As part of our coaching focus series, we interviewed Head Sports Coach, Jack Edgar. Here, Jack talks very openly about how his role with Sport For Confidence has developed, how he and the coaching team continued to engage with participants despite the closure of leisure centres enforced during the height of the pandemic and his plans for the future.
What year did you start working with Sport for Confidence?
I have been working with Sport For Confidence since it launched, in 2016, at Basildon Sporting Village.
Before Sport For Confidence launched, I was collaborating with our founder and Director, Lyndsey Barrett, delivering inclusive sports sessions to engage people who face barriers to participation. At the time, I was a freelance sports coach and Lyndsey Barrett was an NHS, Senior Occupational Therapist. We recognised that we had created something special so when Lyndsey went on to formalise the winning format we had created under the Sport For Confidence brand I came on board as the programmes lead sports coach.
Did you always want to work with people who face barriers to participation? If so, what was the main driver for this?
Throughout my coaching journey, I have always been involved in social, community projects, working with people who traditionally find sporting opportunities difficult to access. I find this work incredibly rewarding because the participants gain so much benefit and enjoyment from the sessions. I witness, on a daily basis, the positive impact my efforts are having on the people involved and this really makes my work worthwhile. I feel very fortunate to be able to say I truly love my job.
Now that Sport For Confidence is so well established, how has your role changed?
My role has changed as the coaching team has grown in recent years. In addition to my day-to-day coaching delivery schedule, my role is to support the rest of the coaching team. A Sport for Confidence coaching role is challenging so it is important we support our coaches through communication, supervision, mentoring and education. This gives our coaching team the tools they need to enable them to deliver sessions that engage each and every participant involved, driving them towards their unique occupational goals.
How does the relationship with the occupational therapists work?
The relationship between coach and occupational therapist is the key to the success of every session and the overall Sport For Confidence model. The partnership requires that we work together to help participants achieve their individual goals. Participant goals are extremely diverse and often extend way beyond the field of play. Whilst the acquisition of sporting skills are motivating and rewarding for some, others benefit from the social opportunity sport delivers or the chance to reengage with a community they have been isolated from for extended periods. We work with occupational therapists to ensure that each and every participant has a meaningful experience on each and every visit.
How did Covid-19 affect your role?
When leisure facilities were ordered to close to slow the spread of the virus, our in-person sessions were forced to cease. Our first priority at this point was to find a way to continue to support our participant community, many of whom would struggle mentally with the disruption and isolation enforced by social distancing regulations. We adapted quickly and launched the Stay Connected programme which provided telephone support and a weekly online exercise timetable. The coaching team and Occupational Therapists worked together to deliver an array of Zoom sessions including Football Fitness, Yoga, Weighted Workout, Boxercise, Dance, Quiz and many more. Sessions were available every day of the week. The coaching team also recorded personalised exercise videos for specific referrals from Stay Connected ensuring every single individual was provided for.
It was a big challenge in the beginning, and I was out of my comfort zone but as time passed, I grew more confident in this style of delivery. Overall, the experience has been hugely positive and has helped me develop my skills in online delivery. In today’s digital world, online delivery offers an opportunity for Sport For Confidence to support those who may never venture into a leisure facility but who can benefit massively from a digital connection with somebody outside of their home environment.
How do you ensure continuity of coaching standards across the team? Do you follow set lesson plans/coaching schedules etc or does each coach run their own programme within a set framework?
The high quality of Sport For Confidence sessions is what sets us apart from other programmes and services. I encourage our coaches to have the freedom to express themselves and develop their own coaching style whilst working within the recognised Sport For Confidence framework.
Effective communication plays a key role in supporting the coaching team. We meet every week to reflect on the previous seven days and also to plan for the week ahead. We discuss challenges and successes to help each of us learn from the experiences of others. Over the years we have developed a library of lesson plans to support the coaches and we also encourage and support coaches in the area of personal training and development.
Now that leisure centres are open again – how have you found the return to face to face coaching? Have you had good reengagement from participants?
Returning to face to face delivery has been hugely satisfying. Stay Connected and online delivery definitely serves a purpose but personally, I prefer face to face delivery in the leisure centres. When we first returned I did feel a bit rusty but I soon got back into the swing of things. Seeing so many familiar faces we hadn’t seen in-person for such a long time was really emotional. It’s great to be back!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have many ambitions and goals I want to achieve within the next few years. I would like to gain more qualifications and challenge myself in new ventures. I hope to continue providing the best service possible for the community and enjoy doing it along the way.