I love coaching.
I love almost every opportunity to coach, and I feel joyful standing out on the grass with my session set up before the players arrive knowing that I’m about to get another opportunity to coach.
But I know that too many of you do not.
I know this from being around sport, from talking, watching and noticing who is missing each year. I know this from reading the results of the Sport Waikato Voice of the Coach survey. This is sad; for the rangatahi who don’t have enough coaches to ensure they can all take part in a sport they desire. And it is sad for the enthusiastic, the passionate and the reluctant volunteers who put their hands up to support the kids - then depart just as quickly as they arrived.
Volunteering New Zealand lists the two biggest reasons that volunteers choose to depart their volunteering roles as: time and being valued, and being aligned with the organisation or cause. The Voice of the Coach survey agrees that the biggest barrier to coaching is time! Volunteer coaches form the largest unpaid workforce in Aotearoa - you just have to look around the sports fields, courts and pools to see the number of coaches needed to support our rangatahi (and tamariki) in their pursuit of sport of choice. Picture those same places without the coaches and consider how much sport would take place without them.
This is exactly what sport faces at the start of every season; wondering how the multitudes of young people signing up to run, jump, throw, kick and hit are going to be supported in their passion.
Coaching can be lonely. You are responsible for equipment, communicating and coordinating with the rangatahi, you get ‘feedback’ from observers who have no intention of giving up their spare time like you do, and you constantly worry about doing a good job for the young people who rely on you to turn up, to encourage and celebrate them all while putting your own life and stresses aside for those hours each week.
New coaches are most at risk of having such a poor experience and those who are in the first two years of coaching told us:
“Putting your hand up to coach a team without any resources offered, especially if you are not experienced in the sport, can be a stressful and deflating experience.”
“If I were to recommend a friend or someone to coach then I would definitely be there to support them and help in any way they need just like I would have wanted when I first started coaching”.
Fortunately, they also tell us that other coaches are having the same experience that I am and that for many of us it is the relationships, the opportunities to connect and grow with others on the same journey or with our participants, and the development of the young people we strive to serve that inspires us. This is the experience that I want for all our coaches, that they impart their passion to their participants and come back to do that season after season.
I know that I now try to reach out to any coaches I meet or share a club with to create connections just so they know someone is there to help if they need something.
My challenge to all of you who recruit coaches, benefit from them in the lives of your rangatahi, walk past them in a sports club or school where you work, or value sport, is to think how you could make authentic connections too – value their contributions, support their aspirations and be sure to thank them more often than at the end of a long and lonely season.
Tracy Wrigley is passionate about improving the development services targeted towards coaches of youth in secondary school and community sport settings with the aim of improving youth sport experiences. This includes facilitating a shift in coaching practices among coaches in the Waikato region to increase values-based coaching that ensures climates of development are privileged over climates of performance. In particular, Tracy adopts a sport development approach to ensure participation and development opportunities are prioritised for all participants to ensure inclusive coaching practices and sport environments exist across the region.