Folks! I just LOVE this campaign that just got underway in England. It was started by a gal named Heather Piper who describes herself as a “Professor in the Faculty of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, whose research interests tend to be contrarian and challenge the status quo, and much so called ‘wisdom.'” Go Heather! – L.
THANK A COACH by Heather Piper
When the 2012 Olympics were awarded to London, the UK Government (like other governments before them) made much of the hope that the legacy would be to get children and young people more active and involved in sports – part of a happier and healthier nation. Instead, as recent research has shown,there are many coaches who feel anxious and overwhelmed by the way that trust in coaching relationships has been destroyed by the fear-based and mechanical way that child protection and ‘safeguarding’ has been imposed on them. The result has been that they feel spied-on, and end up doubting their colleagues’ motives, and even their own – viewing themselves and others as potential paedophiles!
There is something very wrong when, on attending their first football training session, eager 9-year-olds have to listen to a talk about the team’s child protection measures (implicit message: coaches are likely to be perverts). Whatever this does to children, an adult coach may be terrified when a young player races over to them as part of her goal-scoring celebration (Is she going to hug me? What will everyone think? Will I get suspended like the guy last year?). The problem is not one for the UK alone, the US, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few, share similarly risk-averse societies.
The pattern everywhere is much like that seen earlier in teaching and childcare and, again, the real losers are the children who lose the chance to benefit from strong and trusting inter-generational contact. The deficit extends beyond the issue of coaching kids to become better swimmer or soccer players: a good coach can provide emotional support for children learning how to get along and grow up, which is particularly important for kids who may have less support at home.
To try, in a small way, to counter the pervasive negative messages about sports coaching and to honour the selfless work of the many thousands of coaches who offer their technical expertise (and often much more than that), a new campaign focuses attention on the positive coaching many of us will have experienced. In a risk-obsessed, fear-based, and mistrustful era we need some good news stories, and the ‘Inspired to Greatness’ campaign aims to collect and provide them. Take a look and join-in. Thank a coach for what they did for you. We can’t take coaches for granted. We CAN give them the thanks they deserve. Share your videos! – H.P.