The Core of Coach Core
Posted: Mon, 12 Jun 2017 12:55
When the Sporting Future paper was released in late 2015, we celebrated the intention to focus on 'quality coaching' over sheer numbers coached. We also lauded the fact that the Government intended to focus on apprenticeships, addressing the stigma around them in some industries, then we revelled in Sport England's proposal to bring the wider physical activity sector under one umbrella with sport.
Why? Because since 2012, The Royal Foundation's Coach Core programme has strived to provide young people aged 16-24 with meaningful employment and education whilst also providing high quality community engagement through sport and physical activity. For us, certainly back in 2012, we observed:
- Too many training courses that focussed too much on technical sports coaching and little on engagement skills;
- Too many workshops and taster sessions that led to 'certificate collecting' but with no real mentoring or relevant end assessment to support meaningful implantation of what was learnt;
- The two combined led to inconsistent experiences for the end user and in some cases, real potential for harm or disengagement.
For example: if I'm a young person and I want to be a coach, I go and do my NGB qualification, right? Well, sure, but these courses differ in cost, accessibility, quality and delivery and due to their limited tutor contact time, only influencing that learner for a small period of time.
So instead, I'll do an apprenticeship for coaching then? That's fine but now you are signed up to an educational provider you don't know, on a course that is probably not a coaching apprenticeship and assigned to a mentor you have only just met who has to work with a ton of other learners.
I'm not saying this was the experience for everyone, as there are a number of quality coaching and sports organisations out there. However, for us working with challenging young people, the feeling was that the support networks were too light and there were not always clear enough goals, objectives and motivations for them to fully buy into one, meaningful apprenticeship programme.
So how do we differ? Simply put, we want to place the power in the hands of employers. By providing them with a robust educational offer that takes away the red tape and arduous processes we allow them to focus on developing their apprentices. It was recently reported that 2 in 5 employers are having to offer increased pay just to recruit staff let alone retain them. Recruitment and Employment Confederation CEO Kevin Green said "We need to train people by embedding employability skills in schools and promoting apprenticeships" and for us this would result in a more developed, resilient and loyal workforce intrinsically linked to that community.
Within each of our city project sites we also take the burden away from a single employer/education provider and bring together a number of partners to create a consortium. This ultimately means that we can assign 20 apprentice places across a number of organisations, employ a dedicated tutor-mentor who is tasked solely with developing these young people and ensure the partners then work collaboratively to pool together staff, resources, opportunities, education and even time in a way not previously seen.
For the apprentice at the heart of it all, it results in an unparalleled CV, boasting qualifications and experiences that would be the envy of senior coaches! We also look to link and develop relationship with other likeminded organisations so that we can provide our apprentices opportunities for further training and exit routes when they complete.
For us, this shared learning and working is critical to any truly meaningful, sustainable long-term operating model in any given city.
We also address the issue of quality coaching by tutoring core modules that focus on child development, positive environments, individual learning journey's and how they can keep sessions fun to promote lifelong relationships with sport and physical activity. This coaching ethos is then instilled in the communities in which they serve via their employment deployment sites and also the events they will work across the 12 months. Organically, they then become mentors to their own participants and a powerful ripple effect is born.
To summarise, we in the industry have a real opportunity to make change in a way not offered before. With the Government and Sport England now providing us with a chance to make significant change to the quality of coaching provision and the employment options linked to this, we must review our current working practices in these two areas and ask whether we are being truly innovative. Sport hasn't always been the greatest industry for sharing best practice and allowing others to learn from successes but by passing the ball instead of holding onto it, Coach Core has shown how all involved can flourish.
Gary Laybourne is Coach Core Project Manager at The Royal Foundation.