Since I started coaching sport, way back in 1991 there’s a been a huge shift in the responsibilities of exercise coaches.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a sports coach, a fitness professional or a teacher in schools, the role of the exercise coach has shifted dramatically.
30 years ago, the focus was very much on the practical aspect of the training.
But now, the pressure on coaches to consider the mental wellbeing of our participants and their cultural backgrounds (and the impact that has on their participation), to make sure we’re selecting exercises that include everyone, no matter what their ability level and so much more stuff than just the physical training is immense.
And for many coaches it can be overwhelming.
I mean, how on earth do you keep all those plates spinning and still focus on the sport or area of fitness you love?
I guess I’ve been super fortunate in my life.
In a primary school of just 90 kids (in the whole school), two of my favourite people were from what are now called “minority” groups.
One had physical and emotional disabilities, and the other was from what would now be called a “mixed race” background.
It didn’t matter to me what label was put on them, they were just my friends.
And even in that small school, they still experienced bullying & name calling for being different.
It made me angry then, and still does!
In my Secondary school, my Head of PE, David Geldart was both an inspiration and a hinderance to me.
Inclusion seeped through that man’s bones.
I don’t remember ever playing the “proper” rules of a game in class. He always adapted them to make sure the less able players got a touch of the ball.
He just had a knack of making the less able the stars of the show and in doing so, he taught the more able to celebrate in their success instead of trying to exclude them for not being good enough.
Looking back, it was truly inspiring to experience and observe, but I’m pretty sure that not knowing the proper rules of common sports was a huge setback when it came to my teaching degree ?
Growing up with these experiences, and not feeling like I fit in anywhere except in sport has played a huge role in everything I do – but I know that there are many coaches who haven’t been blessed with a Mr. Geldart in their lives.
Fortunately, I’m also a huge nerdy problem solver.
As a coach, having to consider all these aspects of coaching sport and fitness can seem like a huge responsibility, and like you’ll never be able to cover everything.
It can feel like focusing on mental wellbeing or other “soft” skills will take away from the physical aspect of training.
And I agree, when we look at each individual element as something we need to focus on, there’s no way we can possibly cover everything.
That’s why we shouldn’t.
We are in a unique position as exercise coaches.
We have access to the one tool that can do most of our job for us – we just need to be able to wield it in a way that covers everything at once…
We don’t need to wait for the intensity of exercise to improve mental health – we can use movement to do that right from the start of the warm up.
We don’t need to ask those carrying injuries to do different exercises (excluding them from the group) – we can use movements that EVERYONE can do, whether they are injured or not.
And best of all, we can use our powers of observation to notice potential motivation, anxiety and injury problems before we even get to the movement stuff!
So, if there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from this, it’s that you don’t have to worry about spending time on each of your individual responsibilities as a coach.
You can cover much of them all at once simply by using movement.
Oh, and by the way, if you want to learn more about the exact strategies you can use to do this, check out “Unlocking Fitness Book 1: Mental and Physical Health Decoded” and all the extra FREE trainings at unlockingfitness.com