What is the real problem with grassroots sport?

Sport is an incredible tool. Some athletes may grow in self esteem and confidence because of it. Some athletes may learn valuable health and fitness lessons from it. Many will make life-long friendships because of it. And some athletes may be lucky enough to make a fulltime career out of it.

So just what’s wrong with grassroots sport?

Well – to put it plainly it could just be so much better! One of the things I’ve been considering lately is the paradox of sport. You see in sport, the largest pool of resources is where the smallest participation rates are (professional level), whilst the largest pool of players (youth grassroots) have access to the smallest number of resources. Hopefully, the graph below gives you a visual representation of what I’m trying to explain.

graph
The amount of resources is directly inverse related to the number of participants

So what’s the issue? Well here’s the problems associated with this picture:

Ideal: We should have the best coaches operating where the largest increases in ability need to be made. Des Ryan would call this “Being a career Academy coach”. This makes sense as (for me) it’s where the largest impact can be made on a player’s potential. Having access to a coach with lots of experience, knowledge and understanding will no doubt improve an athlete’s likelihood of reaching their potential.

Reality: Many clubs struggle to even get enough coaches! We rely on willing volunteer Mum and Dad coaches stepping into the void to try and develop athletes at the most crucial stages! Many volunteer around their day jobs and other commitments. Now, I’m not having a go at them, as it’s admirable they are stepping up to the plate to fulfil a much needed role. BUT! How efficient and effective would it be for everyone if we had expert coaches operating at the lower levels of performance?

Ideal: Wouldn’t it be great if we really invested in grassroots coaches. Like, I mean REALLY invested in them? . What if they had access to courses, content and knowledge to upgrade their skill delivery and coaching practice? What if it was affordable, or better yet – didn’t cost them personally?

Reality: Often those willing volunteer Mum and Dad coaches I mentioned pay for their own coaching courses, qualifications and CPD. This often means the primary barrier is financial, not a lack of enthusiasm for development! Often the only courses they do get access to are only basic, minimum standard support like Safeguarding courses. For example, a quick search of Sport Scotland’s available courses in Edinburgh for the rest of 2018 shows the emphasis on minimum standards rather than improving coaching:

  • 5 Safeguarding courses
  • 3 First Aid courses
  • 2 Disability awareness courses
  • 1 Inclusive Dance Course
athlete.jpg
Competitive much?

Ideal: How effective would youth sports be at retaining and developing athletes if we had coaches with a truly long term perspective?

Reality: Despite all those great volunteer Mum and Dad coaches who give up their time to develop athletes, we still see those grassroots coaches who think the Win/Loss ratio of their athlete or team is a reflection of their ability of a coach. It isn’t.

Ideal: We would all love to have appropriate training facilities and equipment. Places with enough space, good enough surfaces and good enough equipment to deliver safe, effective and efficient sessions.

Reality: Often coaches/athletes are fighting to book training slots at the local 3G pitch or indoor court. Many make do with little to no useful kit or equipment!

Ideal: In an ideal world, we wouldn’t just be concerned with the skill development of our athletes. We’d recognise that our legacy as a coach can extend to holistic development of our athletes: mindset, physical abilities, motor skill, nutrition and emotional development.

Reality: The most common complaint I hear from coaches, is that they are limited in time that they can barely cover the skill element of practice, never mind these other areas in terms of holistic development!

Image result for before you complain

 So, enough with the problems – How are we part of the solution?

Well, here at Athletic Evolution, our mission is to help the under-funded, under-resourced grassroots coach. We exist to take the methods and practices at the elite end of sport and to make these accessible and affordable to the youth sport coach. We want to help you as much as possible in developing your youth athletes.

How are we doing this?

  1. Ask the Expert interviews: Giving you access to high level practitioners in all areas of sport to learn from their experience and knowledge
  2. Free articles: like these on Monitoring made easy Part 1 & Part 2, smart ways of regaining technique in the weight room, or training around injury
  3. Book Reviews: Helping coaches to find great books to guide their coaching skills and philosophy
  4. The Athlete Archive: Digging into the past of successful athletes, to retrieve useful information on what helped them get to the top in their sport
  5. Online Training programs: Providing coaches with affordable, clear and progressive programs without the need for expensive equipment or complicated jargon.
  6. Coaching workshops: Organising affordable workshops aimed at youth sport coaches to help them with practical ways of coaching their athletes.

So – will you join us in the mission to make grassroots sport as good as it can be? If so, come and join us on Facebook!

Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.

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