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#womenswednesday -

Is elite coaching a life-style choice many women do not want to make?

How many women really want to sacrifice their life style to take their coaching career to the top?

As we all know, reaching the top of any sport as an athlete takes hard work, commitment and sacrifice.   We see interviews and read books of Olympians who have given up their entire lives for that one Gold Medal, often saying they gave up everything to achieve it.

But what about us coaches?  We go on the same journey as athletes, often with added pressures of paperwork, re-working plans and evaluating performances…so do coaches need to give the same level of sacrifice as our athletes…and do we all want to?

To reach the levels of such coaches as Pat Summitt, Kate Stoney and Hope Powell , our lives would need to be consumed 100% by coaching, and as the Olympians will tell them, let nothing distract them or get in their way.

But who has already made sacrifices?  How many of you are committed coaches that have already sacrificed family time, money, holidays etc and are you willing to take that further?  Or are you happy to keep the coaching / life balance as it is and stay coaching at the level you are at?  Does this threat of sacrifice stop you taking your coaching career further?

Are UK coaches hindered even more on the way to becoming elite as they are forced to manage a voluntary coaching career alongside a professional career / job and a family?

And do retired female athletes really want to sacrifi

ce more of their life to their sport through coaching? How many women really want to sacrifice their life style to take their coaching career to the top?

As we all know, reaching the top of any sport as an athlete takes hard work, commitment and sacrifice.   We see interviews and read books of Olympians who have given up their entire lives for that one Gold Medal, often saying they gave up everything to achieve it.

But what about us coaches?  We go on the same journey as athletes, often with added pressures of paperwork, re-working plans and evaluating performances…so do coaches need to give the same level of sacrifice as our athletes…and do we all want to?

To reach the levels of such coaches as Pat Summitt, Kate Stoney and Hope Powell , our lives would need to be consumed 100% by coaching, and as the Olympians will tell them, let nothing distract them or get in their way.

But who has already made sacrifices?  How many of you are committed coaches that have already sacrificed family time, money, holidays etc and are you willing to take that further?  Or are you happy to keep the coaching / life balance as it is and stay coaching at the level you are at?  Does this threat of sacrifice stop you taking your coaching career further?

Are UK coaches hindered even more on the way to becoming elite as they are forced to manage a voluntary coaching career alongside a professional career / job and a family?

And do retired female athletes really want to sacrifice more of their life to their sport through coaching?

Here are some of the discussion points made:

Jazz Hervin

“Elite coaching isn’t something for everyone. A lot of coaches, not just female simply enjoy helping young children enjoy the sport they’re participating in, within their local areas.

For me, I always knew I wanted to get to the top of my game (in whatever sport I chose to pursue).

I had that common problem as a player where ‘I just wasn’t good enough’ to be an international. So I thought to myself, well if I can’t, then how can I apply my passion for the sport I’ve played for 14 years and help others get to the top of their game (if that’s what they want to do)?!

So I turned to coaching, and after helping a lot of my players and a lot of them moving into professional academies, Centres of Excellences, or becoming an international. I felt like I wanted to experience and

help those players when they’re at the top of their game too – As sometimes that can be the most challenging time of their career. Not in getting there, but in staying there!!Elite coaching isn’t something for everyone. A lot of coaches, not just female simply enjoy helping young children enjoy the sport they’re participating in, within their local areas.

For me, I always knew I wanted to get to the top of my game (in whatever sport I chose to pursue).

I had that common problem as a player where ‘I just wasn’t good enough’ to be an international. So I thought to myself, well if I can’t, then how can I apply my passion for the sport I’ve played for 14 years and help others get to the top of their game (if that’s what they want to do)?!

So I turned to coaching, and after helping a lot of my players and a lot of them moving into professional academies, Centres of Excellences, or becoming an international. I felt like I wanted to experience and help those players when they’re at the top of their game too – As sometimes that can be the most challenging time of their career. Not in getting there, but in staying there!!”

Lucy Callingham

“Such an important topic to discuss. Here in the UK we depend heavily on volunteers at grassroots level and finding ways to keep those who give up their time motivated and interested to continue.

In September 2014 I made a choice to push my coaching as far as I could  knowing that it would take up a huge amount of my free time, but it was something I felt I had to do in order to develop myself as a coach and to build the network of people I knew. I am blessed in the fact that in my role as a sports development office at a college it allows me to coach teams here, as well as work with clubs in the community. On top of the 37 hours working at the college I also spend on average 14 hours on varied coaching roles (County Squad, my U13s team, local ladies squad and a University Team!).  The only real free time I have is on a Saturday afternoon. Though at times it can be tiring and consuming,  working with such a wide range of people and abilities absolutely makes it worthwhile, it also taught me more as a coach in the space of 6 months than I learnt in the past 2 years! Like I’ve said before it’s my passion and I wouldn’t haven’t it any other way. I’m also lucky that around half of those 14 hours as paid roles, allowing me to afford to travel to do them.

I am also very fortunate to have a partner who understands and is passionate themself (they want to become a high level S+C coach working with teams). So though we may not see each other as much as before we know it’s for the long term investment. My friends find it harder to understand, especially when I say they need to tell me in advance if they want to do something, but they are getting used to it.

I think no matter what gender you are it’s whether your willing to make those sacrifices to get to where you want, and how driven you are to do it. Maybe if I was to have children it could be different. I always think about taking the risk of being a fulltime coach and setting up my own company, but I’m sure if I had more financial dependants it would be a different story. Such an important topic to discuss. Here in the UK we depend heavily on volunteers at grassroots level and finding ways to keep those who give up their time motivated and interested to continue.

In September 2014 I made a choice to push my coaching as far as I could  knowing that it would take up a huge amount of my free time, but it was something I felt I had to do in order to develop myself as a coach and to build the network of people I knew. I am blessed in the fact that in my role as a sports development office at a college it allows me to coach teams here, as well as work with clubs in the community. On top of the 37 hours working at the college I also spend on average 14 hours on varied coaching roles (County Squad, my U13s team, local ladies squad and a University Team!).  The only real free time I have is on a Saturday afternoon. Though at times it can be tiring and consuming,  working with such a wide range of people and abilities absolutely makes it worthwhile, it also taught me more as a coach in the space of 6 months than I learnt in the past 2 years! Like I’ve said before it’s my passion and I wouldn’t haven’t it any other way. I’m also lucky that around half of those 14 hours as paid roles, allowing me to afford to travel to do them.

I am also very fortunate to have a partner who understands and is passionate themself (they want to become a high level S+C coach working with teams). So though we may not see each other as much as before we know it’s for the long term investment. My friends find it harder to understand, especially when I say they need to tell me in advance if they want to do something, but they are getting used to it.

I think no matter what gender you are it’s whether your willing to make those sacrifices to get to where you want, and how driven you are to do it. Maybe if I was to have children it could be different. I always think about taking the risk of being a fulltime coach and setting up my own company, but I’m sure if I had more financial dependants it would be a different story.”

Mens Football Coach

“No doubt about it. Elite level coaching requires an enormous commitment and takes over all things.

It really is a decision you have to make because you will be competing against coaches who will making coaching their vocation in life, and that’s what it becomes. Its all-consuming.
I find that normal life now has to fit in around coaching commitments and competitive seasons. There is no other way I could operate at the level. There would be someone else, ready for my job if I could not commit.
That’s the difference between elite level though and grassroots. Both are so important in their own right but the commitment levels are vastly different.No doubt about it. Elite level coaching requires an enormous commitment and takes over all things.
It really is a decision you have to make because you will be competing against coaches who will making coaching their vocation in life, and that’s what it becomes. Its all-consuming.
I find that normal life now has to fit in around coaching commitments and competitive seasons. There is no other way I could operate at the level. There would be someone else, ready for my job if I could not commit.
That’s the difference between elite level though and grassroots. Both are so important in their own right but the commitment levels are vastly different.”

Rikki B

“I was scared to death initially when I committed to becoming an elite coach, I was worried about the pressure, the money & whether I would be respected by the athletes I was going to work with, but it was the best decision I ever made.
I was an elite athlete initially but in a non-funded discipline so had to fit training and competing in around a full time job.
The transition was easy from athlete to coach, my family were already used to my travelling and now only having to focus on my sport gives me a lot more time with my children.
Although I am generally only on-site coaching 2-3 days/week on average I am writing training plans, dealing with e-mails, answering calls etc. nearly every day, but I choose to do this; none of us would be coaches if we didn’t love the sport we worked in.
I think the more women seen coaching at elite levels will encourage other female coaches that elite level coaching is an option for them.I was scared to death initially when I committed to becoming an elite coach, I was worried about the pressure, the money & whether I would be respected by the athletes I was going to work with, but it was the best decision I ever made.
I was an elite athlete initially but in a non-funded discipline so had to fit training and competing in around a full time job.
The transition was easy from athlete to coach, my family were already used to my travelling and now only having to focus on my sport gives me a lot more time with my children.
Although I am generally only on-site coaching 2-3 days/week on average I am writing training plans, dealing with e-mails, answering calls etc. nearly every day, but I choose to do this; none of us would be coaches if we didn’t love the sport we worked in.
I think the more women seen coaching at elite levels will encourage other female coaches that elite level coaching is an option for them.”

Coach Quam

“I got into coaching as a volunteer assistant swim coach at a college in Texas. I was in the right place at the right time and got the opportunity to interview for the full time assistant position the following year when it opened up.
I spent the next 4 years there completely committed and fully invested. I was single, with no children, so I could really put a lot of time in.  I got an incredible experience – in terms of the level of athletes I had an opportunity to work with. We had lots of international athletes on our team so I got to travel internationally to Canada, Egypt, Jordan, South Africa, & even Great Britain. We had athletes who went to the Olympics and to World Champs as well as their own national championships (depending on where they were from) and I got to run the team all alone when the head coach travelled to these competitions.

However, after these 5 years, I was completely burned out.  As coaches, because we had so many athletes training for so many different things, as coaches we went from one season to the next with very little downtime. Our athletes got time off, but as coaches, we didn’t take that time away. I was about to completely step away from coaching and instead took a much needed vacation!!! I came back refreshed and recharged and then had an opportunity come up to be a Head Coach.

As a Head Coach, although there were greater responsibilities there was a freedom in creating a schedule. I would try to give more days off, mornings off, and weekends off than my previous post. I found that this always gave my athletes (and myself) much more balance and we all would come back with more energy and better quality efforts. I emphasized quality over quantity and tried to also incorporate things like yoga for stress relief for the team.  I know that when I was able to model that for my athletes, they were much more interested in coaching as a profession.

I retired from coaching after 9 years as a head coach and am now working with coaches. What I have found is that even if coaches can incorporate some small windows of time for themselves – even 5 minutes to write down what you’re grateful for, or 5 minutes at the end of the day that you can look back and acknowledge what you’ve done that day and what you’re proud of…that you can get grounded and gain momentum for yourself – in all the ups and downs of being a coach and with all the demands that you have. See what simple things you can add in for yourself so you can keep making an impact in this amazing profession and stay in it longer!I got into coaching as a volunteer assistant swim coach at a college in Texas. I was in the right place at the right time and got the opportunity to interview for the full time assistant position the following year when it opened up.
I spent the next 4 years there completely committed and fully invested. I was single, with no children, so I could really put a lot of time in.  I got an incredible experience – in terms of the level of athletes I had an opportunity to work with. We had lots of international athletes on our team so I got to travel internationally to Canada, Egypt, Jordan, South Africa, & even Great Britain. We had athletes who went to the Olympics and to World Champs as well as their own national championships (depending on where they were from) and I got to run the team all alone when the head coach travelled to these competitions.

However, after these 5 years, I was completely burned out.  As coaches, because we had so many athletes training for so many different things, as coaches we went from one season to the next with very little downtime. Our athletes got time off, but as coaches, we didn’t take that time away. I was about to completely step away from coaching and instead took a much needed vacation!!! I came back refreshed and recharged and then had an opportunity come up to be a Head Coach.

As a Head Coach, although there were greater responsibilities there was a freedom in creating a schedule. I would try to give more days off, mornings off, and weekends off than my previous post. I found that this always gave my athletes (and myself) much more balance and we all would come back with more energy and better quality efforts. I emphasized quality over quantity and tried to also incorporate things like yoga for stress relief for the team.  I know that when I was able to model that for my athletes, they were much more interested in coaching as a profession.

I retired from coaching after 9 years as a head coach and am now working with coaches. What I have found is that even if coaches can incorporate some small windows of time for themselves – even 5 minutes to write down what you’re grateful for, or 5 minutes at the end of the day that you can look back and acknowledge what you’ve done that day and what you’re proud of…that you can get grounded and gain momentum for yourself – in all the ups and downs of being a coach and with all the demands that you have. See what simple things you can add in for yourself so you can keep making an impact in this amazing profession and stay in it longer!”

Thanks to everyone who contributed! FCN

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