Life as a Volunteer Coach; A New Coaches Experience… (part 3)


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



Experience of the first coaching session…

As volunteer coaches, our experiences vary depending on the type of club or environment we coach in.  Some larger more experienced clubs have a system for welcoming in new coaches and some just get thrown in at the deep end!

We asked our coaches to share with us their experiences of turning up to their very first coaching session and how they felt as a brand new coach…


Emma – Football, UK

Emma Marlow Profile photoThe first session I went to I was observing a coach that was delivering the session.  He would pull me aside he would tell me exactly what he was looking for in the players.  I did that for a few weeks to help build my confidence up and to learn exactly what I was going to be doing.   I shadowed him for a few weeks and watched another goalkeeper coach as well to learn from them.  John (the main goalkeeper coach), came to me and said ‘2 weeks from now, Mark isn’t going to be there, so you will need to take the session’.  I felt I was ready, so I said yes – so we had a chat about what plans I was going to deliver, what coaching points I needed to look for and he sat down with me the week before.  He pointed a few things out that I needed to be coaching and what progressions I needed to use…so he was a mentor for me for my first 2 months I was there.

I was quite nervous.  The other coaches had been there for quite a long time and I wanted to be at their level and want the knowledge they had.  So I was nervous, but I knew I had to pick things up quite quickly and that I had to focus and listen to what was being said.  The other coaches did make me feel relaxed though and as if I was part of the team.


Liane – Football, UK

LianeThe first session I attended was just a case of coming down and watching what was going on.  It was really nice, there were no requests for me to actually do any coaching, just to get a grasp of what was going on.  The first couple of sessions I was just helping the lead coach who is a male coach and he sometimes found it difficult to control the 12 girls in the squad – so the first few times I was there I helped to get the girls to listen and get them under control.  Eventually I was leading the warm ups and once I completed my Level 1 qualification, I started leading drills and started to build up from there.  I haven’t as yet lead a whole session on my own, but I have had them on my own for a game – which was quite scary as there was so much for me to remember such as the players ID cards, equipment and then figuring out how to let one player go to the toilet whilst dealing with the other 11 players!  It’s those sorts of situations you can ever be prepared for.  Although I am a teacher, you are never left on your own with a class off site – so that was a big learning curve.  It all worked out fine, but next time I will know how to deal with it!


Robyn – Ultimate Frisbee, USA

rOBYN PHOTOAt my first coaching experience with the University if Iowa, we had a pretty small group of players – maybe around 10 players who were mostly 18-20 years old.  I was glad I had played Ultimate at a high level for 5 years as all the players were brand new to the sport, so anything I could teach them would be of benefit.  I was really nervous! I had coached other sports before (basketball and softball) so I did have an understanding of how to plan practices etc, but Ultimate was a challenge.  I struggled a little bit in the beginning in how to develop opportunities for the small team to grow.  I was nervous, but I focused on teaching them something which was better than nothing!


Wendy – Hockey, UK


I joined the club as a player first and mentioned I was a Level 2 Coach so for my first coaching session I just got chucked in at the deep end!  They just said ‘right then off you go!’.  First sessions are always very nerve wracking because you don’t know they players, you don’t know if they will like you, or what their ability is like.  You have to second guess whether you have planned a good enough session or not!   On the flip side, it is exciting as well!  Watching players from the start of the session to the end improve and engage and have fun.  So I do try and get the fun into my sessions.



Michelle – Cycling, UK

MICHELLE PAGETI was so very nervous and felt a little bit like a goldfish in a bowl as the parents looked on and all the kids faces starting back at me. My first session was all about position on the bike and when I held the first session it was freezing cold andi had to try and get the kids to stay focused and moving to simply keep warm.   Initially I was helped by another level 2 coach who signed off my sessions and pointed me in the right direction. He was a good coach to learn from and it really helped me having his experience at the early sessions so I could learn and get it right. He would often ask “how do you think that went” this helped me to feedback myself and evaluate and learn how to do it differently if it did not work.  Once I was on my own and doing sessions alone I did feel a little like in at deep end but week by week I grew in knowledge and experience. The kids helped me, they didn’t realise at the time but they did. I have some of those riders.

Nervous is an understatement. I felt nervous due to parents watching I think, and simply wanting the kids to have the best time on the sessions and want to return. I was also excited as this is something that I desperately wanted to get right and I believe that my excitedness helped me through, getting the kids to share my excitement.



Jill – Running & Cycling, UK

Jill eccelstonI did my 1 day leadership course May 2012 , restarted the juniors section in Nov 2012 with 2 other friends who decided to do the same.  We were all nervous but excited. Our mentor and fellow club member who was also helping us with our level 2 course work came along to oversee and intervene.  We also had a coach from the school with lots of experience and ideas to share that were really useful.  Had to follow a printed off plan became relaxed fairly quickly as the kids were lovely and parents got involved to help nearly straight away.



Maha – Roller Derby, USA / UK

MahaI think I just watched.  And timed drills.  And then was thrown in.  But because I train as well, I’ve had 8 hours a week for the last six years of watching someone coach and break things down and run drills.  So it wasn’t new concepts.  I mostly just needed to find my style.  With rowing, I generally felt nervous.  I was always worried about people falling in the water and whether I’d have to save them from hypothermia.  Also, I wasn’t very good at rowing.  I don’t believe you need to be able to do something to coach it, but I definitely think it makes it easier. And it certainly helps with confidence and authority, especially as a new coach.