Continuing our Coaching Focus series we sat down with North Essex Head Coach, Tom Doughty. Tom talks about his journey to becoming Head Coach, how his role adapted during the pandemic and the success of the Stay Connected service, and gives some great tips for anyone thinking of embarking on a career in coaching.
When did you join Sport For Confidence and how did you hear about the company?
I have known the Operations Director, Jake Turner, for many years and when a position came up as a Coach, Jake gave me a call, knowing I was ready for a new professional challenge. I joined Sport For Confidence in October 2019 and am now Head Coach, North Essex. It has been a rollercoaster ride. Just as I was finding my feet in my role, the pandemic struck and moved our whole coaching model online. I’ve learnt so much in such a short space of time. No two days are ever the same. Every day presents challenges and incredible rewards. It’s a demanding role but one that I really enjoy.
What coaching work were you delivering prior to joining Sport For Confidence?
I was teaching at a primary school. Initially I joined to deliver sport sessions as part of the after-school sports programme and half term football camps and this progressed into a full time role, supporting the delivery of the PE curriculum. Working with children is very different to working with adults but my work in the school really helped me to develop my session planning skills, a skill I use every day in my role with Sport For Confidence.
What attracted you to working with SFC?
I was looking for a new professional challenge and an environment where I was given the structure and sport to develop but the freedom to make decisions. This is exactly what I have found at Sport For Confidence. We all work within an agreed framework but are encouraged to speak up if we feel things can be improved.
Where do you deliver sessions?
One day a week I work at Witham Leisure Centre and one day a week I work at the Riverside Leisure Centre, Chelmsford. The other three days are spent either managing our Upshot account or delivering the self-care confidence project.
How did your role change during the pandemic imposed facility closures?
Almost overnight, I went from delivering face to face sessions in a leisure centre, to delivering digital activity sessions from my balcony, via Zoom, that were broadcast live and pre-recorded to our community of participants. It was a baptism of fire for sure and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a few technical hiccups along the way but I got through it and learnt so much from the experience.
The online model, branded Stay Connected, enabled us to maintain a valuable professional connection to our participants and other isolating adults even when physicality was not possible. This provided a support lifeline to many who otherwise, throughout lockdown, might not have any other connection with the outside world. Stay Connected was so successful, we now run the model alongside our leisure centre delivery, helping reach and engage many more people than just those who are able and willing to visit a leisure centre.
What do you love most about your role with Sport For Confidence?
No day is ever the same and every day I am reminded of the value I add to the lives of those I coach.
What would your advice be to anyone considering a career in sports coaching?
Always be curious and ask questions. As a coach there is always more to learn. This is why I love the profession so much. My education will never be complete. Also, get out there and talk to people. Build a professional network. I landed my role at Sport For Confidence because I knew Jake and I am sure other opportunities will present themselves through the people I meet and the conversations I have. For those who are prepared to work hard, coaching is an extremely rewarding profession.