Life as a volunteer coach; Meet the Coaches

There are thousands of us around the World that give up countless hours each week to coach our beloved sports.  Governing bodies are continually aiming to recruit more male and female coaches and rely heavily on the commitment of these coaches to volunteer and develop their sport at the grassroots levels.   In our new feature ‘Life as a Volunteer Coach’, we explore the ups and downs, the demands and the glory of being one of these unpaid sports coaches.  We asked 7 coaches from the UK and the US all kinds of questions ranging from how much time they spend coaching, what sacrifices they make in their everyday life’s and how much coaching costs them each month.  Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing their very honest answers with you all.

It would be great to hear about your experiences also, so please join in by adding your own answers in the comment boxes below!

To kick start our feature, may we introduce you to our 7 coaches:



Emma Marlow

Emma Marlow Profile photoSport: Football

Nationality: British

Coaching Qualification: Level 1 Goalkeeping Coach (FA)

Coaching Role: Youth Goalkeeper Coach

Organisation: AFC Wimbledon Ladies and Girls F.C

Hours committed to coaching each week: 4 hours + 2 hours planning


I have played football since I was about 5 years old and got scouted at 10 to go and play for a centre of excellence in the UK.  I managed to get myself into Wimbledon FC academy and went on to play for Chelsea as well as representing my County.  My involvement in coaching began when I was about 16 at Sixth Form College; I used to help with the after school girls sessions because they didn’t have a full time coach.  When I went to University, I took a more dominate role within the women football team and become the Chairman in my second year.  Because of that, the University offered to pay for my level 1, so after completing this, I then spent some time working with coaches at the University and assisting them at their sessions.  This led me to volunteering into the evenings at a local school on a Tuesday night and a Saturday morning.



Liane Tylee

Sport:Liane Football

Nationality: British

Coaching Qualification: FA Level 1

Coaching Role: Assistant Coach

Organisation: AFC Wimbledon Ladies and Girls F.C

Hours committed to coaching each week: 1.5 hours Thursday + 2 hours Sunday games + extra in between


I play as a goalkeeper for AFC Wimbledon Ladies First Team and back in September an email was sent from the club to see if anybody was interested in helping coach some of the younger teams.  I expressed my interest and I was immediately put on the FA Level 1 coaching course. I have always watched and played football, so I am confident that I can read the game.  Additionally, I am a Primary school teacher with a PE specialism, so I am confident working with children.  I feel this actually gave me a slight advantage on my coaching course.



Robyn Wiseman

rOBYN PHOTOSport: Ultimate Frisbee

Nationality: USA

Coaching Qualification: USA Ultimate Certified coach

Coaching Role: Head Coach

Organisation: University of Wisconsin & Youth Club team

Hours committed to coaching each week: 3 – 4 nights a week, weekends 4 tournament, summer – youth team 1-2 times per week, skills clinics once a week


I had been playing ultimate frisbee for 5 years and my eligibility as a college player was coming to an end at the University of Iowa.  The team that I played for was looking to expand to have an A team and a B team and because i couldn’t play anymore and they needed help, I started coaching the B team.  I was really interested in giving back to the programme I had played for the year prior.

I then moved to where I currently reside in Madison, at the University of Wisconsin and they were also looking to start a B team because their programme had grown so large.  Coaching a B team is a little bit different to that of an A team as the commitment levels are a little bit lower, the girls may be not be as talented etc.  I felt I had a lot of good experience working with these kinds of players.

On the youth side of things, our community Ultimate organisation used to have a team that would go and compete at one tournament – but because no one was willing to organise it anymore, they stopped, so my husband and I had started to mentor some of the youth players on a one on one basis.  We thought they should have the opportunity to compete so we set it back up and tried to increase the competitiveness of that youth team.  So we worked with them to do so.


Wendy Russell

WENDY RUSSELLSport: Field Hockey

Nationality: British

Coaching Qualification: level 2 Hockey Coach & PE teacher

Coaching Role: Teacher and Director of Colts, Ladies team coach

Organisation: Brighton and Hove HC and University

Hours committed to coaching each week: 7 1/2 delivering sessions


I wanted to be a PE Teacher at primary school as I was really inspired by my own PE teacher.  My journey to achieve that wasn’t that easy though as I was hit by a car when I was 10 years old which caused some issues with my growth.  When I was 13 I was told I had arthritis in my hip and told me to give up the idea of being a PE Teacher because I shouldn’t do sport.  So I gave up for two years…but when I did my A levels I was determined I still wanted to do it.  Although I wasn’t very good at sport, I just enjoyed playing.

When I was at University I was playing for a local club that didn’t have a junior side.  I thought it was crazy because there was a secondary school in the town and I couldn’t believe they were not linking with them to promote hockey! I went and got my Level 2 coaching qualification to develop the junior side of that club and get juniors coming along to feed into the adult side of the club.   So that is how I started, because I wanted to give back to the sport that has given me hours and hours of fun!



Michelle Paget


Nationality: English

Coaching Qualification: Level 2 Certificate in Cycling, Level 2 BMX Specific Award

Coaching Role: Club Coach

Organisation: RLSCC Royal Leamington Spa Cycling Club and Nuneaton BMX Club

Hours committed to coaching each week: 3 hours coaching plus prep work 2hrs+


After a few years of riding and racing MTB, I became involved with the local bike shop I helped set up a cycle club that was initially run from the shop. We wanted to grow the club and members and help kids in the area get on bikes and have fun. I signed up to become the club coach and at the time I was also club secretary. Since qualifying as a coach I have stood back from the club sec role and I am now rider development for RLSCC and really enjoy focusing on the coaching.
I also ride as much as I can Cyclocross, MTB and have taken up BMX cruiser racing as well. Becoming involved with a local BMX club Nuneaton BMX they encouraged me to train as a level 2 BMX specific coach and I now help organise and run sessions at the track and indoors for the bmx riders.



Jill Eccleston

Jill eccelstonSport:  Running, Cycling, Fitness classes and Fundamentals of movement ages 3-11

Nationality:  English

Coaching Qualification: England Athletics Level 3 Running Coach, British cycling ride leader, Mountain bike trail leader, England Athletics Athlefit instructor

Coaching Role:  Voluntary and full time self employed

Organisation / club:  Settle Harriers, Giggleswick Gazelles and various primary schools in my area

Hours committed to coaching each week:  19


I have always enjoyed sport and being outdoors, even more so since moving to this amazing part of the Yorkshire Dales over 20 years ago.  Back then on my single speed Raleigh racer I would take myself off on days out exploring all the connecting valleys.  I started my running career at primary school taking part in x country events, competing for Andover Athletics over middle distance track stuff  in my early teens. I joined my local club Settle Harriers in 1997 where 18 years later on I am now one of the coaches in the rapidly growing juniors section.  I have set up childrens bike clubs at both Giggleswick Junior and Primary schools and also take FUNdamentals of movement and running clubs at Kirkby Malham, Kirkby Lonsdale, Tatham Fells, Embsay and Cowling primaries for both Key stage one and two groups.



Maha El Nasser

MahaSport: Roller derby

Nationality: USian

Coaching Qualification: Level 2 in Rowing

Coaching Role: Head coach of Leeds Roller Dolls recreational league (roller derby)

Organisation / club: Leeds Roller Derby

Days / hours committed to coaching each week: 4 hours over two days, coaching on skates.  Probably about 25 hours total with prep and meetings and offline support and organising recruitment.


I became a coach rather organically.  My first coaching experience was capoeira with Abolicao in Oxford.  I started helping out with the kids classes because they needed an extra body and eventually started leading sessions.  That was less like coaching (as I think of it) and more like herding cats.  Or corralling wild cows.  When I moved north, I didn’t find a capoeira group that suited me quite so much (and my knees weren’t quite what they needed to be) and I got more involved in rowing and rowed with my local club.  There was a funded opportunity to train as a Level 2 coach and the club was always asking for help with coaching, particularly the juniors, so I put myself forward and got some “proper” coaching instruction.  Though I found it to be mostly an odd combination of how to save someone from hypothermia (very important) and how to put a boat together (also fairly important).  But all the learning about how to be a coach, I feel like I picked that up during the coaching sessions.  I’m still picking it up.  There’s a lot to think about.

When I abandoned rowing in favour of roller derby, it was a similar trajectory.  I started supporting at sessions because we needed coaches and eventually thought, I want to do some more of this and took a role with more responsibility.  I’ll be honest, when I made that decision, I had no idea that I would love it as much as I do.  Coaching has become my happy place – it lets me hang out, on wheels, with a bunch of folks that I love, talking about a sport that I love, learning new skills as I share what I know.  And I can make people do push ups by just looking at them funny.  I mean, if that’s not a happy place, what is?