Submission to the All Party Group on Sport

The state of sports coaching in the UK



The Leisure Review is a magazine for practitioners in the sport, leisure and culture sector which in the five years since its launch has developed a strong sports coaching thread. This in turn has led us to offer the Coaching Insights seminars, a series of local opportunities for developed coaches to come together and debate issues of concern to them. Because we talk to and listen to coaches it has become increasingly obvious to us that sports coaches, coach developers and coach managers are concerned at the direction and speed of progress in the development of a UK coaching system.

Last year we wrote to Lord Pendry expressing this concern and he was kind enough to invite us to submit this briefing paper. To inform the briefing we contacted 111 members of the coaching community, including grassroots volunteers, professional coach development managers and senior academics.


2012 will see an explosion of interest in and support for the UK’s sports teams as the Olympics come to town. Our elite performers will deliver medals in part thanks to the sport science and coaching systems put in place by UK Sport, both of which are world-leading.

Below the elite level, however, despite people such as Liz Nicholl arguing that “Quality coaching is fundamental to British sporting success”, we have reached a place that has prompted Lord Coe to say, “We have consistently, to our shame, undervalued the role of coaching and demeaned its definition.” Baroness Campbell has also asserted that “coaching in this country is nowhere near where it needs to be”.

The perspective of people at the very top of the British sports system is shared by people within it and this submission is an attempt to identify the most commonly held opinions as to why this is the case. Unfortunately the solutions that will drive the transformational change that is needed at every level are neither agreed nor simple and will require both time and a real political will to achieve.

The current situation

The messages received from coaches have some common threads:


The way forward

Being coaches we look for solutions but the challenge is complex. As a minimum we would suggest:

Final word

The situation is complex and the solutions on offer as varied as the constituencies offering them but, below the elite level, one thing is clear: coaching in Britain is broke and it does need fixing and if the legacy expectations for London 2012 are to be realised the process needs to start very soon.




The Leisure Review, July/August 2012

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