4 years ago, I helped a coach at a coaching session, which started my journey as a cycling coach. Within 6 months, I had completed 72 hours volunteering and was writing blogs as part of my young volunteers award from British Cycling.
Here is a piece that I wrote about 6 months after starting coaching, which I had titled ‘Coaching inspiration’. It made me smile when I reread this earlier in the year so I thought I’d share it (and the points are just as relevant now as they were then).
‘As my volunteering hours reach 72, I have been thinking about becoming a coach and what I have learned about coaching through my volunteering experiences.
- No space is too small – I was helping a coach recently and she had set up her coaching area in a small grassy area of a park. I initially thought that this was rather odd but really the course was very good. Small areas mean the course will be technical, perfect for practising skills such as cornering.
- Coaching sessions can include different types of races – I have often thought when planning a session that I will just add in a quick race to make it competitive or a relay to practise skills in a competitive environment without worrying too much about the result. My coach recently led an omnium event in a closed circuit session. It included a time trial, a handicap race, elimination race and a points race where you had to exactly reach a certain number of points. This was fun for the young riders and enabled them to think more about their strengths and weaknesses.
- All coaches coach differently. I have been coached by many coaches throughout my time as a rider. Although I have said I prefer certain coaches, I don’t think I appreciated how different the coaches are in their approach until I started coaching with them. I have had the opportunity to volunteer with many coaches. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t turn down – I have only been coached with my age group and now I am coaching younger riders so it was really valuable to learn from coaches who are experienced at leading other age groups. I would highly recommend it to anyone hoping to become a coach.
- Confidence and enthusiasm are excellent qualities to possess. I found my confidence has increased massively through coaching – this is essential for being firm and drawing a line between fun (messing around) and dangerous activities. Enthusiasm is particularly needed when coaching club sessions – whilst competitive riders will want to be the best, there will be younger riders, or siblings, who just enjoy cycling, and these may need more encouragement to try their hardest.
I have learned a lot from volunteering in cycling; just because I have completed the hours required, I know I won’t be stopping anytime soon.’
And indeed, here I am, still coaching 4 years later (although everything is currently on hold) – a massive thank you goes to everyone who has supported and encouraged me over the years