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2016 UK Coaching Awards was a royal night out

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Coach of the Year Eddie Van Hoof

2016 UK Coach of the Year Eddie Van Hoof collects his award from Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, the Princess Royal

It was the big night in the coaching calendar when the unsung heroes of sport had their moment to bask in the spotlight.

An evening powered by ‘g’ force that held people firmly in their seats.

The awards ceremony glitz and glamour was provided by the colourful assemblage of tuxedos, full kilt regalia and elegant evening dresses; the gold and the glory came in the form of a star-studded guest list comprising a smattering of former Olympic athletes and a whole legion of head coaches of reigning Olympic and Paralympic champions.

There was a generous infusion of grandeur too, courtesy of (or should that be curtsy?) the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, the Princess Royal – who is the patron of Sports Coach UK, who run the awards.

And there was even a glitterball moment as host Ore Oduba, the BBC sports presenter currently gunning for gold himself in the ballroom as he entertains the nation on Strictly Come Dancing, titillated the crowd when he feigned to waltz, or was it cha-cha, onto stage between awards.

Sadly, we were not treated to a sneak preview of Saturday’s routine, but he was only too happy to oblige with the glut of selfie requests (me included) at the end of the evening (strictly so I can show off to Ore’s biggest fan, my mum, you understand).

Wine was quaffed and food was scoffed but the difference in this glitzy awards ceremony to your standard offering was the overwhelming sense of humility and altruism that permeated the room.

And as the 345 guests in the Empire Suite of the Holiday Inn – a Wayne Rooney free-kick away from Wembley Stadium – sat and listened in rapt silence to speeches from HRH the Princess Royal and industry executives on the future of coaching, and the many video citations showcasing the inspirational stories of the finalists, it struck me, not for the first time, that coaches really are made of the right stuff.


Goodness gracious!

An ungrudging happiness for other people’s success and good fortune is the quintessential characteristic of a coach, and epitomised by all this year’s finalists.

‘I’m not disappointed. It was an honour just to be nominated.’ 

This is the clichéd response almost every Academy Award nominee trots out after being overlooked for the Oscar. 

Of course, being actors and actresses, it is impossible to tell if they are bluffing. 

No doubt some nominees, at the exact moment the TV cameraman pans in for an extreme close-up, are silently despairing at falling agonisingly short.  

Their magnanimous reaction and gracious expression camouflages their inner emotions. 

Yes, there have been some extraordinary cameo performances by The Hollywood glitterati on Oscars’ night over the years. 

But at our coaching Oscars, there was no need for acting. 

All the finalists were genuinely thrilled for those who scooped the main prizes. 

They were just delighted to have had their endeavours and achievements recognised by their peers after demonstrating outstanding success over the previous 12 months. 

Meaning nobody left overly disappointed and there was no need to hide bitter-sweet emotions. Yes, of course they wanted to win, but they were not desperate to win. 

Because people don’t enter coaching for personal fame, fortune or adulation, or to win trophies. They coach because they want to provide experiences that will enrich people's lives and make them better people and performers. 

They are happy to put the interests of their participants before their own. 

Eddie is prize guy 

Team GB’s men’s gymnastics technical director Eddie Van Hoof walked away with the main UK Coach of the Year prize.

The 60-year-old received the prestigious title after guiding Max Whitlock to double Olympic gold on the floor and pommel in Rio this summer – just two of the five medals Van Hoof’s squad won in Britain’s record-breaking medal haul. The others included a silver for Louis Smith in the pommel horse and bronzes for Nile Wilson in the horizontal bar and Whitlock in the all-round event.

Van Hoof was also named Olympic High Performance Coach of the Year.

There was a standing ovation, too, for the popular Jürgen Grobler, winner of the Lifetime Achievement award for his work with the British Rowing men’s squad at the last seven Olympic Games.

Before the presentations commenced, Chair of Sports Coach UK Gillian Willmot referenced in her opening address newly-published research undertaken by Sports Coach UK, in collaboration with StreetGames, which shows the social value of coaching.

‘We all know about the benefits of coaching,’ she said. ‘Thanks to this research we can now put a value on the Social Return on Investment for coaching.’

For those not in attendance, it is worth sharing too the message of The Princess Royal, who, in her speech, summarised the importance of having a wealth of good coaches at every level; championed the vital role played by volunteers and emphasised the need to increase the diversity of the coaching community.

‘Our Olympic and Paralympic medal tally was higher than it has ever been and we know how many people are behind those winners, something that the Coaching Chain award highlights, so it is a pleasure to recognise those people,’ she said.

‘Most athletes accept they wouldn’t have got that far and their successes would have been many fewer if they hadn’t found excellent coaches and the right person for them who actually connects with them.

‘We celebrate too the work of more than two million volunteers. They are critical in getting more people active and ensuring that they stay involved. And that’s the other thing the chain shows you: if you don’t have someone who is there to catch you in those gaps from one phase to the next, you can often lose out, even if you’ve been successful.

‘And I am pleased to see there has been an increase in the number of women coaches amongst tonight’s finalists. It’s a good move for sport in general and for those individuals in particular, to want to and be able to join in at that kind of level.’

She praised too the coaches working with disadvantaged and minority groups, ‘for whom sport is a seriously important alternative activity that will probably mean much more in their lives than we can believe.

‘The stories of those individuals are truly inspiring. In many respects we still have underrepresented areas, so the challenge is for everyone here tonight to ensure that coaching at all levels is truly representative of our diverse UK population. I think tonight does underline the fact that we are making real progress.’

Eddie Van Hoof

Passion and pride

You cannot fail to have been blown away by the dedication and passion of all those shortlisted for honours. 

Dedication like that shown by Heather Crouch Young Coach of the Year Kieran Henderson, who has given over 500 hours to help improve football coaching in Aberdeen. 

‘I love to show my passion and enthusiasm in my coaching! I just love inspiring those I coach,’ he said. 

Kieran received a particularly loud roar when walking on stage to collect his award. 

The camaraderie in the room was infectious, as anyone following the #UKCoachingAwards hashtag on Twitter would have appreciated. 

ConnectedCoaches Community Champion Sion Kitson was among the guests, and could have been speaking for the entire Empire Suite when he tweeted this tribute: ‘Thanks #UKCoachingAwards for a truly inspirational evening. Coaching is the heartbeat of sport.’ 

The other awards handed out on the night were:

  • Performance Development Coach of the Year: sailing coach Martin Boatman.
  • Governing Body of the Year: The British Horseracing Authority.
  • Coach Developer of the Year: Katherine Robinson.
  • Community Coach of the Year: England BC4 Boccia’s Sunil Birdy.
  • Disability Coach of the Year: Aylesbury wheelchair basketball coach Dirk Van Der Merwe.
  • Children’s Coach of the Year: Scottish gymnastics coach Kieran Brown.
  • Coaching Intervention of the Year: The RFU’s Somali Rugby programme in London.
  • Paralympic and Olympic High Performance Coaches of the Year: British para-swimming head coach Rob Greenwood and Eddie Van Hoof.
  • Coaching Chain of the Year: Team GB’s women’s hockey coach Danny Kerry, Jon Royce, Tricia Heberle, Maggie Souyave, Pete Atwell and Beverly Kinder, who all worked with British captain Kate Richardson-Walsh on her sporting journey, which climaxed with Olympic gold in Rio.

Did you attend the awards? What did you think? Do you know any of the finalists or winners? Please leave a comment below.

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Comments (1)


I think I will ask Phil Pete about the awards night as he attended and won his first award, he proudly showed me his medal which was amazing, I have a picture but unsure if he would wish me to display on here.

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