My take on how to get job in S&C!

The last few weeks I have been doing a fair amount of coach education with the Sports Studies students of the University of Hertfordshire, as well as my recent workshop, ‘5 Numbers to Live By.’  Discussions quickly came around to how to get a job in this industry so I thought I would share with you some of my reflections.  Bottom line; be a great coach and get yourself noticed.  So how do you do this?


This coach is explaining the benefit of a proper dynamic warm-up


To be a great coach I have been focusing on talking about the ‘Coaching Process.‘  I’d like to mention a few of my own mentors on this subject who have influenced many of my thoughts on this topic, namely Louis Cayer, Helen Emms, Paul Dent and all the coaching team at Gosling Tennis Academy.   So to set the scene my discussions with the students focused on:  

  • Creating a culture
  • Creating a training environment
  • Observing performance
  • Giving and receiving feedback


In this post I will focus on the first two:


Creating a Culture:

  I started by speaking about Creating a culture.  I explained to the students that if you’re looking to get a job with an organisation it’s really important to see if you are going to be a good fit for each other.  I think that great teams have a great culture, which consists of the following:

>Having a Big Goal and a set of processes in place to achieve it.


For example, at Gosling Tennis Academy, they have a goal of:

”winning now and in the future, on and off the court.”


They define winning as having a champion in the same calendar year in each of the following events:

>Junior 10 and under British Nationals

>Junior 14 and under Tarbes (unofficial world championships)

>Junior Grand slam

>NCAA Divison 1 Team

>Senior Grand slam


So if you’re thinking about approaching an organisation think about whether you’d be excited about being part of a team with these goals.  The processes they have in place that lead to winning at Gosling are:


  • World class knowledge
  • Clear understanding of level
  • Improve performance at each stage of development
  • Integrated improvement of performance


By knowing this you can start to think about where your skill sets will fit within these processes!  Then you can demonstrate how you will help them achieve their goals.


It’s also worth asking them about their values and beliefs.  I was very fortunate to part of the process that the Gosling coaches went through in 2008  coming up with their own Values & Beliefs:



  • Courage
  • Respect
  • Excellence
  • Fun
  • Competitive spirit



  • Process focus = More wins
  • Everything can improve
  • Programmes are individualised
  • Tennis is a team sport



Creating a Training Environment:


Work with the pros


Assuming you’ve got this far, you’ve probably already visited the organisation you’re interested in getting a job with and spoken to them about their goals, processes, values and beliefs. Well if you’re lucky you might be asked to show them what you’ve got and do some coaching so they can see if you can actually coach!!  This is your job interview and you’ve probably heard that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!


Creating a great training environment is not as easy as it might seem.  I really value having someone in my team who I can rely on time and time again to rally the troops.   In my sessions with the students at University of Hertfordshire I focused on a few key concepts to create a great training environment.


  • Passion
  • Challenge
  • Competition
  • Fun


You don’t have to be a ‘hoo-rah’ American style loud and animated personality to be passionate but you do need to engage your athletes some how.  But if you’re starting out then let the goal and the drill be the coach for you and make sure you stick to some simple rules guaranteed to get results!

> No finish line no race so set targets- make sure there is a clear objective that is challenging

>Keep score to switch them on and create a sense of urgency- make sure there is competition

>Make it fun by using games as well as drills to train the theme you are coaching

>Create an environment of choice and consequence.  This doesn’t necessarily link to the previous objectives of having fun, competition and challenge.  But in my experience it does create a sense of accountability if you expose them and do not afford them the opportunity of being able to hide and not take responsibility (you cannot take responsibility if it was not your choice in the first place). Choice and consequence leads to ownership, responsibility and accountability.


Encourage player ownership and control by offering options, making suggestions and providing choice e.g. Would you mind if..? How about we..? How many do you think it will take to do this? etc.


Within each drill/task there must be at least 1 ‘choice point’ for the player e.g. if you choose what is to be done, then the player can choose when. If the coach decides to feed tough balls from the basket, the player can choose from 3 options the number of balls he wants to receive.


The player can choose the level of challenge of the drill/task e.g. ‘Would you like national or international level feeds to be given to you? Would you like national or international standard targets to aim for?’ etc.


Trust me, if you do these things well you will make yourself stand out as a coach by creating a great training environment! Good luck!


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5 lessons learnt after a month coaching at APA

This week I’m introducing you to another one of APA’s new coaches Scott Dodman.


scott dodman profile photo


I’m absolutely delighted to have Scott with us, who is on a work placement year from University of Hertfordshire.


So I asked Scott to come up with 5 lessons he has learnt in his first month at APA.  Here is what he came up with:


  • Communication with both children and adults can often be restricted, due to time constraints. However, I’ve learnt at APA this is a very important part of interacting and sharing ideas, so that both the kids and parents have complete confidence in my desire to progress them so that they can reach their full potential.  What is more, by being positive and approachable I hope it encourage the athletes to listen and share my enthusiasm for my coaching session.
  • Sometimes keeping it simple get results! If everyone understands the instructions they can concentrate on the end result rather than trying to keep up with complicated difficult moves. This helps to make the sessions fun and enjoyable.
  • Safety is paramount to all the training we do with our athletes. It’s important to be mindful of how hard each person works and ensure that they do not cause themselves an injury. Stretching techniques are vital element of all my training sessions so the kids learn that it is not an option, but an essential part of their daily training regime.
  • Smiling is my secret weapon!  People feel more comfortable around someone who smiles and seems approachable.   It may sound crazy but smiling just makes people feel good and as I am mainly happy I probably smile a lot! There are times when I have needed to deal with difficult situations in a group I am coaching but I deal with that and then the next session it is back to smiling, which keeps the overall environment nice and welcoming.
  • Understanding how and why they are being asked to carry out a task will help to educate the athlete so they have a greater understanding their own body and how far they can push themselves.  By educating them on new skills they will soon become part of the athlete’s toolbox which ensures they are at their fittest when it really counts.
  • On a personal note sometimes it is frustrating not being rubber man!  I cannot always demonstrate the exercise I want them to perform either due to my size or my lack of flexibility. However, using technology, such as the IPAD allows me to demonstrate how to carry out the exercise correctly. This allows me to share with them my University theory based strategies but in a more realistic setting. I know from research that the specific exercises help get results so it is great to share this with them at a level they can use and interpret.  Using these techniques have helped to make me feel confident teaching any exercise even if I can’t do it myself.



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  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help



Finally, remember, APA are running a FREE workshop on October 25th 9am-12pm  ‘5 Numbers to Live by.’  It is looking at the key ingredients to a world class S&C programme.


Book HERE to register your place.

Communication in Sports Coaching


This week’s Blog post comes from APA coach Paddy James.  Paddy has been dropping into see us at APA for a few months now and formally joined the team in September having impressed at his interview.

 Paddy W profile photo

As September draws to a close, I have been reflecting back over some key aspects of my coaching practice that have been tested during the past 30 days. Coaching is a very broad topic, with a number of key themes such as adaptability, decision making, being a leader and the ability to educate and influence your athletes being tested in every session. Each one of these topics has enough discussion points to write a book on, so I will be focusing this blog on the area of communication in sports coaching. Communication is essential for coaching success and therefore mastering this skill is hugely important. It is a large area to write about in a blog so to save you from reading War in Peace, I will start at the beginning and have a look at establishing aims and objectives for the session and communicating this to the athletes.

Setting aims and objectives for a session may sound like a basic principle, but ensuring that the athletes know and understand them can often be overlooked. Just spending a few minutes at the start of the session to outline what the theme is, and the key coaching points to be followed can have a positive effect on how smooth the session runs and also the engagement from the athlete. As well as identifying the aims, it is also important to relate the skill being coached to the game or performance. This will give the participants a clear understanding of not just what they are trying to achieve, but why!

Often in coaching, the skill is knowing what to say and what not to say. Allowing the athlete to discover the most efficient way to perform a skill can be far more powerful than the coach giving them all the answers. I have often heard that the best coaches say the least, but this is not to say they are not communicating with their athletes. Nonverbal communication includes observing how your message has been received. This again will link back to the athletes understanding of what they are doing and how it going to enhance their sporting performance. Usually if an athlete believes what they are doing is going to have a positive effect on their game, their effort and concentration will be greater. When coaching a group, this can encourage others to raise their game and, by creating some competition between them, can lead to the athletes striving to perform better.

Identifying the focus of the session, how it relates to the game, and making sure the athletes understand will help to create a positive motivational environment to train in. Creating this environment is an important part of coaching and getting the communication right from the start will make this possible. I will finish by recapping on the 4 points of communication posted a few weeks ago in another APA blog:

  1. Give them the message
  2. Check they heard it properly
  3. Check they understand why they are doing what they are doing
  4. Check they understand the consequences of doing it and not doing it


Paddy James, BSc (Hons), ASCC


 Paddy also has a successful Personal Traning business in London.  Contact Paddy here  for more details.