By Jane Ashworth, Chief Executive, StreetGames
It has been well documented that very few medal-winning members of the all-conquering Team GB squad in the London 2012 Games were raised and honed their sporting talent in the most disadvantaged communities of the UK. What is equally valid, yet less appreciated, is that neither were many of the coaches.
Sporting opportunity must extend to those who would spend their time helping others to fulfil themselves through sport. It is why we have developed our Doorstep Sport approach to coaching, to give young people in deprived neighbourhoods the chance to become the sporting coaches, innovators and leaders of the future, to learn on their doorstep.
The nature of life in disadvantaged communities with a shortage of sports clubs has meant no-one has reached out to the young people who possess the latent talent within those areas. The traditionally prescriptive approach to sports coaching is too reminiscent of school and institution. The young people in our projects need a different way of thinking. They want their sport to be fun, lively, creative and engaging. They want it to be inclusive, not elitist. If it is, they are much more ready to embrace skills training.
They listen and follow the local community leaders who are interested in them – the pied pipers who fill up our sessions. As long as the young people in the community can relate to the coach, the coach can be effective. It is the base upon which you can start to build coaching-specific skills.
What the trusted community leaders also do is encourage the most eager participants to become volunteers through our The Co-operative StreetGames Young Volunteers (CSYV) programme which won the prestigious Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Volunteering Award for 2012.
It may only be in setting out cones, handing out bibs or taking a register at first but the volunteers are given tasks and, more importantly, responsibility. We support them to achieve nationally-recognised qualifications such as the official Level 1 diplomas in football, handball or rugby league. Or life skills qualifications like Emergency First Aid or Safeguarding Young People.
As they develop, so they are entrusted to take sessions and become the coaches leading their peers in sport. All of our volunteers are aged between 16 and 25. The confidence they gain is priceless and the experience, allied to the qualifications, allows them to apply for paid jobs within sport in and outside their communities. Since StreetGames was set up in 2007, we have recruited a total of 5,632 volunteers who have gained a total of 4,361 qualifications through the CSYV programme.
We wanted to go further and fully close the gap between Doorstep Sport and the national governing bodies of sport (NGBs). To do this, we have developed the StreetGames Training Academy.
Our level 2 course provides a firm foundation in coaching. It is recognised across the sports industry and has parity with the level 2 courses run by NGBs. The emphasis is on ‘how to coach’ through multi-skill development. The NGBs then provide the ‘what to coach’, sport-specific element which rounds off the qualification.
The Training Academy courses are open to all, to established sports coaches and to those who have grown up through our projects and our volunteering programme. Many of the latter have had issues with school-based learning in the past, so verbal contributions are valued as much as written ones when it comes to assessment. Pastoral care is also provided and available at all times during the courses, allowing these organically-grown coaches to overcome concerns and concentrate on the coaching abilities that lie within and which will benefit not only themselves but the country’s sporting future.