and they will tell friends and family. Whereas when a coach who speaks people’s language, engages and provides great experiences will develop a strong following across the club or the coaching enterprise and the wider community.
So successful participation coaches need to develop stronger enterprise culture and skills if they are to maximise and to ensure the sustainability of their work – great technical coaching are certainly not enough.
So here are three key strands of what constitutes a really enterprising coach:
Great participation coaches can be partners with their community
A coach who engages with community partners from outside his/her club will attract more people and funding. These partners are often schools, housing associations, resident groups, community centres or other, often non-sport, bodies. If they perceive that a coach provides services that attract and retain their clients, the more likely they are to want to refer and fund the coach and the club or the coaching enterprise.
Coaches can develop shared value with the rest of the community, speak the language of community partners and be perceived as a real hub for their communities.
Great coaches must become great communicators
The coach is there to stimulate the participants and how he or she engages and communicates is vital. People are different. Some are nervous, some are indifferent and some are excitable, etc. However they all have to be motivated; often in different ways.
Sports coaches must communicate effectively with many of different people: players, members, parents, officials and other coaches amongst others. They will be encouraged not be afraid to communicate, lead and inspire people.
Enterprising coaches also use social media to stay in touch with people (whilst observing all appropriate safeguarding rules).
Great coaches must provides great experiences
A great experience means different things to different people. The people who go on holiday with Club 18 – 30 tend not to be the same ones who spend a couple of weeks with Saga Holidays and vice versa! The guy who likes a quiet pint in a village pub is rarely seen clubbing in busy city centre on a Friday night! This principle also applies to community sport, so when you coach, you really have to conscious of who you are coaching and what you are offering and if that fits in with their needs.
They will always forget what you tell them…but they will never forget how you make them feel!
Great coaches must develop an understanding that progress and achievement will always mean different things to different people and therefore have a clear understanding of those criteria and deliver accordingly.