Posted: Tue, 25 Jun 2019 09:51
Activity Alliance enables organisations to support disabled people to be active and stay active for life. So, this year we'll be sharing great stories from both sides – how organisations are working to make active lives possible, and the direct impact their work is having on individual disabled people. Following on from UK Coaching Week (3-9 June), today's blog comes from wheelchair basketball coach and UK Coaching ambassador, Anna, who talks about her love for coaching.
Hi, I'm Anna, I'm 47 and I live in Chester with my partner, dog and three chickens. I run my own business called Believe It Coaching, which sees me coach wheelchair basketball, run disability multi-sports sessions, mentor and do motivational speaking. I am also a tutor for British Wheelchair Basketball and an ambassador for UK Coaching.
I have always loved sport and coaching - my mum was a PE teacher so sport was always going to be something I did. I have always been a sporty individual - in school I helped out a lot in the PE department and then went on to coach tennis and hockey – I was also a keen player of these sports too. As a teenager I had to change my sports due to developing knee problems. As a result of having nine operations I had to retire from playing sport on foot. I discovered wheelchair basketball at the age of 25 and I've played for 22 years now.
My love for coaching came at an early age - my school PE teacher, Miss Bellis, was a key person in developing my passion for sport and coaching. I used to spend every lunch hour and every evening after school helping with clubs and classes. She encouraged me to play and train hard. I loved her approach to sport and always try to emulate it. I was also influenced by my tennis coach, Pam Alford, who was such a brilliant, enthusiastic coach that I used to want to be like her. When I started playing wheelchair basketball I always knew I wanted to coach as well. So, I worked hard to get my coaching qualifications at the same time as playing and I still play and coach now.
I absolutely love coaching, especially because you get to see the difference you can make to people. I am now a Level 2 Wheelchair Basketball Coach and I am studying for my Grade 3 award.
The most rewarding part of being a coach is seeing people develop on and off the court. Sometimes it is the small achievements that mean the most to people, so I work hard to create those opportunities.
I work with a lot of different groups and I get all my players to work hard and push themselves to be better. I have mental health problems and I talk quite openly and freely about this to my players in the hope that my story will motivate them to want to push themselves. Some players will go on to succeed without much input. For me, the ones that are special are the people who I have invested time in and given them chance to shine in their own way. I have players who came to my club because they were not given opportunities at other clubs – these players are now doing their coaching awards and taking on leadership roles.
For me, coaching is all about seeing the person first, and not defining a person by their impairment(s). The coach who is able to see the person first can really support that person in achieving so much more.
Also, there is so much more to consider when you are living with an impairment to get the day to day done. Take wheelchair basketball for example, I can't just grab a ball and head to a court, I need to consider all the logistics around it, as well as the same nervousness or apprehension of starting something new that everyone has. This makes finding the motivation and opportunities much more challenging, but not impossible. Understanding all of this can help to shape what may become a positive or negative experience for the person you are coaching.
My message to disabled people who want to get into coaching but not sure how to is – just go for it, being disabled will have taken you through different experiences and these will have taught you lessons that you can take forward into coaching. If you are already in a club just ask your head coach if you can start to help with the sessions. Try and watch other coaches in action and research ideas on the internet for ways to coach.
If you are not sure what sport to coach you could always contact your local sports development officer, or Active Partnership (formerly known as County Sports Partnerships). They will be able to guide you and link you to some clubs.
Being a coach with a physical impairment can be tricky and I have to plan carefully to make sure I can get the equipment I need to sessions and that the centres I use are accessible. Your confidence will grow as you learn more about coaching and your specific sport but sometimes you have to feel a bit uncomfortable in order to grow. You never stop learning as a coach and it truly is such a rewarding role.
Visit UK Coaching's website to find out how they can support you to be a great coach and take your coaching to the next level.
In partnership with UK Coaching, Activity Alliance's Inclusive Activity Programme can equip you with the skills to engage disabled people and people with long-term health conditions more effectively in activities. Find out more about the Inclusive Activity Programme here