21st May 2020
Sport England and UK Coaching Chief Executives praise the nation’s coaches for keeping communities active during coronavirus lockdown


  • Sport England CEO Tim Hollingsworth and UK Coaching CEO Mark Gannon joined together for a podcast to give their thoughts on the situation from a coaching perspective
  • Innovative coaching practice has kept the nation active during unprecedented social restrictions

The coaching community has been identified as playing an important role in keeping communities active, as the nation adjusts to the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive Officer at Sport England has praised the innovative approach to online coaching many coaches have taken during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, and believes that they have a vital role to play in driving community activity as restrictions are lifted.

Hollingsworth, said: “Coaches are key workers for the sports and physical activity industry. My job takes me around the country to see projects and I am always slightly in awe of the work coaches do. The quality of what I see in front of me leaves me taken-aback because it’s a very different skill set from that which I possess. That ability to make the session real and meaningful – and also to provide improvement in a technical sense – will be absolutely critical for us moving forwards.

“There is a vital need for us to think more in our strategy about the role of people in supporting our desire to make sport and physical activity have a purpose for society, and have a purpose for everyone in their individual lives.”

Hollingsworth was speaking in conversation with his UK Coaching counterpart, Mark Gannon, in a new podcast which has been released today (21 May) on ukcoaching.org.

The wide-ranging conversation, which has been released during Mental Health Awareness Week, examined the need for inspirational people in communities to drive increased activity; how the pandemic has brought into focus the way in which people can be supported; and the challenges that people may face as society moves forward.

Mark Gannon, Chief Executive Officer at UK Coaching, said: “Coaching is about people and great coaching is people-focused. One of the things we are very aware of is what will have happened to people during this period of restriction owing to coronavirus. There will be health and well-being issues and, as a result, we have worked with Sport England and Mind to make available mental health and well-being training for all of the coaching workforce - free of charge. This will upskill the coaching community to better deal with and recognise the signs of someone who has, perhaps, struggled through this period and may be struggling to reengage.

During lockdown, many members of the coaching community have invested time in upskilling using resources made available by UK Coaching. In fact, per research statistics from the organisation’s own Twitter polls, around 50% of coaches want their learning and home CPD opportunities through online workshops and webinars.

Gannon expects this trend to continue and has primed UK Coaching to adapt its digital learning products to be more modular; developed to fit in with the increased demand for online learning. In the coming weeks, the enhanced learning and development platform - ukcoaching.org – will also recognise people from certain areas within England, whereby they will get subsidised or potentially free coaching resources by registering on the website, as Gannon says, “to invest in communities that need it the most.”

Last week, as the Government gave permission for some one-to-one coaching activity to take place outdoors in England, UK Coaching worked with Sport England and CIMSPA to offer coaches guidance on the phased return of sport and physical activity.

Hollingsworth is aware that the disruption caused by the tragic events of the pandemic has provided an increased awareness in the UK of the need for sport and physical activity, but that there remains a real challenge across different areas of society to drive an uplift in participation.

Hollingsworth said: “Sport England is finding that people are understanding that sport and physical activity can be important in their lives and is important to their health and well-being and we have to collectively build on that. We will seek to be more collegiate and responsive and [show] that physical activity, and the benefit that sport plays in society, is at the centre of our thinking.”

The podcast featuring Tim Hollingsworth and Mark Gannon is now available to listen to at ukcoaching.org.