Where do you draw the line when coaching kids from deprived areas?
I am just an average volunteer coach in an average town on an average wage.? I am passionate about my sport of athletics, I eat, sleep and breath athletics.? I put every bit of effort into educating myself, being the best person I can be and being the best coach I can be?apart from the recent doping scandal (which is another discussion altogether!!) I think athletics is one of the best sports around!
In my opinion, athletics is one of those sports that tests you as a person.? It?s a sport you can?t hide away in, it teaches you about hard work, dedication, commitment and about long term goals.? I am a big believer that even if you are never going to be an Olympian, you can learn a lot about life by taking part in athletics.
All of this reflects one of my big coaching philosophies; I do my utmost to not only make my athletes better athletes, but better people as well.? I invest a lot of time and energy into my athletes, I support them emotionally, I support them as athletes and I support them as people. ? To quote from a recent interview I read on the FCN – ?Your athletes become part of your life.?
It?s all very well investing all of the said above, but what happens when you feel the need to start investing financially?? My athletes range from 14 – 19 years old and all come from a deprived town in the UK.? Many of their families are one parent families on low wages with not much spare cash to put into their child extra curricular activities, which is fine in track and field in the beginning because it is a relatively cheap sport to take part in, but the problem rises when these athletes start getting successful.? Let me give you an example:
I had a 16 year old boy turn up one day and ask me to coach him.? He was a naturally talented runner, dedicated and very ambitious.? He declared that one day he wanted to compete for GB and his goal in the next 12 months was to qualify for English Schools (the national track & field competition for kids aged 18 and under).? Great I thought?so we set to the challenge.? Now over the next 12 months, this athlete got faster and faster, grew bigger and bigger (through his teenager years) and began to qualify for various competitions.? He started to need new spikes (running shoes), new kit, lifts to competitions across the country and the odd bit of physio here and there.? His parents couldn’t afford any of this, so I was left with the choice of accepting this and probably seeing him fail in his goal of English Schools, or helping him out financially and hopefully watching him qualify.? My choice was to support him financially.? I bought him 2 pairs of spike over the year, new kit and drove him to every competition going?the result?he qualified for English Schools! It was one of the best feelings ever, knowing the journey we had gone on and how hard he worked!? However, the next problem?it would cost him approximately ?150 for kit, travel and accommodation – which I paid for.? I then paid for myself to travel and stay for the weekend during the competition which costs an additional ?150.? He had a fantastic weekend, reached the finals and achieved 3 PB?s.? Fantastic – goal achieved.
The next season?inspired by this athletes success?the rest of my group started to want more and achieve more. ? Most of my athletes were in a similar financial situations as my English Schools athlete?and here began the real problem.? I do not begrudge for one second supporting my athletes financially, but as I stated in the beginning of this blog, I only earn a very average wage and after all my bills etc I have approximately ?200 left over each month to spend ?freely?.? I was spending every penny I had on my group; car journeys, hotels, kit, memberships, competition entries, books, my own coach development etc etc.? I felt that I had to do this in order for my athletes to succeed, to show them that I believed in them and to give them the opportunity to achieve what they wanted in track and field.
My question to every one out there is – would you do the same, have you done the same and what do you do if you athletes or players simply can?t afford to play sport?