UK Sport's Elite Programme aims to enhance and develop current world class coaches from across the British system, to help continue their learning and enable them to remain truly world class coaches.
In April 2019, nine of Britain's leading coaches from a variety of Olympic, Paralympic and non-Olympic sports, graduated from the rigorous three year development programme.
Following conversations with British Swimming's Mel Marshall and Leicester Tigers Head Coach Steve Borthwick, this time around we speak to England Rugby's Simon Amor who expands on how the Elite Programme and his fellow coaches helped him noticeably grow as a coach.
How was the course for you?
It was a brilliant experience. It was a priceless opportunity to, first and foremost, work with an amazing group of people. Because as talented and successful as they are as coaches, they are a great group of people to spend time with, share ideas with and learn from. I feel very privileged and I still talk now about experiences shared and lessons learnt from the course.
What were the big things you learnt from your fellow cohort?
I think so much was to do with being able to reflect and analyse on your own experiences and being able to listen to some of the advice from the other coaches. To be able to receive some pretty clear feedback about where you’re at, from that calibre of people and with their understanding of elite sport, is priceless. Some really clear ideas were fed back to me which I’d probably heard before, but hadn’t really allowed to sink in. But to hear such feedback from the quality of people in the room really hit home and it became a really powerful reason to change.
Do you have a favourite session?
I loved the SCO19 (Specialists Firearms Command) session which put you under so much pressure in such a realistic environment. Everything you’ve talked about in terms of your leadership skills and ability to deal with pressure was put to the test in the starkest of conditions. I also loved the earthquake disaster zone which tested you in similar ways. They were both really active and in the moment and are probably as close as you can come to actually feeling the intense pressure that comes through competing as a player or as a coach.
How would the people you work with on a regular basis say the course has developed you?
The clear one would be I’m a much more empathetic person. It was the biggest area for me to work on and understanding the importance of clear conversation and being candid with your feedback at times. Just having that general empathy with people was a conscious focus of mine at the start and the feedback has been that I’ve shifted significantly that way which is really good. The challenge is now where’s my next journey with this? For me now, it’s about bringing together that empathy, with the ability to have tough conversations and to be really succinct with that messaging.
How did the course help make you shift?
When you’re at the top of your game in any sport, I guess there’s the view that there’s not really a need to change. People talk about it, but ultimately, you’re still being successful so the easy thing to do is keeping going as you are. For me, when I walked into that room with that cohort and you see some unbelievably empathetic and brilliant coaches who are clear and direct but still have the balance of empathy and see how well they work, then it really gives you that drive and purpose to change.
Where do you see UK Sport’s role in this area?
I think it’s massive. The ability to bring together the calibre of people in that room, from across so many sports, is priceless. Without it, sport and coaches in the UK would be so much weaker. Without getting a cohort like that together to share ideas, talk about issues and grow from those experiences you can’t develop at the same rate. And it’s not just what you learn on the course, it’s the connections you gain from it. One of the first things I did when I got my role with the England senior team was speak to Gareth (Southgate, England Football Manager) about how I can be a great assistant coach and through that I met with Steve Holland (England Football Assistant Manager) and had a brilliant chat with him. The connections just ripple out. If it’s not UK Sport, then who is it?
The full interview with Mel Marshall is available here.
The full interview with Steve Borthwick is available here.