Life as a Volunteer Coach; Coaching Environments & Facilities (part 2)

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 meet the 7 coaches sharing their stories CLICK HERE



Coaching Environments & Facilities


One of the first things we wanted to find out from our coaches was what their coaching environment was like and what challenges they faced with a lack of facilities, lack of funding and for those outdoors, the challenges that the weather brings.

From too much snow and freezing temperatures in Wisconsin (USA) putting a halt to Ultimate Frisbee tournaments and to car boots / trunks not being big enough for hockey equipment….our volunteer coaches (like all volunteer coaches) have stories of how their coaching environments and facilities drive us a little crazy!



Emma Marlow Profile photoEmma – Football, UK

At the moment the teams are split over different nights and venues so I tend to do one week with one team and another week with another team.  I coach between 2-4 goalkeepers per session which can change a little, but there are only 4 teams that I manage.  It’s quite a small number but it is a specialist position.  Its quite rare for girls teams to have very good goalkeepers and I want to help change that.

The other coaches that I work with are really passionate about the game, we have a range of male and female coaches and I think all of the girls look up to their coaches.  They all know the coaches are there to help them and are always trying to ensure that the girls get as much as possible out of a session.  They ask the girls opinions about they want to do and what they think they should improve.  The girls are giving back to the coaches too.

Equipment wise, I do have a few of my own bits of equipment that I have picked up over the years and from my Dad coaching as well.  The facilities we train at is astro turf which is hard for the goalkeepers to dive on, they tend to end up with sore elbows and knees half way through the session.  So we do have to adapt training sessions to this which does make that quite difficult and we try and work around it as best as possible.



LianeLiane – Football, UK

We are quite a big club so we are very lucky with the resources we have.  We have two under 12 teams and we train at the same venues which is on a large astro turf which we have for an hour and a half every week.  I work alongside Dan, who is the manager and main coach and we sometimes hep out the two coaches at the other under 12s team.  We also have Emma Marlow who comes down to do some Goalkeeper training with us.  We are lucky with our facilities, the home ground has a really good clubhouse.  We train on astro turf and grass for matches.




rOBYN PHOTORobyn – Ultimate Frisbee, USA

For the college teams, at the beginning of the season, both the A and the B teams practice together because we are also trying to recruit athletes at the same time – so we have 50 to 60 girls per practice. When we get to the indoor season, we split the teams into A and B

During the indoor season we practice on an indoor turf once a week – very late at night from 10 pm until midnight – so the girls do sacrifice a lot to be there.  The times we can’t get the indoor facility, the girls pay to rent an indoor basketball court area so that they can practice.  During the outdoor season we practice 2 days a week from 4pm until 6pm and have 1 – 2 gym workouts per week.

I also lead another workout on Friday afternoons focussing on conditioning and movement patterns.  For the youth teams, at the beginning of the season, both the A and the B teams practice together because we are also trying to recruit athletes at the same time – so we have 50 to 60 girls per practice.  When we get to the indoor season, we split the teams into A and B.  The A team now has 25 players and the B team has about 30 players this year.  I also have a coach that coaches the B team.

The youth team is a mixed gender team with girls and boys aged 14 – 19 years old, so there is a big difference in levels of athleticism.  The practices are open to all skill levels.  We also do skill clinics which are open to the youth players – and that is usually a group of around 10-15 players per session.

I have an assistant coach with the University team and my B team has a coach also.




Player wise I coach from under 6 year olds all the way up to senior ladies, so I do a huge variety of ages including coaching some deaf players.  When I coach the very young players, I normally have a couple of parents keeping an eye out with me, but for all the other teams it is just me coaching on my own.

At the club, we have two astro turfs next to each other which are about 3 years old now and that has allowed our journey side to really develop.

We do have a bag of equipment at the club for players to use – normally it’s in the back of my car! Some of the equipment can’t be secured at the training ground because it’s on a school site, so it lives between my car and my garage!

I bought a new car 2 years ago and had to think ‘will I fit hockey sticks in this boot?’




MICHELLE PAGETMichelle – Cycling, UK

I coach at a local school environment. We use the play grounds and fields within the school on weekends, I have also coached within school hours for a mainstream primary school and a special educational needs school too.  I also coach at my local BMX track in Nuneaton, pumptrack  and also do indoor sessions too in a sports hall environment.

I coach a group of 3-20 depending on who it is and the other coaches are awesome we all feed of each other and support one another, feel like a team and proud to be part of both clubs as a coach.

We are lucky to be supported at both clubs by British Cycling and we have use of a fleet of MTB bikes and coaching equipment and also at the BMX club we have hire bikes and equipment making it easier to encourage people that may not have a flash bike to come and have a go.



Jill eccelstonJill –  Running, Cycling, UK

I coach a variety of numbers in my groups; at the Junior running club there are 22 kids and at primary schools they are age 3-11 up and up to 100 different children this term.

At Settle Harriers juniors club, many like me started as a parent with an interest who then wanted to help develop this area of the club.  We have access to Giggleswick Schools floodlit astroturf in the Winter months as many of the pitches are too wet especially for the younger groups to use.  We have a pavilion with toilets and changing rooms and area for parents to watch.



MahaMaha – Roller Derby, US & UK

So we have a pretty big club without a lot of money and our venue is pretty expensive and sometimes it is leaky.  So we have to scrimp on hours and space sometimes.  We’re lucky in that it’s pretty central to the city though.  The other club in our area has to travel quite far to train.  It’s just impossible to find sports halls willing to let us skate.  All the old sports halls have all either closed down or been done up with new floors and won’t let us train.  Warehouses are prohibitively expensive.  Venues are consistently an issue for more roller derby leagues across Europe.

Our equipment is pretty up to scratch.  We got a good grant from West Yorkshire Sport a couple years ago to buy equipment and cages to store them in and that has been amazing.  we have safe skates that we can lend out to new skaters.  Roller derby can be pretty cost intensive and it’s hard to convince someone to splash out on £200 worth of equipment before they’ve even had one session, so having kit to lend has really helped with recruitment.

I think we have about 40 skaters in our rec league, but an average of about 25/ session.  Our rec skaters are so much fun to coach.  They’re just so enthusiastic, so I don’t have trouble finding volunteer coaches or support/ helpers.  We like to try and keep a pretty high coach to skater ratio, particularly when we’re bringing in new skaters.   So we’ve got about 1 coach to every five skaters (ish).  It works well because they do a lot of individual skills but also they work through game scenarios in small groups and it can be helpful to have a dedicated coach watching and supporting.