We talk to sport coaching expert Tabo Huntley about a new project that aims to address the issues surrounding the training and development of disability sports coaches.
When it comes to the state of disability sports coaching, there are many things unknown. For example, how many para coaches work across the EU? Where things stand currently, the profile of the coaching workforce has yet to be established. It is estimated that it could be in the hundreds of thousands based on the disabled population (approximately 80 million) and the number of coaches (estimated to be around nine million), but this is something the ParaCoach Project, an Erasmus+ funded project coordinated by senior lecturer in Sport Coaching, Tabo Huntley, aims to explore.
Being experienced in coaching and supporting coaches in the Paralympic context has provided Tabo with an awareness of the gaps in para coach training and education. By establishing this project, he and his partners hope to examine the complexity of para coaching which is often left unexplored and in most cases subsumed into traditional models that fail to provide quality sporting opportunities for disabled people. He explains:
“If coaching is population and context specific, then a project like ParaCoach is needed to identify the knowledge, skills and educational needs of para coaches in order to develop specific outputs, such as a European Para Coaching Framework, that support learning, development and mobility across the EU.”
The project also seeks to understand the challenges coaches may face in pursuing a stable and successful career in para coaching.
“What we do know is that coaches in non-disabled sport often follow idiosyncratic paths to working primarily in elite sport, this could be the same for para coaches, but are the same types of opportunities in place? Therefore, of significance to the project is that we raise the profile of para coaching by highlighting best practices of coaches to promote learning and development. We hope that an important by-product of this will be that the disabled population have greater access to high quality opportunities. However, providing increased opportunities also requires financial support and developing a coordinated evidence-based approach could provide the impetus for funding agencies to see and reward demonstrable impact on an under-resourced population group.”
And in terms of getting students who want to pursue para coaching on the right pathway?
“They should become aware that coaching in this context does exist and start to identify the opportunities available in their locality. Para sports are often looking to increase the coaching base so linking sports with students is a key focus. Then students need to commit to ongoing learning and development as guided by the outcomes of this project.”
“A project like ParaCoach which aims to provide a more focused approach to training and development of coaches interested in increasing sporting opportunities for athletes with disability in the UK and EU is vitally important. In athletics we need more coaches, so if you are a sport coaching student, please contact and support your local clubs.” – Paula Dunn, Head Coach Para Athletics
Community is a big factor in the ParaCoach Project and it is by reaching out to sporting agencies related to para coaching that Tabo hopes will create a community of coaches that can their share experiences.
“Importantly, we need para coaches across the EU to complete a workforce audit and volunteer to provide best practice case studies through interviews with our team. We would also like to have links to blogs and news relating to coaching in this context as well as feedback from coaches and stakeholders on all project outputs disseminated through bespoke workshops and conferences.”