On Wednesday 4th March, 95 coaches descended on the Fielder Centre in Hatfield for a day of learning, sharing and developing. With more than 75% of the regional championships qualifying clubs in attendance, it was a great showing and a wonderful opportunity for our coaches to develop. To see so many club coaches both full time and part time (paid and volunteer) coaches in attendance was testament to the engagement that exists in the region. The move to a weekday conference to ease crowding of weekends was very well recieved and even supported by schools who allowed their teaching staff who also coach to attend – so a huge thank you to everyone who came along!
The day opened with a short presentation from the regional talent officer on how working with athletes as people can open many doors in the future, both in their swimming careers and in wider life. He also spoke about how the combined knowledge of 95 coaches was over a 1000 years worth of invaluable resources and the various ways both during the conference and post-event, that would help share that knowledge.
The first guest speaker was Richard Cheetham MBE (Twitter @twowheelprof). UK Coaching in 2018 recognised Richard as their coach developer of the year and he certainly delivered a great experience for our coaches. Talking through the range of ways in which coaches and athletes learned, which involved some really engaging and interactive activities, with one of our coaches winning the coveted £1 prize for their observation skills.
Following Richard was Sport England’s Stuart Armstrong (@stu_arm). He gave a fascinating oversight into the changing way in which coaches are being supporting in this country and how the landscape of training and ongoing coach development is evolving too. For all coaches involved in the sport it is a very exciting time and great to see some long overdue professionalization coming to fruition.
Our final speaker before the lunchbreak really brought the effect of OADF and the principles behind it. Richard Allen, currently the head of football at Loughborough university who was also formerly the head of talent ID for the FA shared some of his experiences from a different perspective in football. Giving some great case studies, most notably Harry Kane, he brought to life the key attributes that enabled Harry’s success in his senior years that were evident early on in his sporting career.
During the lunchbreak the coaches networked, shared ideas and thoughts on the morning’s presentations and contributed to our ‘post-it challenge’, which pulled some key messages from our coaches to help shape future resources. Moving into the afternoon the focus was shifted solely to swimming with two speakers who gave frank and honest accounts of their experiences.
Kevin Brooks (@kevbrookscoach) the head coach at Wycombe District Swimming Club (@wycombe_swim), gave a really insightful account of his journey as a coach and the programme at Wycombe as it’s evolved over the last decade. Kevin demonstrated the various structures that have been put in place to enable the sustainable long term success the club enjoys, including implementation of club awards, the use of OADF across the club and his philosophies on supporting the entire club, not just the performance section.
Following that we had back to back talks from Loughborough National Centre (@NTCLoughborough) Coach Dave Hemmings (@DaveHemmingsGBR). Dave’s first talk was illuminating as to the challenges that working with senior athletes entails, and really brought home not just from an OADF perspective, but to all our age/youth coaches the importance of laying good foundations in the early years when working with a young athlete. His second talk shared lots of stories from ‘the arena’, specifically around managing as a coach and an athlete in pressured environments. Again this is something that coaches could really relate to, whatever level they are working at. We all have an ‘Olympics’ in our club seasons and it is vital for coaches to be mindful of both their own behaviours in pressured environments, but also to develop athletes to be more robust to environmental pressures – it was a very interesting insight.
Finally to round off the event, the regional talent officer hosted open floor questions to both Dave Hemmings and Kevin Brooks. 50 minutes later and the floor were still throwing ideas out there, which really showed how the day had brought out so many thoughts from the attending coaches. It was a brilliant day and a huge thank you is needed, both to the facility for hosting a great event and to the regional board for supporting this great development opportunity. We look ahead to our conference in 2021 – save the date for Wednesday 3rd March.
If you’re a coach and you’re not already signed up to our various coach communication platforms, our newsletter signup is on the top right of the regional home page and we are on both Twitter and Facebook – just search for “East Region Swimming Coaches Network”. Thank you finally to Blythe Neighbour, our University of Hertfordshire student, who took photographs across the day for us (Insta @bpn.photography)