26/04/2017- Latest News

The Coach Journey – An overview of the interdisciplinary nature of fencing coaching

How do you get started in coaching?  Is it planned?  Do you know where you want to be in five years and how to get there?  Can you actually get there?  Is it realistic?

Lots of experiences of being involved in coaching and coach development is based on random opportunity, it can be a case of serendipitous moments that define our coaching.  

The concept of “The Coach’s Journey” is to provide the opportunity to look at various reference points that would provide some insights in areas where you may wish to undertake development opportunities.

Developing as a coach is like any journey – you have two options – plan your journey as you know your desired destination, or just go with limited or no directions and see where you end up.

The Coach’s Journey is made up from several constructs:

  • The space coaching takes place
  • The various types of fencers in those spaces
  • The different types of coach
  • The Qualifications model tailored to different spaces/fencers and how you may navigate across the qualifications model

The Coach’s Journey in a non linear model allowing the coach greater controls on their development outcomes and for the coach it probably starts with WHY!

Why do you want to coach?

1.  Coaching take place in physical spaces (e.g. Activity Providers, Clubs, Schools, Universities).  They each have an atypical fencing group linked to them.

The spaces can be defined as:

Community – Those taking part are typically focused on their time, their motivations, taking part in socially based experiences and engaging with fencing for the first time.

Development  – Those taking part are all age ranges and focused on enjoying fencing, improving their skills and taking part in competition.

Performance  – Those taking part are in regional and national squads.  Fencers take part in a variety of competitions.

High Performance  – Those taking part are selected for specific international competitions, with ambitions to achieve senior international medals.

These spaces link to the fencer and their needs/goals and capabilities. Organisations, particularly clubs can have multiple coaching spaces and ideally they would be fully aware of the types of coaching space within the club and the ambition/motivations/abilities of each of the fencers in those spaces.

Coaches have the opportunity to become highly skilled in a coaching space and where their beliefs and values align to a coaching space, it is most likely they will get the greatest satisfaction in their coaching.

Coaches that work in various coaching spaces are most effective when they modify their coaching practice to the coaching spaces and more specifically the individual need differentiation in that coaching space.

Recognition of the space and the fencer in each space allows a coach to develop a deep understanding of fencing coaching.  The best coaches will either modify their coaching practice to the spaces and more specifically the individual need differentiation in that space.  The alternative option is to recognise another coach may be better placed to help the fencer continue their development.

It is important to get the right coaching skill set in the right space, as this is a key to the retention and development of future fencers – so the right coach.  One size normally does not fit all.

2. Fencer Progressions

Typically a player or performance pathway provides an environment that helps players realise their potential and has a number of stages in the pathway.  The fencing pathway starts with the beginner fencers and goes all the way to Olympic fencers.

Every year over 250,000 young people have a beginner fencing session and approximately 30 fencers would make up the largest team representing a county at the Olympics.  The pathway is a process of reaching your potential and also an elimination process as not every fencer can compete at the very highest level.

Fencers have their own motivations for fencing.  They become the best player that they can be, seek a lifelong commitment to the game through coaching, refereeing, supporting roles or volunteering or perhaps go on to represent their home country or Great Britain at junior, senior or veterans levels.

Therefore fencers are also on a journey.  The evidence would suggest that transition from Explore is low.  This due to their actual experience and the other barriers such as access to a local opportunity.

It is also recognised that society has changed in the way it consumes sport.  Pay-and-play and modified methods of participation are becoming more prevalent.

Sports clubs understand the purpose of the traditional sporting experience and some clubs offer modified versions of their sport and some clubs have developed to deliver new experiences.  Examples of modified versions of fencing are plastic fencing and metal fencing experience such as Sabre-lite.  The consequence of widening markets is that the Sports DNA is changing.  Therefore the role of the coach needs to modify by recognising where fencers are on the pathway and where they wish to or can go.  The coach can provide the fencer with the best, most appropriate  experience to fencer and by meeting the needs and wants of the fencers, they are more likely to be retained in Fencing.

3. Types of coaches

The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

People get into coaching for a number of reasons.  One reason often given is to give back to the sport.  Understanding why you are coaching will help shape what you hope to achieve in coaching.  This provides a reference point to the skills and knowledge’s required.  Assessing your skills and knowledge against these will provide you with insight of what needs to be undertaken as a developing coach and if it is realistic or unrealistic.

One of the weaknesses of a hierarchy coach development model is that as coaches seek to improve within that hierarchy, there is an expectation of coaching a higher standard of athlete.  This causes some unintended consequences – good coaches that work well with beginner move away from the beginner athlete so it pushes coaches to areas where they are not always best suited.  This creates a system where performance/elite coaches are deemed more valuable than a coach of beginners.  However without the coach inspiring and setting good foundation in the beginner athlete, the performance coach would have no athlete to support.

This is addressed by the recognition of several types of coach:

  • The Community Fencing Coach
  • The Development Fencing Coach
  • The Performance Fencing Coach 

This allows a coach to develop a depth of understanding in a specific area and be valued for that.  Recognising the specialist nature of each coach will allow the best opportunity for the fencers to have the right type and quality of coaching, at their stage of development.

For some coaches they will develop understanding in all three areas and adapt the delivery to the fencers needs.  For other coaches they will develop just one area – this aligned to their personal skill set and their “Why they coach” answer.

4.  The Qualification Framework

The Qualifications framework is based on the UKCC 4 X 4 Coaching model.  Within that model there are 10 types of coach from Core Coach to Master Performance Coach.  Each type of coach having an expectation on the skill and requirements of that role, thus recognising that the coach has undertaken the formal training requirements to perform the role and future development is gained by experience, informal development opportunities, such as communities of practice.

This allows a coach to target the development areas they require to meet the needs of their fencers.

Coaching Qualifications Flowchart


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