To mark UK Coaching Week, Chris Scott, London Sport's Head of Corporate Communications explores the role of coaching in contributing to stronger communities in the capital.
The publication of the Mayor of London’s sport strategy last year moved into London’s mainstream the belief that physical activity and sport should be an active contributor to social integration across the capital. This year’s Coaching Week campaign, the national celebration of great coaching backed by UK Coaching, has also highlighted the role of coaching in supporting connected communities across the UK. So, what is the connection between coaching, communities and integration? And how can physical activity and sport benefit from an enhanced focus on the relationship between them?
The first point to make is that London stands in a remarkably positive position to build from. As the sport sector has moved to a wide focus on the benefits of physical activity (as opposed to those of traditional sport alone), so our understanding of the workforce that meets that need has evolved and developed. Research that underpins Building a Workforce for the Future, London’s Workforce strategic plan of action shows that 1 in 3 Londoners have some involvement in the physical activity sector, whether paid, voluntary or some combination of the two.
A positive starting point, then, but a sizeable workforce and the right workforce for connecting communities are not necessarily one-and-the-same thing. As my colleague and London Sport Workforce specialist, David Reader, alludes to in his own blog from earlier this week, much of London Sport’s recent focus has been on working with new sectors – in particular the health sector – to embed physical activity and sport into the core of their public engagement work. These people may not be a traditional coaching workforce, but their ability to act as trusted partners to members of the public who may otherwise not engage with physical activity and sport makes them vital to the future growth of physical activity participation. Through this work, we have an opportunity to not only expand the scale of the capital’s physical activity workforce, but to make it more relevant to more Londoners – from all communities and at all levels of their physical activity journey.
By getting people to take new steps to build physical activity into their lives, we have an opportunity to support communities to come together and interact more meaningfully through sport; opportunities that are beginning to bear fruit through new and emerging projects in London.
Wheely Tots is a registered charity based around the N4 and N17 postcode areas in north London helping families, adults and children to cycle more regularly, focusing on toddlers and their parents. Supported by input from London Sport, Wheely Tots have recently secured funding from the Mayor of London’s office and partnerships with Home Start, Lordship Rec Hub and Haringey Council to deliver a project that pairs up families to take part in practical cycling-related activities that work to enhance children’s wellbeing, increase social capital and reduce isolation among families in the community. Wheely Tots’ success in this area lies in both their regional and subject expertise, and their commitment to supporting families in some of London’s most deprived communities to gain all the benefits of physical activity.
Their work is just one example of where coaching is bringing people and communities together across London and offers a vision for the future; where sport, physical activity and workforce development work to bring people together and create environments that make our city stronger, healthier and better connected.
Find out more about the Mayor of London's commitment to social integration through sport here.
Find out more about Coaching Week here.