Mark  Gannon

This UK Coaching Week, we are recognising the incredible contribution of the nation’s three million coaches, and are calling for the wider sporting sector to acknowledge this contribution by building a care system that protects everyone, including coaches, equally.

There can be zero tolerance for those who do not prioritise the well-being of their participants. 

As sport rightfully recognises, safety, wellbeing and inclusion must always be the priority but in a fast-changing and sometimes unpredictable landscape we have to put the right support in place both to guide on best practice and give coaches the protection and assurance they deserve.

Just as coaches are there to provide support, guidance and inspiration for their participants, UK Coaching is here to do the same for coaches. 

We are proud to be here for the coach and we know through conversations with coaches that some are suffering to the point of depression because of the way they have been treated. 

No coach, who devotes their time, energy and expertise to supporting their participants, should ever feel victimised and that the care system in sport doesn’t treat them fairly. 

We cannot overtstate the severity of this concern - if there are coaches at the point of depression because of the way they have been treated, the current system is not working.  

Great coaching can change lives, and our amazing coaching workforce has a profound positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the nation - but without the necessary support, resources, and assurance, we cannot expect coaches to simply brave it alone.

Neglect of coaches will set sport in the UK back years. 

If we are to respond correctly and efficiently to the urgent issues of welfare and safety in sport, we have to support coaches with the resources to be the best they can be and to feel confident in their practice. 

Coaching is now rightfully included as a 'Position of Trust' in recent safeguarding legislation, and bodies need to work with and support coaches to ensure all participants have a positive experience in physical activity and sport.

This is why UK Coaching has launched the Duty to Care Hub, with resources to provide extensive learning and support for coaches who have found themselves under increasing pressure. 

The Duty to Care Hub and Digital Badge is intended to galvanise the coaching workforce to fulfil its obligations around the education and provision of duty to care, and to increase coaches’ confidence and put their own welfare, as well as the safety of their participants, at the centre of their coaching.

According to a recent YouGov report, commissioned by UK Coaching, 90 per cent of participants say they have confidence and trust in their coach. 

This insight shows us clearly that coaches are uniquely placed to provide essential 'wraparound care' for their participants, and can lead by example within their sport to promote and ensure the safety, well-being, and positive experience of all individuals involved in sport and physical activity. 

Participants know better than anyone how integral coaches are to delivering outstanding sporting experiences, and developing both athlete and person.

The critical role of safeguarding has been brought into focus by a number of high-profile athlete abuse investigations across major sports, including the publication of The Whyte Review and its recommendations to better protect participants. 

This has further galvanised our commitment to creating safer environments for all - the Duty to Care Hub includes guidance and resources on the topics of diversity, inclusion, mental health, well-being, safeguarding and safe to practice, that will help coaches grow their skills, knowledge and behaviours to tackle pressing welfare issues in physical activity and sport with confidence.

It is absolutely essential that coaches understand, practice and have the highest commitment to safe sport, and this knowledge base is the foundation of great coaching practice. 

But Duty to Care goes beyond safeguarding. At its core, we want to ensure we are helping coaches to create the best possible environments where everyone can thrive while making a positive difference to the health and happiness of the nation.

Through Duty to Care, UK Coaching is advocating for a care system in sport and physical activity that protects everyone equally - this includes coaches, as well as the wider support system of nutritionists, physios, strength and conditioning specialists, and administrators. 

As sport evolves further and we collectively see positive changes made to further insist upon safety and wellbeing as a priority, we insist that we all do more to ensure everyone within sport is treated equally.

Duty to Care doesn’t just apply to the people being coached - by caring for themselves, coaches can bring their best selves to sessions and continue to support more people across the nation to be active. 

To be a coach, especially at a high level, you are often putting yourself under intense scrutiny, and many do not realise the intense mental and psychological burden of coaching - whether that be pressure for results, how to deliver best practice, or an expectation to not show any emotion as part of a leadership position.

Whilst already committing to a challenging role, many coaches are being forced to contend with unrelenting pressure from outside forces, and our three million strong, amazing coaching workforce cannot continue to deliver for sporting communities if they are not given the appropriate suppport. 

As the leading voice of coaches in the UK, we are committed to creating equitable and inclusive environments within coaching, and all forms of sport and physical activity delivery, with the highest commitment to safe sport as the foundation of great coaching practice.

UK Coaching Week is the annual national awareness campaign which empowers athletes, coaches and the public to celebrate great coaching. 

We all know coaches continue to make an immeasurable difference to the health and happiness of the nation, and to ensure this can continue, our learning resources will equip coaches with the knowledge, behaviours and skills needed to provide the best possible care for their participants.

At a time where we are looking closely at how we ensure safety and a positive, inclusive culture across every sport, it has never been more important for us to actively support coaches and advocate Duty to Care for all.

To find out more about Duty to Care and to access the Hub, click here.