How inclusive practice can transform the lives of young people

Colleague spotlight | Dr Nicola Clarke


Nicola Clarke

As a Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching at Leeds Beckett University, Dr Nicola Clarke strives to ensure inclusivity is at the heart of her teaching and research projects. Driven by her passion for young people to develop through access to equal opportunities in sport, Nicola shares with us why inclusive practice is so important for young people.

Tell us a bit about you and what led you to working with Carnegie School of Sport

After graduating with a first-class degree in Sports and Exercise Sciences, I embarked upon a career in sports development. Working for a national governing body of sport, followed by the Youth Sport Trust charity, developed my passion for ensuring all children and young people have access to high quality physical education (PE) and sport. My responsibilities included creating resources, delivering training, and facilitating networking for coaches and teachers, with a focus on inclusion. I met some truly inspirational practitioners who cemented my commitment to inclusive practice, which I strive to live out in my current teaching and research roles.

My industry experience prompted me to question why inequalities exist in youth sport and made me want to learn more deeply about effective coaching practice – leading me to change careers and begin a PhD at Loughborough University. My research explored the experiences of parents, young players, and coaches within elite youth football academies, and was funded by the Football Association (the FA). I was able to use my findings to create workshops and resources for parents in relation to supporting their children in a high-performance environment, and advice for coaches for working collaboratively with parents. With my passion for research and teaching now established, I was delighted to take up a role as Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at Leeds Beckett University in 2015.

What makes you passionate about Sports Coaching and why is it important?

I strongly believe that when a positive and inclusive environment is created, sport has the potential to transform young people’s lives. There are more opportunities than ever before for children to take part in organised sport and therefore coaches play a crucial role in introducing children to sport and supporting their development through sport. I am passionate about teaching on our Sports Coaching degree programmes, as the courses have a strong focus on connecting contemporary research to practical coaching delivery, and are underpinned by values of inclusivity and equity.

I feel privileged to play a part in supporting our students on their journey to becoming effective youth sport coaches.

How is collaboration integral to your work, and what are one or two collaborations that have been most meaningful to you?

Collaboration is integral to my approach to delivering high quality teaching and research. I am fortunate to work alongside a team of passionate, dedicated, knowledgeable staff, who I learn from through reflexive conversations about our practice and pedagogy.

Working collaboratively with industry partners is really important to ensure my research is grounded in practical problems faced by coaches and sports organisations. For example, I have continued to work with the FA alongside colleagues from the Carnegie School of Sport on research that has helped to identify ways that under-represented coaches can be better supported to progress in their careers.

What achievements in this area have you been most proud of while working in Carnegie School of Sport?

I volunteered as the coach for the university korfball team for four years. During this time, I was proud to support the club to grow its membership, mentor assistant coaches, watch a talented group of students develop as players and as people, and help the team to reach their first ever BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) national finals. My coaching experiences have enhanced my teaching, as I can draw upon authentic coaching problems to explain theories and concepts.

Dr Nicola Clarke

Senior Lecturer / Carnegie School Of Sport

Nicola is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching and joined Leeds Beckett University in 2015. Her research interests include parenting in youth sport and qualitative research methods.

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