Why the present system for training athlete coaches is not fit for purpose

In Fact File 20 ABAC demonstrated that the net number of athletic coaches is falling by around 430 per year. The number of athletic coaches failing to renew their 3 year licences is 540 each year, whereas only 112 new coaches are being created annually.

The reasons for the decline in numbers and the failure to produce more coaches are clear to see yet UKA persist in pursuing the new coaching pathways introduced in January 2010.

It has taken journalist, author and experienced (66min half marathon) runner Will Cockerell to articulate all that is wrong with the present courses. His wry, witty and perceptive commentary summarising his experiences at the hands of UKA coaching personnel has produced much support after publication in Athletics Weekly at the end of 2013.

Will’s story. Coaching a friend led inexorably to Will Cockerell needing a coaching licence. In 9 months his athlete progressed from 101st in the Run Britain women’s rankings to 5th and yet he could not gain accreditation to be with her at major events as he had no formal coaching qualification. His story should be compulsory reading for policy makers in athletics and Sport England. You can access the full articles using the links below but here are a few gems.

The long hard road. So I am on a journey and question number one is a rip-snorter: “ What  does it take to become a EA/GBA coach?.” Answer: a very great deal. This is not a journey for the faint hearted. I’ll give you seven more adjectives to describe the process: complex, confusing, intimidating, lengthy, expensive, onerous and at times, eye water-wateringly frustrating.  Click here.

CIRF – a review. CIRF(Coaching in running fitness) swims in a sea of padding, waffle and non essential matter. Each day at around 10.15 I would feel this rising panic that my boredom levels were already saturated, and there were nearly seven hours to go. One lengthy segment had us walking around Chippenham sports complex blindfolded, asking a guide for instructions. Click here.

CIRF –the final laps. Miles travelled for the course: 1,200, Hours away from home and family: 5 days, 4 weekends(Part or full). Hours of instruction: 36, Hours of course work, preparation and revision: 30, total funds invested for the course, including course fees, travel and accommodation: £740.        UKA are point-blank insisting that coaches take their expensive courses, and in order to justify that, they have made them horribly convoluted.    Click here.

If I were in charge. Muddled thinking, a militant approach, blunders at every turn, my experience of what it takes to gain a UK coaching licence was rarely happy, and often miserable. I am not above learning –I crave to learn more about our wonderful sport- but not like this. 

There are three flaws in the coaching pathway that should be addressed: 1) Insisting that everyone, no matter who they are, start right from the beginning: 2) that the courses only cover foundation (novice) level,: 3 )insisting that everyone learn about every facet of the huge and varied game that is athletics, which promotes coaching that is not-specialised.  Click here.

Messages of support.  ABAC’s Deputy Chairman had his response edited in AW but the full message was on the AW website. It read

“Will Cockerell’s article on his first rung of the coaching ladder is a massive condemnation of the existing UKA/EA coaching structure. To expect prospective coaches to spend 4 weekends and at a cost of £740 provides a clear and blunt message why the sport is not attracting coaches. The elongated course where intended coaches are expected to learn the rudiments of ALL athletic events is a sheer waste of time.

Those attracted to enter coaching are either older athletes wishing to provide the benefit of their experience and knowledge in their elected event onto younger athletes or parents wishing to coach their child and perhaps the child’s training partners in a specific event. As a result of the course they are not likely to switch from their chosen path. They will have no interest in other events not specific to their requirements.

UKA/EA need to revert to the simple system of yesteryear. I attended a coaching course at County level supervised by a National Coach – Tom McNab. Using the basic knowledge so learnt I then started coachingat club level. Tom McNab duly visited the club some weeks later to assess my coaching capabilities and I then received my coaching accreditation. With the knowledge imparted by Tom McNab and that gleaned from the excellent, but sadly now out of print BAAB Throws Coaching Manual I embarked on a coaching career now spanning 50 years and which has produced 5 National Champions at shot/discus including current u15 shot champion Angelo Buter.

There is a need to cut out the artificially extended courses and to resort to simply providing current DVD technology for home study by prospective coaches. Until UKA/EA wake up and realise that their current structure is a deterrent rather than an incentive then our sport will continue to suffer a lack of new coaches in the long term.”

Dennis Daly WSEH.

And for other messages of support for Will’s views click here.

ABAC Comments. It is nearly a year since ABAC compiled details of athletic coach numbers. We will be seeking information on how retention levels have held up in the past year. In the meantime let us not forget that the UKA/EA coaching courses are not recognised as having NVQ status by sportscoach UK.

Category: Governance