So, Debbie has asked me to write about coaching for her blog. I won’t bore you with the numbers and tell you in what years I did what, but if I have encouraged at least one person to take up coaching or encouraged a current coach to try something in a slightly different way after reading this then my job is done. I may have a successful business now but how did I get there?

So why did I start coaching? Simply put, all of my life I have loved sport. Always played it, always watched it and now my younger years are behind me it’s a dream way of me still being involved in sport. I want to help a child or young person to play with a smile on their face and enjoy it all just as much as I did.

It all started at a bit of a crossroads in my life. I’d had my daughter really young, like only just out of school young! To help support her and my family I took any job I could find but quite frankly hated every minute of it. It wasn’t what I was passionate about and hated getting up in the morning for work. When my daughter was 3, my mum and her went our separate ways. That was in the joyous days of despite being her dad and helping raise her every day for 3 years I had no rights or a leg to stand on so she went to live with her mum. I really wasn’t sure what to do with myself at the start, but decided to enrol at Brunel University and study a Sports Science degree, specialising in coaching.

Three years fly by and I graduate with my degree, only to find that what seems like 99% of coaching roles are voluntary or poorly paid at best! So again in the meantime to support myself and my daughter I plough on with jobs that I was less than enthusiastic about! Because the biggest lesson I have learnt through all of this is never give up on your dream, if you’re that passionate about something that much and want it that badly then go and make it happen!

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Because to get somewhere in coaching, from my own experiences you have to serve an apprenticeship almost. Gain some experiences to go with your qualifications but never feel like you know it all. You’re never too old to learn something new. Take some coaching courses, challenge your own preconceived ideas and look at things in many different ways. I did and will continue to do so with reflection and CPD courses.

I owe a lot to Perranporth RFC, one of the first rugby clubs to let me loose on a voluntary basis on the under 12’s. Any teacher or coach will tell you trying to get a group of kids to listen to you for more than 5 seconds at a time whilst its hammering it down with rain and blowing a gale is a challenge in itself! It helped me to develop my coaching philosophy, including to remember that I love coaching the sport and to be positive in all that I do. It also helped me to realise the biggest passion I have within coaching is youth development.

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Since the volunteering stages, I’ve gone on to work for or be involved in some fantastic projects such as Rugby Tots, O2 Touch and PE teaching in schools for a local company. No matter what age group I’m coaching (even the adults!) the bottom line is I want it to be fun. Yes, I may have OCD with being organised and writing my coaching plans! But if its not active and enjoyable then what’s the point? Kids want to run around and play games not drills, nothing new there! The key for me is to preload the games with decision making and learning outcomes that they don’t even know they are doing until you review it with them and sum up at the end. Learning without even knowing about it or having to think, ideal!

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Another huge tool for my coaching is feedback. With children, 1 or 2 things at a time and always positive! Encouragement alone (a simple “great pass Jack”!) and feeling like they are always achieving and doing well can develop a child in so many ways, and not just in sport but also in life. Sadly during games on a Sunday morning I’ve heard coaches and parents alike shout and gesture some pretty shitty things towards those playing. I’ve never seen some kids confidence levels and heads drop faster than when this happens. If you are one of these parents or coaches, please stop. You’re doing so much damage, the match result does not reflect on you or your child. Result aside, they can and are winning in so many other ways. Did they out pass or out score their opposite number. Did they tackle more or run further than anybody else on that pitch? All of these should be recognised as winning and kids need to know you value the effort they’ve put in and their enjoyment of the game above anything else. An experienced RFU development officer once said to me the only five words you need to feedback to a team of children after a game is “I love watching you play”. Maybe add in a “well done” or “fantastic effort” but try it. It’s stuck with me and I bet you will be surprised to the reaction it gets and the effect it has.

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I’ve had some amazing success’ and personal recognition through coaching. I’ve been invited to play at Twickenham twice, and have carried my 3 week old son (at the time) out of the players tunnel and onto the pitch. I’ve watched Rugby World Cup quarter finals as a VIP guest and been invited to Buckingham Palace for The 2015 RWC reception with the Queen, Prince Harry and just about every rugby personality known to man! As part of the O2 Touch programme I’ve also been lucky to have been hand picked by Jonny Wilkinson for me and my team to hang out with him on the O2 Touch tour. I’ve most recently been chosen by O2 Sports to be part of the Rose Army, a group of die hard supporters that follow England Rugby everywhere! So if you’ve seen my social media before you will already understand what I spend most time talking about! This to one side though, my biggest and most favourite achievements are when children ask to play certain games again because they like them so much, or having them cheer when you tell them what we are going to do. Hearing a parent say thank you because their autistic son who doesn’t normally join in with games because he feels different and afraid has had a great time and hasn’t stopped smiling or playing for the entire session. They are by far the best things about coaching.

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I’ve now been blessed with building up my own business providing coaching and PE in local schools. It’s not a case of slowing down and passing it into others, I want to take on even more coaching and bring in others with the same enthusiasm to carry the business and as importantly the fun forwards! So in summary id simply say this. If you enjoy your coaching then so will the children. Be enthusiastic, be energetic and make it FUN! Help them to develop them through small sided games and activities, not boring drills! Yes provide guidance and coaching points but then set them a challenge where they solve the answer themselves and can be creative. Ask questions, what why and how? Be a seller and not a teller, you will be surprised at just how imaginative, intelligent and creative they can be!

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Right I’ve rambled on now for long enough. All that needs to be said now is if you haven’t already guessed I love talking about sports and coaching! Feel free to chat with me on Twitter @_CoachLee or Instagram @rugbycoachlee. Likewise my business website is www.nsbsportscoaching.com and we are also on Twitter and Facebook, just search for NSB Sports Coaching.

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