Health and safety training for coaches is vital but it does not have to take the fun out of sports for young people.
Fifteen-and-a-half million adults participate in sports. Eighty-one per cent of five to ten year-olds enjoy sports outside of school every week. There are more than one million sports coaches. It is only really when you look at the figures that you get a full understanding of the enormity of the sport and leisure sector.
While many involved are aware of their responsibilities regarding criminal checks and child protection, it is worryingly evident that week in, week out coaches and participants across the country are putting themselves at high levels of risk due to a lack of real understanding of health and safety and risk management. Add to this 8.3 million school pupils and a further 11,500 registered nurseries in the UK, all of whom have to involve some form of guided physical activity within their week, and the health and safety problem becomes even more alarming.
Every year there are thousands of accidents within sport. The majority of people taking part accept the risks and even compare battle scars as badges of honour, but many of these accidents could have been prevented through a better understanding of risk management.
Now, we are not saying that coaches and participants aren’t aware of risk, or don’t know about health and safety, far from it, but often the subject is only touched upon lightly in coaching courses, and rarely holds much importance for the new coaches whose excitement is focused on getting their badges and getting out there. Add to this the often dull and lack-lustre delivery, it is not surprising that there is a skills gap.
This gap is now being more than filled by a stand-alone series of short courses for coaches and childcare practitioners of all levels. The easy to access courses quickly and easily help practitioners to develop their understanding of health and safety and risk management.
Delivered online these interactive courses give coaches a new opportunity to up-skill in a friendly and self-timed manner. Now fully developed, the courses give coaches a 30-minute tutorial with questions along the way to test understanding and to confirm successful learning.
The courses have been developed by Activate Sport, the UK’s leading provider of sports academies and camps operating across the country. Activate Sport delivers programmes such as the Andrew Flint off Cricket Academy, Louis Smith Gymnastics Academy and the International Netball Roadshow. The company employs more than 500 coaches and delivers to in excess of 10,000 children every year.
With these figures in mind and the benefit of more than ten years of sports operations experience, Activate Sports recognised the shortfalls of current health and safety and risk management training in the sector and decided to tackle the issue head on.
Activate Sport has linked up with Cardinus Risk Management to host the courses on the Cardinus training platform. This has given the sport and childcare sectors an important set of courses that equip coaches, managers, students, teachers, and even participants, with the understanding and confidence to approach health and safety and risk management with open eyes, and importantly, without the fear which is often associated with the words health and safety.
The courses include sections on risk assessment and risk management but also focus not only on the times where ‘active’ coaching is taking place, but also the times when the coaches are not coaching and are less aware of the hazards around them. These are often the most dangerous times and yet they are rarely touched upon in coaching or activity leadership courses.
Times like lunchtime, drop-off and collection, and toilet breaks all pose their own unique risks and problems and it is often these times when the activity supervisor is less involved, less aware of the risks and most relaxed about danger. Add to this an abundance of excitable kids you soon realise the dangers posed by equipment left out, slips, trips and falls, and even chemical risks in open access changing facilities and toilets.
So with this in mind the new courses focus sections on these times with an identification of the key risks, but more importantly, some help with how to manage them.
With the approval of Cardinus to roll out the training, Activate has already visited students at the University of Central Lancashire and has been invited to deliver to a further 200 of their sport student cohort. In addition to this, there has already been keen interest shown by four other universities, the Association of Colleges in the East Midlands, an international coaching company recruiting coaches for the USA, and from Chelsea FC who we hope will use the course for their 250 community coaches. This interest alone highlights that the industry is crying out for these courses, delivered in an easy and accessible way.
Activate Sport will be delivering a series of practical seminars designed to give coaches and childcare practitioners an insight into real-life scenarios, with examples and tips to help them to develop their understanding.
With the majority of coaches being kinaesthetic learners (preferring hands on methods of learning), this practical delivery is essential to bridge the gap between their theoretical knowledge and practical understanding.
Backed by Cardinus, and endorsed by IIRSM, the programme is gaining kudos from within the industry and it is hoped that Activate will be able to train more than 1,000 people this year before gaining accreditation with leading industry bodies.