Advice for Coaches

Advice for Coaches

Children and young people (under 18 years) as well as vulnerable adults benefit greatly from taking part in sport and leisure activities, which give them the opportunity to be healthy and active, to have fun, to learn new skills and to make new friends.

By the very nature of their involvement with these groups, sports coaches, leaders and officials may find themselves in a position where they observe inappropriate or uncharacteristic behaviour, see evidence of harm or receive reports of harm to participants in their care.

Everyone involved in sport has a responsibility to ensure that activities are enjoyable and that children, young people and vulnerable adults are safe and protected from harm.

It is essential that sports coaches, leaders and officials demonstrate best practice and have a good understanding and awareness of accepted standards of behaviour, conduct and coaching delivery to ensure that the safety of participants is paramount.

This advice has been designed to support you by providing information and guidance on good sports practice.

Being a high quality sports coach

Do you hold the appropriate qualifications? Are you qualified to the right level?

As a coach, you must hold a recognised coaching qualification from the relevant Governing Body of Sport, which is appropriate for your level of responsibility (eg Assistant Coach, Head Coach, etc) as well as the activity and level of ability being coached. Level 1 coaches should work under the supervision of an experienced, more highly qualified coach (Level 2 or above).

In addition to sports coaching qualifications, it is important to develop other skills to ensure that you are able to safeguard children, young people and vulnerable adults appropriately. It is essential that you attend a recognised child protection training course delivered by the relevant Governing Body of Sport, sportscoach UK or the Local Safeguarding Children Board as well as a HSE approved first aid course. You should also attend training that will help you to ensure that activities are suitable for and appropriate to the age and ability of the participants involved. Some examples of courses run by sports coach UK include: ‘Introduction to Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD)’, ‘Equity in Your Coaching’, ‘How to Coach Disabled People in Sport’ and ‘Coaching Disabled Performers’.

It is important that you are committed to Continuous Professional Development (CPD) to further enhance your skills and knowledge. By identifying your training and development needs you will be able to follow a structured programme to address them. Coaching CW can help you with this - contact support@activecheshire.org for further details

Do you have appropriate insurance cover?
Regardless of how well qualified and experienced you are, accidents can happen and it is important that you provide a safeguard for those who may be hurt as a result, as well as protecting yourself. It is your personal responsibility to hold up to date Professional Indemnity and/or Public Liability insurance providing appropriate cover for the different types of coaching situations and activities you are involved in. You should contact the relevant Governing Body of Sport to gain advice on this subject or, alternatively, sports coach UK, who also offer insurance for qualified coaches.

When coaching on behalf of a sports club or other agency it is important to check that this organisation holds valid Public Liability insurance, which provides adequate cover for the activities it delivers.

Clubs and organisations should have a transport policy in place, which is in accordance with current legislation and reflects good practice.

Do you follow a Coaches Code of Conduct?
You have a responsibility to set a good example for children and young people to follow and be a good role model in terms of your appearance and behaviour. It is critical that you are aware of and work within your professional boundaries.

All Governing Bodies of Sport, clubs and organisations should have written codes of ethics and behaviour, which outline expectations of good practice for anyone working with children, young people and vulnerable adults. Ridiculing, shouting, bullying, racism and/or sexism are not acceptable.

Clubs and organisations should also have codes of conduct for participants and for parents, carers and spectators that describe what is expected of them.

A process should be in place for responding to breaches of the codes of conduct and you should be aware of when and how to report concerns about the behaviour of fellow coaches, leaders, officials or others.

Delivering a high quality coaching session

Are you coaching in a safe and open environment?

Risk assessments

You should undertake and document a risk assessment prior to the commencement of a programme of activity and before the start of each session to ensure that the coaching environment and equipment are safe. You should comply with the appropriate health and safety requirements and guidance for each particular activity or sport i.e. those of your employing or deploying organisation, the relevant Governing Body of Sport or the facility.

Coaching setting

It is important that you work in, and encourage, an open environment and that you avoid private or unobserved situations and secrets.. We strongly advise that you never work alone and that another adult is in attendance at every session.

All clubs and organisations should obtain Enhanced Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) disclosures for the adult coaches, leaders and officials they are using. You should not work with children, young people or vulnerable adults in a setting until your CRB clearance has been received.

Are your coaching methods safe and appropriate?

Coach : participant ratio
It is strongly advised that you follow the relevant Governing Body of Sport guidelines with respect to participant to coach ratios, which will ensure that you are able to provide the necessary level of supervision.

Suitability of activities
You must ensure that you are aware of the principles of Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) so that coaching activities are suitable for the age, maturity, experience and ability of the participants involved.
You should divide your time equally between all standards of players and make sure you understand any special needs or requirements that participants may have so that you are able to adapt activities within the session accordingly.

Equitable practice
You should respect the rights, dignity and worth of all children, young people and vulnerable adults and ensure that all participants have the opportunity to realise their potential.

Guidelines for handling and use of coaching aids
You must follow the relevant Governing Body of Sport guidelines with respect to appropriateness of handling and support for participants and must only use video recording as a legitimate coaching aid. Good communication with participants and parents/carers is key.
Is it clear when participants are your responsibility as opposed to the responsibility of their parents/carers?
It is recommended that you use an activity register so that you formally assume the Duty of Care when a participant signs in and joins a session and then relinquish the Duty of Care when a participant signs out and leaves the session. You should make sure that all parents/carers are aware of the requirements for delivering and collecting participants from the outset.

Would you be able to contact parents/carers in an emergency? Are you aware of any medical conditions or special needs of the participants in your care?
Clubs and other organisations should ask all parents/carers to complete a registration form when a child, young person or vulnerable adult joins the organisation or a coaching programme to ensure that they hold emergency contact details (preferably two contacts) as well as information about any medical conditions or special requirements a participant may have. You should have access to this information at each session.

In the event of a participant being collected late from a session, you should:

  • Not leave the participant unattended
  • Ensure that another adult is also present
  • Contact the parent/carer to confirm collection arrangements
  • Not agree to transport the participant home
  • Discuss the issue with the parent/carer upon arrival.

Are you aware of good practice with regard to changing room procedures?

You must make sure that a minimum of two adults of the same gender is present when participants are being supervised in a changing room environment. Where possible, parents/carers should take responsibility for their child when changing.

Boys and girls should have access to separate changing facilities.

Parents/carers of children and young people with special needs should be consulted to discuss changing and assistance that may be required.

You should never change or shower at the same time using the same changing area as children, young people or vulnerable adults.

Do you follow good practice with regard to the use of text messaging and emails?
It is strongly recommended that you send all emails and text messages to parents/carers rather than contacting children, young people or vulnerable adults directly. You must not send emails or text messages to children under 11 years.

In some cases, it may be considered acceptable to send emails or text messages to children of 11 years and over but you should copy all communications to parents/carers and someone holding a recognised position of responsibility within your club or organisation. Please note that any details of telephone numbers and email addresses should be kept securely.

Are you aware of the action you should take in the event of an accident or incident?
You should be qualified in first aid or make sure that there is a qualified first aider on site whilst you are coaching, leading or officiating. It is essential that you have access to an appropriately stocked first aid box at all activities.

It is essential that you are aware of and follow the accident and incident reporting procedures that relate to your activity.

Do you know what to do in the case of an allegation or disclosure regarding potential abuse?
By the very nature of your involvement with children, young people and vulnerable adults through sport, you may find yourself in a position where you observe inappropriate or uncharacteristic behaviour, see evidence of harm or receive reports of harm to participants in your care. Concerns may arise about participants’ experiences within the sports environment and outside of it (e.g. at home or in school).

This reinforces the importance for you to attend recognised safeguarding training to make sure that you have the right skills and knowledge to recognise and deal with any such situation and ensure that you are not placing a child, young person or vulnerable adult at increased risk of harm.

From the outset, you should also make sure that you are aware of and able to follow the child protection policies and procedures of the relevant Governing Body of Sport or the organisation you are working on behalf of. This will ensure that you know how to respond appropriately to as well as record and report a concern, allegation or disclosure about poor practice or possible abuse.

Remember, it is NOT your responsibility to decide or to investigate if a child, young person or vulnerable adult is being abused but to ACT on any concerns you may have in line with child protection policies and procedures.

Serious concerns about the immediate safety of a child, young person or vulnerable adult should be reported to Children’s Services (formerly Social Services) or the Police by dialling 999.

Do you know where to go for support if you are the subject of an allegation of poor practice or abuse?
Most Governing Bodies of Sport and sports organisations have a designated Child Protection/Welfare Officer. If you are the subject of an allegation of poor practice or abuse you should contact these trained officers who will be able to provide advice and support.

Code of Conduct for Coaches

You should:

  • Be a good role model, setting an example for others to follow
  • Observe professional boundaries at all times
  • Always work in and encourage an open environment (avoiding private or unobserved situations and secrets)
  • Develop an appropriate working relationship with participants based on mutual trust and respect
  • Empower children, young people and vulnerable adults to share in the decision making process
  • Encourage all of your participants to accept responsibility for their behaviour and performance
  • Ensure the activity is appropriate for the age, maturity, experience and ability of the participants
  • Never ridicule or shout at a participant for making a mistake or losing
  • Encourage players and help them to improve by using positive words and not negative criticism
  • Teach players the importance of fair play and following the rules of the game/sport
  • Ensure that you and your players respect your opposition, the officials, the opposing coach and their supporters
  • Divide your time equally between all standards of players
  • Make reasonable demands on participants’ time and realise that young people have other interests too
  • Always place the well-being and safety of the child above their performance
  • Always follow the guidelines set out by the relevant Governing Body of sport or professional body with regards to safety and welfare
  • Hold relevant, up to date, nationally recognised qualifications
  • Check that you have adequate insurance to coach your sport(s)
  • Be committed to developing your own skills and knowledge
  • Keep written records of any incidents that occur, along with details of how they were dealt with
  • Follow professional advice when determining if an injured player is ready to train
  • Take responsibility for the young people in your care until they have safely left the activity
  • Ensure that any physical contact with a young person is appropriate to the situation
  • Remember that young people participate in sport for many reasons and winning is only part of the fun of taking part
  • Ensure that equipment and facilities meet safety standards and are appropriate to the age and ability of all players.
  • At the outset, clarify with performers (and where appropriate with their parents/carers) exactly what is expected of them and what performers are entitled to expect from the coach.
  • Co-operate fully with other specialists (e.g. other coaches, officials, sports scientists, doctors, and physiotherapists) in the best interests of the performer.
  • Always promote the positive aspects of the sport (e.g. fair play) and never condone rule violations or the use of prohibited substances.
  • Consistently display high standards of behaviour and appearance, set a good example which others can follow
  • Arrive in plenty of time to set up the activity

You should never:

  • Spend time alone with children away from others
  • Engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay
  • Allow or engage in inappropriate touching of any form
  • Allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged
  • Make derogatory or sexually suggestive comments to a child even in fun
  • Let allegations a child makes go unrecorded, or not acted upon
  • Do things of a personal nature that children can do for themselves
  • Engage in personal relationships with pupils, participants or students
  • Take children alone in car journeys, however short
  • Take children to your home where they will be alone with you
  • Have children stay at your home with you unsupervised
  • Share a room with a child