At the end of April, I was fortunate enough to attend the Female Coaching Network (FCN) Conference 2017 at Surrey Sports Park held in collaboration with Project 500; a project launched in the South East of England to address the imbalance in the number of male and female coaches. 100 female coaches from the UK, Canada, and the US attended, and all brought with them an enthusiasm to share their experiences within coaching and a thirst to learn and grow as coaches. There were 4 workshops throughout the day, plus 2 talks from Karen Brown (Head Coach to the Rio gold medal-winning GB women’s hockey team) and Lois Fidler (a highly successful youth soccer coach and one of few women to hold a UEFA Pro Licence).
It was highly-inspiring – as a young, female sports coach and aspiring sport psychologist – to hear from females who are so successful within an area of elite sport dominated by males. Prior to attending the FCN conference, I was in a slump regarding my own coaching. I had been facing setback after setback and was no longer enjoying coaching as much as I had done so previously. I had lost sight of what it was that originally inspired me to coach. It was Lois Fidler’s talk at the FCN conference that encouraged me to continue through these bad patches. It is not only our athletes that will experience ups and downs – we will also face these ourselves as coaches. It is during the down periods where we must continue to remind ourselves of why we do what we do. For me personally, I was inspired to coach to encourage young males and females to find an outlet for self-expression that other areas of their life may not allow; just like sport allowed for me. I coach to encourage others to find something within themselves they believe does not exist; the will and determination to be better than they believe is possible. Although it sounds cheesy, there is nothing greater than seeing the smile on someone’s face when they achieve something they once believed impossible.
The 2 workshops that I attended focused on postural analysis (led by Aimee Knight) and the online coaching world (led by Vicky Huyton). Aimee’s workshop was really helpful in learning the different types of posture that is commonly seen in individuals and the need to understand the ‘ideal’ posture for particular sports. For example, the best biomechanical position for a competitive swimmer would not necessarily be the same as a competitive powerlifter competing in the bench press. Furthermore, posture is affected by a number of factors, such as stress and fatigue, and impacts upon a number of different areas of everyday life and sports performance, including our breathing mechanics and the development of pain. We then attempted to assess each other’s posture using the plumb line and an assessment form, where I was shocked to learn of my own muscular imbalances. Thank you Aimee for the eye-opening experience and the practical tools I can use with my own athletes. I will be in touch very soon regarding my own poor posture!
Vicky Huyton’s workshop on the online coaching world was also helpful in supporting my own coaching, but also my applied sport psychology work. It is great to see the wide range of technology and software available to coaches today that previously would have been confined to those operating within elite sport. For example, the video analysis app Coach’s Eye is available to download on to our smart phones and tablets for only £4.99; something that required equipment and software costing hundreds or thousands of pounds. The slightly more advanced software, Dartfish, is also available to use within our coaching practice. In terms of writing and sharing training programmes and session outlines, we looked at Evernote and Microsoft OneNote which are freely available and are great tools to use since most of our athletes now own either a smart phone and/or a tablet in order to view these documents. Videos, photos and links to external resources can also be posted into these documents to expand upon the original content. I had previously used Evernote when taking notes at university and found this an incredibly useful and easy-to-use tool. Using technology within our coaching does not need to be complex, and often than not, we are already using some great apps and software for coaching within other areas of our lives. Microsoft Excel is another!
Throughout the day, I was fortunate enough to speak to so many fellow coaches. From coaches involved with coaching under-6 soccer teams, to those supporting international-level athletes, everyone was so evidently dedicated and passionate about coaching. Something I truly admired. Perhaps one particular story that stuck with me was that of Gladys, soon-to-be 100 years of age, who regularly takes part in a weekly cycle ride and also participates in tai-chi. Sport is for everyone; any age and any ability, and the most important thing is to find something that brings you joy. Whether that be powerlifting, ultimate frisbee, running, or dodgeball… there is something for everyone. We as coaches need to encourage individuals to discover that something that brings them joy, as that is what will continue to drive them through the ups and downs. I can only hope that when I am older, I will be just like Gladys!
I would like to thank Vicky Huyton (Founder of the FCN) in particular for starting the FCN. I believe the FCN is fantastic for connecting female coaches from all over the world and for sharing their experiences within coaching, along with providing webinars, articles and events in support of their continual development. An additional thank you to everyone involved with putting on an amazing event, including Aimee Knight for the fantastic workshops, James Walkington for supporting the FCN, and those from Project 500 including Louisa Arnold, Caroline Drake, and Di Murray. Finally, thank you to all of the coaches who attended the event and shared their experiences. I hope to continue to keep in contact with many of you and see you again at future events!