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Richard Cheetham is an award wining and internationally recognised coach developer. He invites us to consider the incredible responsibility we have, as coaches, for the hour that we have somebody’s child in our coaching sessions. 

Dear Students,

We always speak in the early weeks of your course about the importance of relationships way ahead of any technical coaching input. It is too important to ignore because coaching is about people much more than the sport.

Who do I remember, how did they make me feel, what is about them that I will always be grateful for? Please never underestimate the influence and impact you have. I want you to be aware, be sensitive and recognise that responsibility you hold because in front of you for that hour, that day, that season or even longer is someone’s child.

I recall the first time we left our daughter at the nursery when she was six months old, we both cried and were inwardly saying “you will take care of her won’t you?”. She thrived, cried when we left but had a ball when we were out of sight!

The first football session – “right five laps off you go”, my head in hands I knew then it wasn’t going to work. Don’t start the session by sending them away! Now I watch from the sideline, the edge of the BMX track, and I not only watch what they are doing but I am watching the interaction, the care, the energy, the support and the kindness that the coach is offering. I think what will they do when she falls, cries, fails or looks lost? What you do then is the measure of who you are and the parenting skills that we expect of you because that could one day be your child or was in the past you!

The words you use, knowing their name, recognising, and celebrating their success and their experience– not goals or winning or distances and heights but effort, creativity and all the joy that being a child should be about. So here are a few questions for you to ponder. Would I like to be coached by me and would I let my children be coached by me? Think about it and remember how you can shape someone’s experience to begin what could be a lifelong journey. Enjoy the privilege and embrace the responsibility – you never know when someone will come up to you and just say ‘thank you coach’.

Richard Cheetham

Richard Cheetham: Senior Fellow in Sports Coaching University of Winchester.