This is the next part of our coaches series where we look at qualifications.
In order to properly become a sports coach, you must gain an appropriate coaching qualification.
Within the UK, for smallbore shooting, the standard route of qualifications involves completing the NSRA qualification framework, which starts at the Club Instructor and progresses through Club, County, and Regional Coach qualifications. In recent years the ISSF have positively expanded their qualifications, with the introduction of the D Licence as an introductory type coaching course which gives an alternative option for those looking to move into coaching.
In the effort of full transparency, my bias in writing this article is heavily influenced by the adverse obstructions I have personally faced with the NSRA qualification framework which has, in turn, motivated me to complete numerous alternative and extensive relevant qualifications. I have tried my best to maintain a level argument. Having previously completed the Club Instructor, I have examined (and been around for the delivery of) some of the Club and County qualifications offered by the NSRA. Additionally, the NSRA has the syllabus for these qualifications on their website.
Over the last few years, I have undertaken several qualifications covering different subjects but all with the same aim in mind; what will make me a better coach? During one of these qualifications (Sports Massage), one of the tutors made a comment that has really stuck with me. He said, “I’m not here to teach you to pass an assessment criteria, I’m here to teach you how to do a job”. Although a qualification is a certificate to say that you have met the minimum requirements to pass those assessment criteria, it doesn’t necessarily give you the competence, skills or ability to actually undertake the job safely or effectively. Every coaching scenario may be different in some aspect, the athlete may have different needs (learning style/ability/disability), one day you may have a standing shooter, the next a prone shooter. A great coach will always adapt the session to meet the individual needs of the athlete. This is where coaching experience, technical knowledge, and adaptability comes in greatly! Continuous professional development (CPD) also plays a role here as does understanding that it takes years to develop into a good coach (it doesn’t just happen overnight or because you have a piece of paper saying you’re a coach)
Back to the NSRA qualifications. It is my honest conclusion based on my research, experience and the consultation with other independent sports coaching professionals & university lecturers, that the NSRA coaching framework could be massively improved very easily!
I have been told that the NSRA coaching framework is up to current industry standards (i.e. follows the UK Coaching Framework or the UKCC as it was until a couple of years ago) which is a fact I may have found true back until about 2006, presently I believe they have included enough legislative content to cover their assets (Child Protection) yet the technical details and sports coaching skills have plenty of room for updating and improving. We must also mention that as NSRA qualifications are by definition, unregulated qualifications which means that the NSRA have full control over the qualification framework and they do not have to hold the qualification up to OFQUAL or any other awarding bodies standards. When comparing this to my comments above, my experience in completing other up to date UK Coaching qualifications I can honestly say that the NSRA qualifications do need an overhaul which gives the sport another issue to face, a nation of “questionable” coaches.
When writing this piece I am reminded of a time working with an NSRA Regional Coach in a squad session. To cut to the chase I was somewhat horrified to see some athletes with obvious medical issues (diabetes) and no questions were asked of this. I had to personally ask everyone I worked with if there is anything medically relevant I need to know as a coach. Yes, I am at an advantage having gained Personal Training and Massage qualifications specifically that discuss the implications certain medical conditions can have whilst training. Not only did I find this unprofessional but it highlights the potential dangers involved.
This, however, is somewhat understandable considering the guided learning hours (GLH) of the NSRA framework. If we work the hours out, based on 8 hour days (pretty standard for courses).
NSRA Club Instructor is 2 days or 16 GLH
(3p add on – 1 day/8GLH)
NSRA Club Coach is 2 days (plus 1 assessment day), so 16 GLH
NSRA County Coach is 4 days (plus 1 assessment day), so 32 GLH
NSRA Regional Coach is 4 days or 32 GLH
This gives us a total of approximately 96(104 with 3p) GLH to complete the whole NSRA framework.
How does this compare to other sports who do follow UKCC Guidance and are OFQUAL regulated? Other sports that have the UK Coaching framework which goes from Level 1 through to Level 4. For the purpose of this piece we will consider the Level 1 as the Club Instructor, Level 2 Club Coach, Level 3 as County Coach and Level 4 as Regional Coach and I do understand that some may consider this as comparing football and rugby but the point is awareness!
A UK Coaching Level 1 coach is deemed an assistant coach and it takes approximately 4 days (32GLH) to complete the course.
A UK Coaching Level 2 coach is a deemed a “full coach” and can run their own coaching sessions without supervision. A level 2 takes approximately 4-6 days to complete (let’s call it 5 days or 40 GLH in this case)
A UK Coaching Level 3 coach is a County Coach equivalent and takes between 5-8 days (let’s say 6 days or 48 GLH in this case)A UK Coaching Level 4 coaching qualification involves a postgraduate diploma run by a University and is a 2-year part-time course (or 120 credits which is 1200 hours of lectures and guided study).
Needless to say, the amount of education and lecture time you get with other sports is incomparable to shooting (96/104 GLH vs 1320 GLH) but again this is not unexpected considering that so many other sports have sports professionals (usually university lecturers) monitoring and developing their frameworks as well as the regulation and high standards that awarding bodies and OFQUAL hold them to.
After reading that, as a British aspiring coach, you may be thinking that you are stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment but in reality, you aren’t! The ISSF have in recent years, really put some decent development into their coaching qualifications and have introduced the D Licence qualification which aside from being a high-level course, is also acceptable for those wanting to step into coaching. It was a privilege in February 2018 to attend a D Licence course being run in Dublin by TSI/Ray Kane and WOW what a course! Very motivating, inspirational and how a course should be run! The right mix of Technical and coaching development in my opinion.
I’m not going to spoil it for you, you will have to attend one yourself but I will point out that the ISSF have used Sports Professionals and University lecturers to develop their courses and run the C level and above courses, D level courses are run by B license (and above) coaches as it is a prerequisite for the A Licence course. Needless to say, I was extremely impressed and strongly feel this is the route to take.
You do not need to stop at these qualifications however, there are several CPD (continuous professional development) type courses you can undertake to further develop yourself as a coach and improve the services you offer. These can be online based courses or classroom-based!
For example here are some additional short courses that could be of interest.
Yorkshire Sport Events
UK Coaching Online Courses
UK Coaching Workshops
Bridgewater & Taunton College Distance Courses
Leeds Beckett Coach Education Courses
CPD isn’t just about taking courses though, discussing coaching experiences with other coaches is also a way to professionally develop, so is reading (I’ll do a list of “recommended reading” shortly!)
In conclusion, I hope this piece comes across as more of an awareness of what’s available and how as a coach you should be continually learning to improve! There is also a part of this that I hope helps people understand that the NSRA qualifications are not the be-all and end-all of what’s available, nor should these qualifications be considered “Gospel”. The ISSF qualifications, on the other hand, are highly recommended by us and we would recommend you undertake those. But overall gaining qualifications are only a part of being a coach.
I will expand on the content of the NSRA and ISSF Qualifications (as well as other courses I would recommend) in a future article.