Developing and training our community sports and physical activity workforce

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Developing and training our community sports and physical activity workforce

Are we focusing on the right areas, skills and methods
should we be more innovative or flexible?

A one-day conference, 17th February 2022,
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry

The changing times in community sport…how should our skills agencies, training providers, sports bodies, FE/HE and others, adapt?

There seem to be many discussions within community sport and physical activity as to how we should develop and deliver workforce training across the sector in the ‘new normal’ world, particularly when it comes to dealing with the many volunteers within the sector.

The questions are also whether too much of our accredited training is too complex and rigid in its structure and if that makes it difficult to adapt content and format to a changing world?

At the same time, how do we ensure that our training and workforce development is recognised and trusted across and beyond the sector? 

It has been suggested that we should an element of accredited training covering topics such as life-saving and child protection where specific skills and understanding are key. These standards can include academic quality, ethics, integrity, learning experience, and student experience, among others.

But around areas such as leadership, customer service and communication there could be scope for a more open approach as one can not always put these aspects into boxes. Obviously, the need for delivering quality training in this field is equally as important but could perhaps be measured more around user and participant response.

Many people in the sporting workforce do not like to work with inactive people

A recent survey of the sporting workforce showed only 2 in 5 had any sense that working with inactive people was for them

The expertise of the existing sporting workforce is undoubtedly extensive, however, a focus on technical skills has held centre stage for too long. Whilst these have a place and education programmes within these areas will continue, we cannot expect the number of people being active to rise solely based on improving technical capability.


We are also experiencing interest from some sports bodies to swift attention in sports volunteer workforce development from a rigid, technical focus to a stronger focus on developing a more welcoming and holistic approach to engage and activate inactive people.

Increasing diversity and inclusivity amongst the sporting workforce

Despite continued efforts, and various initiatives, community sport and physical activity in most places has not managed to significantly increase participation among people with different attributes and backgrounds (i.e. race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion) in a meaningful way.

Also, we continue to see those groups lag behind their white counterparts in terms of being physically active and living long and healthy lives.

So, we must develop training programmes that bring in people from more diverse backgrounds if we are to reach many inactive people.

One successful programme is the ECB’s South Asian Action Plan which now has attracted 1000 South Asian females who as the new volunteer ‘activators’ will combine coaching and mentoring to inspire and support the next generation of cricketers.

They will support the delivery of All Star Cricket, ECB’s entry-level cricket programme for five to eight-year-olds, in seven cities and act as role models, showing young people the positive part that cricket can play in their lives.

Another key part of developing a workforce that can work with social prescribers and others, to engage with inactive people is to include a focus on people’s mental health in our training programmes, again, something that is not currently being done.

That, again, will require new thinking, new formats and new content.

The sporting landscape has changed enormously in recent years. Government and community expectations for good governance, integrity, equality, member protection and child safeguarding means that providing safe, fair and inclusive sporting environments is no longer an aspiration, but an imperative.

Another point is whether the ‘system’ makes it difficult for smaller providers to access funding and/or get their courses accredited? Many groups, especially diverse ones, feel more comfortable with local, smaller training providers.

Bringing everybody together

We should bring everybody together involved with developing and delivering training and workforce development across community sport and physical activity to discuss, learn, exchange, network and improve and innovate – this conference will do exactly that.

The conference will bring together representatives from the Sports councils in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland accredited and non-accredited training providers, accreditation agencies, national governing bodies of sports, universities, colleges, employers.

The conference will have presentations from representatives from

  • Providers of accredited and non-accredited training
  • Workforce/Coach development managers
  • Professional development bodies
  • Standard-setting bodies
  • Accreditation awarding bodies