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Collaboration is key to developing the next generation of Welsh coaches

 

When Warren Abrahams was appointed as head coach to the Wales women’s rugby team in November 2020, it made headlines far and wide.

After all, he was the first coach from a BAME background to be handed the job of a national team coach in Welsh rugby, while his assistant was Rachel Taylor – the first woman to get a professional coaching role in this country.

So, it would seem a good time for the Welsh Coaching Network – a programme that had to be put on hold during the months of lockdown – to return with a focus on diversity, inclusion and equality within coaching across the spectrum of Welsh sport.

In a recent report that looked at diversity across Australian sport, researchers identified that while many sports organisations, clubs, and governing bodies have enthusiastically taken up the language of diversity and inclusion in leadership and coaching roles, their records of appointments and development are much less impressive. *

In other words, they talk the talk. But they don’t walk the walk.

The Welsh Coaching Network is an opportunity for coaching developers to get together and connect to share ideas and build a culture of collaboration.

That can be around performance coaching, or just improving the experience of participants at all levels, or, as with the current sessions, looking at ways to broaden the base of those who come into coaching.

Disability Sport Wales hosted a session on coaches approaching their role with an inclusive mindset.

The aim is to strengthen collaboration across different sports and inspire new thinking.

Simon Jones, governance and people development officer at Sport Wales, says: “Everyone is an expert in the technical and tactical areas of their sport, but it’s the bits around that we want to concentrate on.

“Sometimes, it’s the interpersonal skills we want to look at and develop and on other occasions it’s about improving the environment.

“It is about getting people into a room and asking how can we collectively develop coaches.

“There is so much good work going on among governing bodies and national organisations, so how can we share that? It’s about learning, connecting and developing.”

Christian Malcolm coaching a child on a grass pitch.

 

The issues are often universal, as is the case with the current stress on equality, diversity and inclusion.

Those aims apply to senior coaches, grassroots coaches, performance coaches and anyone else involved in volunteering their time to help others participate in sport.

The information should apply to every coach, no matter what level they are operating at.

“A lot of them will already be focusing on issues like inclusion, anyway, but perhaps they can take away something new they can put into their work with their coaches all the way down,” adds Jones

“It should resonate with every person on a coaching pathway.

“Coaches like getting together and having a chat, but they prefer doing it in a practical setting – going to a session and viewing it and then discussing.

“What did they learn? Could they replicate it among their coaching workforce?

“If we can get the coaching leads chatting, then good things will come out of it.”

Wider experiences can be mutually beneficial. Former Wales rugby men’s national coach Kevin Bowring has delivered sessions to the network after years spent working in both Wales and England.

Collaboration can also yield practical results. The governing bodies for tennis and table tennis in Wales have both gone on to work with Cardiff Met University to create joint continuing professional development opportunities.

“It’s not about Sport Wales telling coaches how to work,” says Jones. “It’s about hearing from them about what works well and sharing that.

“A lot of people have the same aims. Some national governing bodies just don’t have the manpower to do everything. If we can get collaboration, it will ease their workload.

“And sometimes, this isn’t about quick change. It will take time. If we can attract more players to a club from an ethnically diverse background - most coaches come from ex-players, or from parents and volunteers – then we can increase the diversity of the coaches.”

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