I've been a sports coach for nearly two years now, after my switch from being a classroom teacher and I've learnt so much about the profession I left and the profession I joined. So here is a quick guide based on what I've learnt from both my own experience and the good practice of my colleagues at Go Active:
Perhaps one of the toughest skills to learn if you have come from a different industry. Education is notoriously unpredictable and ever changing. You must be capable of not only coping with it but thriving despite it. Locations, times, group sizes are constantly shifting. You soon realise that even classes of the same age from different schools present such variation that ever lesson require customisation. Communication is the key to combating the above; ask questions, discuss progress and problems with other members of staff.
You are going to need this in buckets, if the amount of change doesn't drive you crazy then the multitude of other educational challenges may well do it. You will meet lots of children who adore PE and will follow your instructions to the letter, most of the time. However, there is always a frustrating minority that seeks to disrupt, distract and basically get a reaction out of you. Again communication with other staff members and research into the school's policies on behaviour will be necessary. You may also have to upskill your methods through dedicated research (CPD). Although things will rarely go as planned, be patient and look to maximise every opportunity to impart your passion for sport on those you teach.
3. Willingness To Learn
Keeping your games fresh and learning new techniques or approaches, is what separates the good and great in this industry. Accept there is always more to learn and actively seek out information and opportunities to improve your performance. Learning comes in many forms. Whether that be through self-evaluation or fellow coaches/teachers giving you advice. The children we teach often give the most accurate and reliable feedback, as they are the ones experiencing your coaching day-to-day. I find myself asking; are the children engaged? Are they getting a positive experience of PE? How can I do better?
4. Passion For Sport
This may seem really obvious, but children feed off both your energy levels and your passion for the subject you are teaching. It's important to remember this especially if lots of low-level behaviour issues start creeping into your lessons. Don't let your negative experiences ruin the opportunities for your learners to find their passion. It's highly unlikely that any coach naturally has a passion for all sport. This is quite often linked in with the coaches own ability and confidence levels in delivering different sports. What most coaches should have however is an awareness and desire to develop an atmosphere of passion, regardless of their own weaknesses. The reward for such bravery is that you engage those children who also struggle in the same areas: You end up modelling how to deal with challenges and demonstrating perseverance, which is a far greater set of skills.
None of the above can be achieved well without good relationships. This will, without a doubt, take time and consistency on the coaches part. You will need to showcase your abilities with professionalism, but don't be afraid to let your own personality shine through; it's what makes you human and relatable to both the children are other members of staff. Go the extra mile to illustrate you're striving for the same things: get involved with the day-to-day life of the school, don't be a spectator. Make an effort to get to know other staff members by striking up conversations or contributing to open discussions in the staff room. Personally, I've enjoyed sharing my daily crossword with other staff during lunchtimes, even though my dyslexia gives me an unhelpful fear of spelling publicly. Through embracing my own weaknesses I have gained a huge amount of confidence in my own ability to build relationships with those people I work with.
The aforementioned is not by-any-means a finite list of skills, but it is some of the attributes that have floated to the top in the environments I have worked in as a sports coach and as a teacher.
I would love to hear your thoughts on any big skills you think I may have overlooked or just to share your experiences about doing the best job in the world.
- Simon Smith