Sport plays an incredibly important role in modern British life. As well as boosting the economy by billions every year, sport also encourages community spirit, gives players and spectators a greater sense of purpose, teaches young people fundamental life skills and improves the physical and psychological health of millions who participate.
Some people participate in sports simply for fun. Others view it as a fundamental part of their lives and strive constantly to do better. To achieve great things in sport we must put our bodies and minds through extensive training programmes. Every day we must try to be fitter, faster, stronger and sharper than we were yesterday.
The role of the sports coach is hugely varied, but it mainly involves:
a) Teaching rules, techniques and tactics to beginners.
b) Providing an objective view to help teams and individuals enhance performance.
c) Helping those involved in top-level sport deal with enormous pressures faced in a highly competitive environment.
Through expert tutoring, constructive criticism, motivation and on-hand support, sports coaches can help individuals focus their minds, hone their bodies and learn their disciplines inside-out to ensure they have the best possible chance of succeeding.
Most professional sportspeople have coaches to help them train and compete - but you don't have to be a pro to hire a coach. All you need is a desire either to learn a sport, or to enhance your performance in the sport you already play.
What is sports coaching?
Sports coaching can be defined as the process of motivating, guiding and training an individual in preparation for any sporting hobby, career, or event.
You might consider hiring a sports coach to help you:
- start a sport
- improve your game
- advance to a professional level
- become a world-class athlete.
Starting a new sport
Starting a new sport is a great way to meet new people, open up new opportunities for yourself and improve your mental and physical health.
Sports coaches can be hired to teach anyone the basic rules of a sport. So, if you fancy playing tennis but you've never even held a racket before - you could hire a tennis coach to teach you how. Your coach will make sure you grasp the very basics of the sport before progressing to anything more advanced.
Once you've mastered the basics of the game, who knows where you'll be in a few years time?
Improve your game
Teaching is just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to sports coaching. Once you've got to grips with the rules and techniques, you'll be ready to decide whether it's something you wish to take seriously or not.
If you find you have a natural talent and enjoyment for your chosen sport, you might want to build even further on that. The key to progress is practice, but there comes a point in every amateur and professional athlete's sporting experience when that progress appears to plateau. Unfortunately, when we stop noticing signs of progression, feelings of disparagement can start to kick in - making it much easier to give up.
A sports coach can be hired to assess your performance critically in order to identify particular areas in need of improvement. Once you have a plan for moving forward, those feelings of progression and movement will return - hopefully accompanied by a new boost of motivation to reach a higher level of performance.
Advance to a professional level
Only a handful of people go on to play their sports at a professional level, and to do so requires a huge amount of talent, effort, passion and dedication.
Individuals who show high levels of potential are often encouraged to hire a sports coach who will give them that extra push. Many sports coaches have backgrounds in professional sports themselves, so they know what it takes to make it to the top. A sports coach can act as an agent, putting hopefuls in touch with clubs, societies and sponsors to help them turn their hobby into a paying career.
Sports coaches often take a holistic approach to coaching. This means they look at the whole picture rather than just one part. So for example, if an aspiring track runner wants to improve their time by a second, instead of focusing all their effort on the treadmill, a sports coach might suggest a psychological approach. Are there any mental blocks preventing the athlete from running that little bit faster? What's happening in their personal life? Are there any personal distractions standing in the way of full concentration and focus?
The closer athletes progress towards a professional sporting level, the more involved their coaches become in the workings of their life. The relationship between coach and athlete must be:
- built on mutual trust and respect.
Become a world-class athlete
Unlike most workers, who start work at nine and finish at five, world-class athletes effectively hand their whole lives over to their sport. Their body is their vehicle, and everything they put into it effects what they get out of it. An athlete can't spend a weekend staying up late drinking alcohol and eating rich foods, and then expect to break world records the next week.
To get the most out of their bodies, professional athletes often have to live by a set of very strict rules set out by their sports coaches. They have to give up a great deal of their freedom to make sure their bodies stay at the peak of fitness. First of all, they have to change their diets; second of all, they have to put personal commitments aside to make room for the hours of physical training they'll need. This, along with the gruelling therapy sessions, high risk of injury, and frequent travelling (putting strain on personal lives), all makes for an incredibly gruelling career.
Sports coaches help world-class athletes handle the emotional side of sports, using sports psychology theory to help them:
1. Deal with failure
What is it like to spend hours day in day out, for months (and sometimes years) on end, working towards a single moment - a race, a competition, or a game - to then not win it? All of those gruelling training sessions, all of those painful mental struggles, all of the time, friends, and opportunities you sacrificed along the way so that you might win...and then you don't.
For many athletes - the feeling of failure is enough to put a total stop to a career. Part of the sports coach's role is to support athletes through this difficult time and help them to see their failure not as an end, but as the beginning of a new journey.
2. Deal with success
Success: it's a good thing, it's what everyone aims for when they play sport - so why would anyone need help coping with it?
For the lucky few in top level sport, success often results in fame and wealth - think of footballers and their incredibly lavish, hedonistic lifestyles. Sports coaches need to be on hand to rein in any egos, keep athletes grounded and ensure they remain focused on playing the sport without getting distracted by the public recognition that often comes with it.
3. Recovering from injury
Injury can have a massive psychological effect on professional athletes. When your body holds the key to your livelihood, your happiness, and your sense of purpose, the last thing you want is for it to stop working properly. Athletes who suddenly find themselves cooped up at home for weeks on end unable to train, quickly become frustrated, bored, disheartened and even depressed. Being in pain can also have a negative impact on their emotional well-being, requiring extra support from sports coaches to keep them focused on recovery. Coaches can cancel upcoming events for athletes, organise therapy sessions and speak with the athlete to decide the best course of treatment.
4. Enhance performance
Sports coaches use visualisation techniques, relaxation methods and self-talk exercises to help athletes enhance their performance from a psychological perspective. Most athletes agree that thinking positively and visualising success helps them to reach their goals.
Sports coaching for children
If your child shows a particular interest in a sport, you may consider hiring a sports coach to help him or her progress to a higher level. Here is all the information you'll need to know about sports coaching for children:
All sports coaches working with children should meet certain standards proving they are safe, trustworthy and competent. When choosing a sports coach, make sure they have been DBS checked recently (previously known as CRB).
Understanding development stages
Children are always growing. As they get older, their bodies undergo fundamental biochemical changes that will inevitably effect their sporting performances. Coaches need to be aware of child development stages so they can adapt training programmes over time to match the changing bodies and minds of the children they coach.
Inspiring positive development
Sports coaching usually takes a holistic approach to performance. Children benefit from sports coaching because it teaches them skills they can apply to everyday life, including:
- good work ethic
- discipline and focus
- communication skills
- leadership and team playing.
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