Report paints bleak picture of working conditions of European coaches
The research, led by academics from the Carnegie School of Sport as part of the iCoachKids project, has uncovered a general lack of recognition of the work of children’s coaches, as well as difficulties in regards to regulation, education and development opportunities.
The report, compiled by Dr AJ Rankin-Wright, Dr Julian North and Sergio Lara-Bercial, provides an overview of the characteristics of children’s coaches, and their education and learning conditions in seven European countries - Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. The researchers established an understanding of the current approaches to sport coaching in each country, the demographic, and training characteristics of children’s coaches, and the development and education opportunities available to them.
The ‘iCoachKids: Innovative Education & Training for a Specialist Children & Youth Coaching Workforce’ project aims to tackle the lack of existing opportunities for coaches of children to be suitably trained and recognised across Europe. The project, which began in 2016, will overturn this situation through the development of open and innovative education and training resources and opportunities for youth coaches.
The report reveals four key areas of concern that data are making progress slow and difficult:
- A general lack of recognition of the children’s coach.
- A dearth of regulation including legislation, certification and licensing.
- The existence of a very reduced number of education and development opportunities for children’s coaches.
- A consistent absence of reliable information in relation to the demographic, education and employment characteristics of children’s coaches.
It is estimated that up to nine million coaches deliver sport activities to 100 million citizens of the EU every single day and that around 80 per cent of these coaches work with children, but fewer than half of these coaches are qualified. Those who are typically hold lower level generic qualifications that do not prepare them specifically to work with this age-group.
Speaking about the findings, lead researcher Sergio Lara-Bercial, said: “Development opportunities for coaches are generally limited, however this is exacerbated for coaches working with children. Typically coach education is focused on the performance pathway, preparing coaches to work with elite level athletes, but we know that over 80% of these coaches are working with kids.
“In this report we identify the lack of regulation in the profession in order to advance the role and recognition of coaches. At present coaches working with young players (unless in academy settings) are seen as interested volunteers, not professionals. They do play however a very important role and their contribution should be valued much more.
“Through the research we did discover however, a growing awareness as to the importance of children’s coaches, the need to raise their profile, and better support, educate and develop them. There was agreement that creating awareness of what constitutes quality coaching for children was necessary across all countries, including in clubs, schools and for parents. As a result of this work we will provide educational resources specifically targeted at children’s coaches that will be freely available for all children’s coaches, as well as any sport clubs, to access.
“This report confirms the need for iCoachKids to continue to raise the profile of children’s coaches in the European Union, and to promote the creation of more robust education and regulation systems. This is the only way to maximise the potential of youth sport in society and guarantee positive sport experiences for children and young people across Europe.”
To read the full report, click here.
iCoachKids is co-funded by an Erasmus+ grant and led by Leeds Beckett University and the International Council for Coaching Excellence. It brings together another six world-class organisations with a common desire to support children and youth coaches and a proven track record of doing so. These include Sport Ireland Coaching, the Hungarian Coaches Association, the Netherlands Olympic Committee, the European University of Madrid, Lithuanian Sport University and the Royal Belgian Football Association.