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Understanding the Children's Coaching Workforce

Let's help our children to develop a lifelong love for being active

Our goal is to support current and future coaches to help maximise children and young people's participation in sport and physical activity.

Who are the Children's Coaching Workforce?

The Children’s Coaching Collaborative has teamed up with Leeds Beckett University to help us understand who these coaches are, their backgrounds and experiences and their needs and wants.

Existing research on the specific characteristics of the children’s coaching workforce is scarce, so we have approached coaches to help us paint the picture. In 2022, we received detailed survey responses from 1,420 coaches working with children and young people.

The results highlighted that the children's coaching workforce is shifting and dynamic in nature and should not be considered as a single group. Unsurprisingly, the findings identified that the current coaching workforce are predominantly volunteer, male, white, middle-aged and able-bodied. However there does seem to be an increasing proportion of female coaches in the younger age groups, which could show that coaching is becoming more accessible as more young women enter the workforce at a younger age. That said, there is clearly more work to be done to support coaches from ethnically diverse communities to make coaching opportunities as accessible as possible.

The key demographic and professional factors, such as age, gender, ethnicity, employment status, coaching context, qualifications, age, experience, sport and levels of participation, all impact on a coach's reason to coach and the potential to stop. 

infographic with stats about who the children's coaching workforce are, age, demographics, backgrounds and qualifications

Becoming a coach

Coaches are uniquely placed to help children and young people to develop a lifelong love for sport and physical activity. They are embedded within their local communities and can understand the needs of their environment, which is often a contributing factor in becoming a coach.

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84.6% agreed with: "I want to do something for my community"
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49.3% agreed with: "My child plays sport"
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Only 11.1% said they liked competing
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One in four coaches are likely to drop out.


Most of the coaches that we spoke to are motivated by positive outcomes for children and young people. A large majority of coaches (78.8%) told us that it was NOT important to win trophies and medals, they are more driven by the opportunities to support young people with the below:

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98% want to develop a lifelong love of sport & physical activity
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94% told us they want to ensure equal participation
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71.5% feel the increase in mental health & wellbeing for children is a priority
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90.3% want to allow children and young people to express their views and opinions

What does this research tell us?

Coaches need to be able to understand how child-first coaching can be applied in practice within their own sporting context. There can't be a one-size-fits-all approach to the Play Their Way movement.

The findings from the research indicate that children's coaches are extremely motivated by child-centred practices, but there are some barriers to fully applying child-first principles and achieving their goals.

These barriers related mainly to having a lack of:

  • time
  • support
  • resources

The pressures created by these barriers could lead to a risk of them dropping out of coaching.

The coaches that we spoke to were keen to develop and plug any gaps in their child-first knowledge.

Many highlighted that they would be interested in:

  • attending face-to-face conferences and workshops
  • working with mentors
  • accessing self-paced online courses

The aim of the Play Their Way movement is to make sure that child-first coaching philosophy resources are readily available and easily accessible and to inspire and support coaches to reflect on their practice to ensure that they're delivering fun and engaging sessions for the children they coach.

We have been lucky enough to receive inspirational stories from coaches sharing how they have applied the child-first philosophy to their sessions.

We encourage you to read, watch and hear from these coaches. If any of their ideas, tips and resources strike a chord, please do let us know.

Teenage boy swimming underwater in a swimming pool

The case for change

Learn more about some of the foundational insights that have fuelled the conception of the Play Their Way movement


About us

Play Their Way is a movement of child-first coaches, organisations and people changing the game from the ground up.

Boy sat on a bench in a sports hall putting his hand up to ask a question

Ask us a question

We're sure as you read about the Play Their Way movement and child-first coaching you will have questions


Join the movement!

Whether as parents, coaches or young people, we all have a role to play in helping create a huge cultural shift in the way we engage children in physical activity, to help them become healthier and happier and to develop them as people. 

Happy teenage basketball team celebrating a victory on the court


Help spread the word by sharing this website with fellow coaches!


Help spread the word by sharing this website with fellow coaches!