One of the most common challenges grassroots sports club owners and managers face is finding and attracting new coaches. Not only that, but being able to retain them, too. Rabin Beeloo, Head Coach at Chelmsford Gymnastics Club, told us ‘This has been an ongoing issue for clubs for years… It goes in a cycle; you get coaches in at Level 1, train them up, and then they leave for university or for better paid employment in other sectors.’
And having spoken to our community of club owners and leaders, it seems to be the same story no matter the sport. So, what can you do differently to both increase the number of new coaches entering your club, and reduce the number exiting?
In this article, we share seven top tips to increase your coach attraction and retention, with words of wisdom from the experts along the way.
1. Partner with local education centres
A great source for finding new coaches interested in a career in sport is by connecting with local colleges, schools and universities. Many students completing a sports diploma or qualification will be interested in gaining some hands-on coaching experience to complement their studies.
Finding those coaches whom are truly passionate about coaching at all levels is a challenge. We are creating links with local colleges to find more sports specific coaches.
– Rabin Beeloo, Head Coach, Chelmsford Gymnastics Club
We linked up with a local sports college, as they often have students completing their Level 1 and 2 qualifications and are in need of placements. They can shadow our coaches and get the experience they need. Our hope is that they will then join the club and take on coaching their own teams. This works both ways, as we hope it will inspire some of our older players to join the college, and follow the same path.
– Colin Fyfield, Coach, Aldershot Boys & Girls Football Club
But how do you go about establishing these partnerships with colleges or schools? The key thing to remember is that these are relationships that need to be nurtured and grown over time – starting with first identifying the right contact within the organisation.
2. Create Young Leader programmes for your athletes
When we spoke to our community of experts, the overwhelming feedback was to train up your younger athletes. Many clubs have implemented successful Young Leader programmes to introduce athletes to coaching at an early age:
We always grow our own coaches. When your gymnasts know that as they get older, they may have an opportunity to earn good money coaching at the club, not only will prospective coaches come to you, you will also keep more of your gymnasts as they get older.
– Paul Vernon Kaye, Chairman, Saturn V Association of Gymnastics and Trampoline clubs
We have a leadership academy, which older gymnasts can join from the age of 12. They then have access to training opportunities and volunteering with qualified coaches.
They eventually become our qualified coaches and this year will be our first where at least one of these youngsters will join the team full time after leaving college, so we are now reaping the benefits!
– Carly Hawke, CEO, Wye Gymnastics & Galaxy Cheerleading
Not only do these programmes introduce loyal coaches to your team, they bring other benefits to your club, too:
Most of our team of coaches started out as gymnasts. We have recently introduced a Young Leaders programme, which has increased the amount of regular volunteers within the 12-17 age sector, and we anticipate this will also increase the pool of young members wishing to develop their skills to include coaching. But it has also helped to recruit young members wishing to help with fundraising, events, admin, assisting the creation of a Youth Forum, and to enrol for judging courses.
– Ruth Griffin, Development Officer, City of Edinburgh Gymnastics Club
When implementing these programmes, it’s important to consider succession planning. What is stage one of the Young Leader scheme? What needs to be achieved to move onto stage two, which involves more responsibility?
Having this plan in place makes the programme even more attractive to potential applicants. And it helps to retain them too; they know how and when they’ll progress to the next stage in their career.
These programmes don’t have to just be for young athletes at your club, though. You could explore a volunteer scheme for non-athletes too:
As well as Young Leaders, we are now starting a volunteer programme for adults too, with the incentive that we pay for their Level 1 training once they are ready. Then when they’re qualified, they can apply for a paid coaching role!
– Rudi Wall, Owner, TJ Gymnastics Academy Boston
3. Bring apprentices onto the team
Apprenticeships are a great way to ‘home-grow’ loyal coaches at your club. Often, they will go on to become full time members of staff once their apprenticeship has finished.
Remember, though, that apprentices have a commitment to college or school, meaning they may not have the flexibility or commitment that full time employees do. But it’s important to support them through their studies as much as possible, so that you’re creating an environment that they want to continue working in.
If you can do that successfully, this is certainly a long-term solution for bringing new coaches into your team.
4. Reach out to your loyal network of parents
Don’t forget that you have a group of potential coaches right at your fingertips – the parents at your club:
Email all parents notifying them of the opportunity and say that training and Level 1 qualifications will be provided. It takes time, but a £320 Level 1 course cost is worth it!
– Lauren Nicole, Owner, Ignite Gymnastics
Parents spend a lot of time at your club – even if that’s just watching their child from the sidelines during training sessions. Plus they are often very loyal to the club, too. So while they’re at the club for their child’s training, why not involve them in running other sessions?
5. Offer incentives to new coaches
Financial incentives won’t be an option for every club, but if you can afford to, this is a brilliant way to increase retention:
Our volunteer and Young Leader programmes lead to paid employment. We found that without paying, we would lose young coaches to other part time jobs, and parents would leave when their child did. So we’ve found this retains coaches much better.
– Alisa Saunders, founder, Witham Hill Gymnastics Club
6. Ensure your workplace is as appealing as possible
Does your clubhouse or training ground need a revamp? Making your facilities the best they can be goes a long way in attracting new coaches to your club. Remember, as we discussed in our Parent Factor blog series, you can easily enlist the help of parents with maintenance at your club.
Perhaps you could close your club for a couple of days, and ask parents to help redecorate? Small factors like a nice work environment improve the overall employee experience at your club – therefore increasing staff retention.
7. Empower your people
As we mentioned, we know it won’t be possible for every club to offer paid coaching positions or financial incentives. But something unique that grassroots coaching offers to people is the difference they’d be making to many lives.
Coaches teach valuable skills; providing a safe, fun space for children to learn and grow – developing both their sporting skills, as well as life skills such as communication with other children and adults.
In addition, many people make great friends with those in their sports team. So coaches also enable young people to find long-lasting friendships.
A lot of people are now searching for more meaning in their work; they want to have a purpose. Being a grassroots coach is a fantastic way of achieving that. So make sure you’re making that clear to anyone who is currently a coach at your club, or when advertising new coaching roles.
Hopefully, by following these seven steps, you’ll be able to increase the number of new coaches at your club. But most importantly, by offering incentives like free training, clear progression, or simply by reminding them of the good they’re doing for many young lives, you’ll be able to retain your coaches for years to come.
This article was based on a live video hosted by Alex Row, LoveGymnastics Community Ambassador, with input from our followers. If you’re involved with a grassroots club and want to be part of the discussion, join our dedicated Facebook Communities:
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