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There is no “I” in STREAM – Youth Sport Coaching During Lockdown

COVID-19 social distancing measures have forced coaches to develop new ways to engage with their participants. Technology is central to helping coaches do just that. In this blog, Sergio Lara-Bercial reflects on the first 4 weeks of cybercoaching.
Netball player being coached

Coaches have nothing so universally recognized as the Hippocratic oath. Yet, they have something akin to a physician’s commitment to “do no harm” and “enter the house of those in need”. Day after day, coaches help countless people to fulfil their respective needs. COVID-19 presents all coaches with the test of our lives; how do we fulfil our equivalents of the Hippocratic oath as THE COACH in the era of “social distancing”? Our responsibility to deliver powerful developmental experiences has rarely been more tested. 

Make no mistake, the kids I coach have the same needs as 4 weeks ago, perhaps even more. New and different needs have emerged through isolation, lack of familiar routines and/or handling relentless parental demands about tidying rooms and doing online homework. Enter TECHNOLOGY!

Over the last month or so, since we had to cancel practices and games, we explored technological options to keep the boys connected and active and help them build a new normal as the world order changes. We tried lots of different things using videoconferencing and WhatsApp, including:
- Fitness sessions
- Games nights (quizzes, etc)
- Movie nights
- Re-watching of our matches
- Basketball homework
- Q&A sessions with other coaches and experts

United by a concern for continuity, our activities now focus on three interconnected principles: our very own first-aid-like CPR of Connection, Purpose and Reflection. 

Connection: we do ‘connection’ activities to help the boys link to each other and to their sport. 

Purpose: we deliver activities with high meaning for each boy; it must be obvious that today’s activities link with our pre-lockdown programme. This develops both the person and/or the player.

Reflection: we dedicate time for the boys to reflect on their actions, to discuss their continued development and to be honest (to themselves and to others) about their feelings. 

The boys are still attending, but we need to keep things fresh and shiny. Online novelty is a thin veneer; with our CPR principles, supplemented by diversity and variety, we will continue to deliver good online sessions. We hang on, doing our best and constantly adapting; nothing new there. That’s coaching…

#StaySafe #StayConnected

@DrSergioLara_EU @iCoachKidsEU

Professor Sergio Lara-Bercial

Professor / Carnegie School Of Sport

Sergio is a Professor of Sport Coaching. A former Team GB coach Sergio has extensive international experience in the development and evaluation and coach education systems. He has also conducted research into High Performance Coaching and Positive Youth Development. Sergio is the director of the globally acclaimed iCoachKids project.

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