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"Coaches and leaders have a duty of care towards their participants"

05 June 2023

By Matt Rhodes, AoC Senior Policy Manager

AoC Sport is excited to be an official partner of UK Coaching Week. We highly recommend that all staff and volunteers involved in college sport take a look at the UK Duty to Care Toolkit.

Colleges are already familiar with the concept of Duty of Care, as education providers. The statutory guidance for colleges, "Keeping Children Safe in Education," addresses this. During UK Coaching Week, the focus is on highlighting the importance of Duty to Care in sports and how it forms the foundation of effective coaching, regardless of the participant's level. By prioritizing the safety, welfare, and well-being of participants, we can help them achieve their goals, attract new participants, and address inequalities.

Sport offers numerous benefits to individuals, including opportunities for health, social interaction, mental health, and personal development. It also benefits colleges by positively impacting attainment, retention, and recruitment. However, these benefits come with responsibilities. Coaches and leaders have a duty of care towards their participants. They must ensure participant safety and create an environment that fosters enjoyment and development.

Through conversations with college sport staff at regional networks and AoC Sport events, it is evident that a participant-first approach is crucial when engaging with inactive students. This approach has been effective, as evidenced by recent data from Sport England Active Lives, which shows that the number of active 16-24-year-olds in Further Education has increased from 63% to 72% in the past year. This is an achievement worth celebrating.

Our recent insights have shown that the initial experience at a session plays a vital role in whether a participant will continue to engage in the activity. Feeling personally welcomed and understood enhances engagement, builds rapport, and helps tailor future sessions to meet individual needs, thereby fostering greater loyalty. This is an area where colleges excel and have an advantage over community sport providers. Colleges have a deep understanding of their students, their triggers, and their anxieties, enabling them to develop activities that cater to their needs.

Our insights also indicate that over 50% of students would prefer to be active in their community rather than at college. However, they feel that community sport does not provide a suitable space for them. It is often seen as geared towards children or adults, emphasizing competition, commitment, or membership. We are collaborating with Active Partnerships and National Governing Bodies to help them understand the needs of the 16-19 age group and ensure a safe and inclusive space for them in community sport.

In our recently published strategic framework, we reaffirmed our commitment to tackling inactivity. With support from Sport England, we are taking a systems approach to better understand the challenges students face and how we can reimagine sport and physical activity, making it something all students desire and can access, regardless of their motivation.