Coaching, Partnerships and Making a Difference

Sport and, in particular, football has the ability to engage and inspire many people to improve not only skill level and ability, but also their lives as a whole. We catch up with Tony Bryson, Ayr United’s Head of Sport Science and Community Project Co-ordinator, who shares his views on coaching, and the relationship between schools and community sport organisations.

As we speak, it soon becomes apparent that improving lifestyles through football is Tony’s motivation, and a process he feels should be considered more probability than possibility. When asked to describe his coaching philosophy, he spoke openly of his desire to engage a diverse range of people in a warm, welcoming environment whilst pushing them to “progress to the very best of their potential” – something he believes football can help to achieve.

So what qualities does a coach need in order to deliver on this philosophy? Patience, Tony suggests with a smile, in acknowledgement of the challenges that a diverse range of participants can bring. These challenges, he suggests can often be handled with knowledge, experience and a great deal of empathy for how participants are feeling. He refers constantly to the importance of ‘engaging’ participants, and he believes these qualities can help to ensure everyone feels involved.

According to Tony, Physical Education and sport is key to a child’s learning experience, and something, he argues, that should be delivered by external coaches as they are often “best qualified to do so”. A successful partnership between schools and community sport organisations “ isn’t only important for pupils, but also for the benefit of society in general” he claims, once again acknowledging the wider impact of sport.

Tony goes on to speak enthusiastically of the terrific work carried out by Ayr United and their many partners, including South Ayrshire council and several third sector organisations. These partnerships allow Tony and his colleagues to work closely with a wide range of primary and secondary schools in delivering football AND healthy living sessions, aiming to educate young people about their lifestyle. Read more here.

But what constitutes a successful partnership? “Without shared goals and communication a partnership would prove ineffectual” Tony states, and this, he argues, would be a difficult barrier to overcome. Whilst considering further barriers to achieving a successful school/community sport partnership, his frustration is obvious at a lack of funding and facilities with which to ‘bring in’ sport organisations and deliver effective sessions.

 After speaking with Tony, it’s obvious he considers these barriers to be worthwhile in breaking through, due to the physical, psychological and social benefits that engagement in football can provide. “I genuinely believe that sport can include all young people and empower them by offering them team goals, and individual goals that they can aspire to”, he concludes, as if we  needed further persuasion.

If you are interested in Community Football and School Sport check out our forthcoming conference at Burton Albion FC here.

This interview and article was prepared by Steven Bills of the University of Derby.


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