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Friday April 7th the day I received news that a young person I had been coaching and mentoring for 3 years was shot dead. I was in the process of reviewing a job offer that had been made to me with a substantial pay increase for another organisation. On graduating from university this new role would have been just what I would have wanted to do, but not now. At this point I realised that my work wasn’t finished here at Fight for Peace in London.
I grew up in south east London and was surrounded by a gang culture. It was sport and good coaching that gave me direction. In my case it was the influence of many coaches and finally my college lecturer that finally changed my attitude towards education and made me realise my potential. I won’t go into it, but if not for him I would not had carried on my education and be in the role I am in today.
I have spent years coaching young people from “deprived communities” in the UK. I have also had the opportunity to coach in other areas around the world where young people are not presented with the same opportunities as those from wealthier upbringings. Many of the young people I work with are from single parent households and lack any kind of male role model. I am not saying the mothers are not doing amazing jobs by any means. Young boys will always find a role model of some kind, positive or negative.
In areas where crime and violence are rife, opportunities to participate in sport are sparse. Some organisations are doing great work in inner city communities and making a substantial impact. I feel this needs to be built upon and to do so we need to really invest in our coaches and volunteers. I am not just speaking about level 1 & 2 course from National Governing Bodies, I am talking more about educating sports coaches at all levels how we can maximise the impact we are having in the small amount of time we get with those young people.
How can we be a positive influence on them? What makes us such a positive role model? I believe that training around mental health and youth work should be a key focus for any coach. I have studied mental health for many years now. I find understanding the difficulties some people may be having really helps me to help people learn. I am also a level 3 qualified youth worker. It is the work I do 20 minutes before a sport session and 20 minutes after which is most important for me. Interacting with the young people and finding out about their day and getting to know them better. A coach need to understand how to deal with certain situations or information they are presented with. Get to know your young people, understand them and their background. Even if you have just one sessions with them, try to leave a lasting impact on just one person. It can changed someone’s life.
If you coach at a community level, you have got the most important job of all. The work you are doing does encourage young people to stay in sport and stay active. Without you guys we might miss the opportunity to produce our next generation of Olympic athletes. They may fall by the wayside never to be given the opportunity to compete at a regional level. They may fall in with the wrong crowd and begin to sell drugs at age 14 because the only role models in their lives have been the older kids that have been selling drugs and making good money doing so. Your influence as a coach can have a ripple effect through generations to come.
The words I say to the young people I work with on a daily basis and the words I am saying to you guys right now are not those of my own. They are the words of the coaches that have had such positive influence on me as a young person growing up in an area where all I knew was crime and violence.
Situations in your community may not be as extreme as the ones I experience every day, but that doesn’t mean your job becomes any less important. Think about whose positive message lives on through you. What coach or teacher had a positive impact on you? Do you coach the way they coached or encourage the way you were encouraged? By being such a positive role model you do not just effect the lives of the people you coach directly, but the lives of so many more that surround that person. The family of that young person you are coaching, the school in which they attend, the people in which they MAY have committed a crime against (no matter how serious). Most importantly, if you have positively influence this person and they carry on to take part in sport into their adult life, they too may become sports coaches and pass on those messages of positivity to the people they teach or become Olympic athletes representing their country. Imagine the influence you can have on the World if you concentrate a little harder on being a positive role model for the young people you coach and getting to know them a little better.
People don’t learn from people they don’t like.
Create a positive ripple effect that can live on for generations.
If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.
Coaches need to understand the powerful influence they have as a role model to the youth they coach. Have a look at this link A letter to my sons coach to enforce your message. Thanks for the article http://changingthegameproject.com/a-letter-to-my-sons-coach/
Love this Steve, I feel not enough is done with the more deprived communities and like you say there should be a separate qualification specifically for coaches working with communities and other areas. I come from a very small community and trying to get a multi sport club set up apart from the local young club there is nothing else for them to do other than setting fires to farmers fields, take drugs and under aged drinking. I have worked in Nottingham city where homeless young people is very high many having mental health, drug and alcohol issues, others coming out of prison due to crime and on YOT orders, have left home due to home life and are in social care then pushed back out of the system when they reach 21. I find young people very interesting, taking the time to listen to them their want's and needs is far better than pushing them to one side and thinking they are bad individuals that only cause trouble. I would love to get a program up and running for young people where a coach would go into a homeless hostel, children's homes, youth centres to get Young people back into sports and help them get back on their feet again. Would love to hear more of your stories Steve.
Thank you for sharing this Steve; I have been reflecting on my coaching practices recently and have realised I have been losing my way with my younger students. After so many years of teaching Karate you can forget the total impact you have on your younger charges.
I have returned to coaching youth rugby after a lay off of over 20 yrs. I did not realise how much I missed it. Many things have changed all for the better. Health and safety is a big issue and underpins all coaching that we do. In my town in County Durham my club is the only rugby club, the next nearest being aprox 7 miles away. I coach U17s and was surprised to see that a major local building firm actively seeks to recruit young people from the club because of the impact sport, and particularly rugby has on young people. Being a team sport, rugby has many facets and skills that have to be learned on an individual and team level.I have found that many skills can be transferable into the work place. For example, Listening skills, communication skills, problem solving, working as part of a team, being trusted to carry out a role and learning new skills and many more. "Rugby skills" if looked at correctly develop skills that benefit young people seeking employment. Many sports both team and individual can and do lend themselves to skill development that can have a positive impact on young people making their way in life and into the work place. The trick is in identifying those skills from a particular sport that can be a benefit at a job interview.
Hi Stevie very sad and inspirational.Although working within a performance academy environment I sometimes think as coaches we forget about developing individuals for life aswell as for the sport.
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