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Does your sports club employ staff?

If so, do you prioritise employee learning and development? In order to succeed, it’s essential for these types of clubs to have a Continuing Professional Development, or CPD, plan in place for the whole club – but how can you go about creating and implementing this? Read our article to find out.

What is Continuing Professional Development?

CPD is the term used when professionals improve their knowledge or understanding within their chosen industry or job function. It essentially means learning, training, and general professional development.

This can take the form of informal, in-house up-skilling sessions – such as learning from a colleague or manager – as well as more formal, extensive CPD like external training courses.

Many within sports organisations will be familiar with formal, external training, as coaches need to obtain certain professional qualifications in order to do their job. But does your club commit to a culture of learning outside of these essential qualifications?

Establishing CPD requirements within your sports club

How does your club decide what professional training your team is going to undertake? There are two ways that CPD is instigated:

1. Top-down – leaders, managers or directors deciding to introduce new methodologies or knowledge into the club

2. Bottom-up – coaching staff acknowledging skills gaps, and informing leadership of the required training

It’s important that clubs are opening themselves up to both of these options. If you’re a coach within a club, do you speak up to management, and share your ideas about changes or training needed? Recognise the value of feeding back your thoughts with your club’s leadership; you have unique insight that non-coaching staff do not.

Equally, if you’re part of the leadership team, do you encourage your coaching staff to share their ideas? They are the people ‘on the ground’, so will pick up on any changes that are needed first. For example, noticing that a number of athletes are struggling with the same issue, that could be fixed if training on a particular coaching method was offered.

As a manager, it can be difficult to introduce a culture of openness and idea sharing among your team – especially if this is something that hasn’t historically existed. But this is key in ensuring the CPD your people are doing is relevant and genuinely useful.

Ask yourself: what is the goal?

Before undergoing or introducing any training at your club, it’s essential to first be clear on your aim. Ask yourself: by booking our coaching staff onto that training course, what are we hoping to achieve? Or, by asking our head coach to run an in-house session on that particular topic, will that achieve our goal?

If you’re unsure of the answer, then take a step back to work out what the overarching goal of this activity is. Does it align with your club’s objectives? If not, it needs to be reconsidered.

In addition, be mindful that an entirely ad-hoc approach to training is not going to result in success for your club. You need to instead create a business plan, in which you embed your CPD programme. For example, deciding that in a year’s time, you’d like to be able to offer training in a new discipline or level. In order to achieve that goal, X members of your coaching staff need to attend X courses.

Hosting in-house CPD days

As we mentioned earlier, CPD doesn’t always have to take the route of formal – often expensive – training courses. Your employees have a wealth of knowledge between them, so capitalise on this.

One great way to do this is by hosting in-house CPD days. Alongside practical or technical training and development sessions, you could also run some activities to highlight what development is needed within your club. For example:

  • Anonymous Q&A – ask your team to write their questions for management on a piece of paper and drop them into a box. These could be business-related or coaching-related. You can then pull these out one-by-one, providing honest answers to the group as a whole
  • Thought-sharing – split your team into groups, and provide each with a topic. For example ‘senior leadership’. Ask them to write down what their expectations are for that group – is there anything currently missing? Or should be done differently?

Both of these exercises create an open, non-judgemental environment for the day. And they also help to establish what CPD is required – whether that’s due to reoccurring coaching-related questions during the Q&A, or concerns around leadership competency.

Remember that these sessions need to remain completely anonymous. During the thought-sharing activity, everyone must be comfortable in writing down their honest thoughts and feelings. There mustn’t be any concerns around judgement, or even a risk of getting ‘in trouble’ for providing their feedback.

Also reiterate that no question is stupid, and ensure everyone is listened to and respected in the same way. Otherwise, the purpose of the activity is destroyed. This is about building trust with your team; demonstrating that you’re open to their ideas and suggestions.

CPD is necessary for all seniority levels within your club

It’s important that during these CPD days, there is senior leadership/management presence. If they are absent, what message does that send to more junior members of staff? That the leaders are all-knowing, with no room for improvement? No matter the circumstances, that is not the case. There is always more to learn, for everyone.

Ensuring stakeholders from all levels within your organisation take part in CPD days will further unite the club. It also demonstrates your club’s commitment to learning and development to your people.

But be careful that leaders and managers do not dominate too much on these days. This is your opportunity to hear from the coaching staff. For example, coaches who work for a few hours each week, and have great insight into the club’s and athletes’ needs from an ‘on the ground’ level. These people need to feel comfortable opening up and being involved in the CPD session. So ensure that they are not intimidated or discouraged by leadership dominance.

Embed ad-hoc training into your CPD plan

Although an entirely ad-hoc approach to CPD isn’t recommended, you should still involve staff in on-the-spot training opportunities as part of your wider CPD programme. This is particularly relevant for coaching staff. For example, a 15-minute session at the end of training, highlighting some strength and conditioning exercises to help avoid specific athlete injuries.

Drip-feeding tips and advice in short snippets like this ensures your staff are continuing to develop – even if you are struggling to find the time for whole-day training sessions.

A commitment to CPD is crucial in ensuring continued success. While qualifications and external courses are essential, informal in-house and ad-hoc training still needs to be embedded into your development plans.

Remember, successful development is a two-way process. It requires work and involvement from leadership and coaching staff; both parties can help each other.

This article was based on a live video hosted by Alex Row, LoveGymnastics Community Ambassador. If you’re involved with a gymnastics or football club and are interested in watching similar videos in future, join our dedicated Facebook Communities:

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