Improving Elite Sports Coaching in Wales


This programme of research (part funded by Sport Wales) began in 2006 and has been aimed at improving the quality of coach education in Wales up using novel approaches to upskill high level coaches. Between 2006 and 2008, to address the limitations of some of the existing coach education programmes across the UK, we completed two studies examining different approaches to coach education (see Callow, Roberts, Langan, & Bringer, 2010). These studies clearly demonstrated that, for coach education to be effective, it needed to move away from the traditional workshop format that had traditionally been employed, to more individualised 1-1 mentoring schemes. This work helped Sport Wales to critically examine how they educate coaches in Wales, and as a result, a more individualised approach has begun to be implemented wherever possible. For example a number of mentoring projects (where experienced coaches work with junior coaches) have been developed.  


In 2009, Sport Wales also funded a five year research project for Callow and Roberts to further develop their novel approaches to coach education so that they could upskill a greater number of high level coaches in Wales in relation to psychological skills. This work formed the basis of Rosie Poynor’s PhD, who has further extended the individualised intervention approach that Callow and Roberts initially used in their earlier work. Rosie used the Medical Research Council guidelines for conducting complex interventions and we hope (think) that the work that comes out of her PhD will provide a best practice model for coach education research as well sport psychology research in terms of how to do interventions properly. The intervention work was completed in 2013. Over 40 coaches (working at the high end of Welsh sport) received an individualised education programme, with some coaches receiving this remotely (via CDs and workbooks) and others as the result of a one on one mentoring scheme. As part of this programme of research, we developed and validated a number of questionnaires that can be used by athletes and coaches to assess how often, and how well, coaches use psychological skills in their coaching. This potentially has important implications for the effective use of psychological skills in optimising athletes’ performance.



Significant impact has already occurred as a substantially greater proportion of elite Welsh coaches being upskilled to foster their athletes’ use of psychological skills. The coaches have reported that both the face to face delivery and remote learning interventions have been very effective in increasing their confidence to deliver and use psychological skills within their coaching. Parts of this research have also been presented at higher levels within our organisation, with a view to changing policy in relation to coach education. As well as the benefits to coaching, an economic benefit to increasing coaches ability to coach PS with their athletes is also evident, as the costs involved in employing psychologists are much greater than the costs in employing coaches.

Sport Wales anticipate that this project will provide multiple tools which will enable them to upskill coaches in a novel and individualised way, one that is far more effective than the traditional approaches presently employed. We (Roberts, Callow, & Jones, & Poynor) are currently exploring the potential of developing the online resources used in the PhD further with Sport Wales and providing a bi-lingual service for coaches in Wales. Sport wales also wish to increase their coach provision online, and the work done here is being viewed as a test case to examine the feasibility of increasing coach education resources online



Dr Joy Bringer (Sport Wales)