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Coaching Diploma Case Study: Gareth Wilson

Meet Gareth Wilson who shares his journey through the Coaching Diploma (Level 4) programme. 

I started coaching canoe slalom in 2007...

I volunteered with Holme Pierrepont Canoe Club whilst I was competing in the C2 class. This was a challenge I relished and I started to form my practice on the river bank with the aim of helping athletes achieve promotion through the national ranking system. My passion for development enabled me to support the British Rafting team as coach from 2008 until 2012 where I learned a lot about coaching and managing a team of driven individuals focused on international success. 

In 2011, I was offered my first professional job as a coach with British Canoeing and I now work as part of the Podium Slalom Team at Lee Valley, preparing athletes to compete at Senior International championship events. I’ve been fortunate in my career to work across the entirety of the pathway, with novices to elite men and women who have represented their country at the highest level. 

I signed up for the Coaching Diploma programme to stretch my knowledge to develop new coaching skills to impact positively upon athlete performance...

I enjoy being stimulated intellectually and thought that this programme would enable this to occur in an applied sense for my profession. 

I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between the coach and athlete. There is a plethora of material exploring what effective coaching relationships look like in academia, most notably, Sophia Jowett’s work exploring closeness, commitment and complementarity. It was through this work which helped me understand, shape and evolve my coaching philosophy and gain a deeper understanding of my coaching values. Try searching for ‘Jowett 3 + 1C model’ on the internet for a brief introduction.

My perception of what an effective coaching relationship is has changed through the learning and my research, which goes hand in hand with practical coaching experiences. Good quality relationships are not void of disagreement, conflict and challenge but instead encourage discussion, embrace difference in opinion and tackle issues head on in order to improve performance on and off the water.

I found it very engaging interacting with coaches’ from different paddlesport disciplines…

Each of my peers had a unique insight into coaching in their respective domains. The ability to sit with experts, listen to stories and understand their reflections through both the practical experience and academic context was very interesting.

As for being a student again, I thoroughly enjoyed getting my hands on the latest academic research in coaching science and attempting to engineer the most useful information into my coaching practice. My research has given me a greater understanding of my coaching practice from a theoretical perspective which translates in to confidence in my delivery on the river bank with athletes and colleagues at work.  

My next steps...

One of my course tutors described himself as a ‘pracademic’. If I can apply the critical thinking skills of academia into my coaching practice and interventions, I would be very satisfied and believe that it will also set athletes up to achieving their personal and professional goals.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself ‘why, how, what and when’, to critique the ideas you see and hear around you. If you can answer these simple questions, then be confident there has been sufficient rigour in your decision making informing your coaching process. If you can’t give a satisfactory answer, be curious about finding people or information who may be able to fill the gaps in your knowledge.

My enjoyment for intellectual stimulation from the post graduate work I’ve completed has not dwindled and I hope is the stepping stone to a PhD in coaching science in the future. Watch this space!