21st February 2017
#coachingcan- the power of volunteering

It is time for a new #CoachingCan story celebrating the amazing work that is taking place in our area. Here we continue our celebration of the #CoachingCan Campaign by championing the wider benefits of coaching for society, with another inspiring story from the West of England.

Today’s story focusses on a young person’s experience of water sports and how this has helped her overcome some big life challenges. Ebony was initially introduced to water sports at the age of nine when her family joined a sailing club in Thornbury, here she learnt how to sail and gained some experience with a few other water sports around the club. More recently, Ebony had started to struggle with her mental health and was admitted as a day patient at an adolescent unit. On a weekly basis, the unit visited All-Aboard, which is a water sports centre in the beautiful and historic Bristol City Docks. As Ebony remembers her initial visits to All-Aboard, it is clear this was a real turning point for her life, she explains:

‘The weekly visits to All-Aboard instantly revived my love of water sports and inspired me to return to my watery roots!’

As Ebony recalls her first session at the water sports centre as a participant, she explains how all the instructors and staff at the centre made her feel:

‘Everyone was so lovely, all of the instructors actively engaged with us, allowing us to choose activities, teaching us along the way. The environment created by the staff at the Centre was so welcoming and relaxed. I did not realise I was learning new skills, I just knew I was happy and felt at home.’

Ebony remembers one particular session where one of the instructors had suggested volunteering to her as an opportunity to experience something new. Initially, Ebony dismissed the idea as she didn't feel confident about it. However, with the continued support of the All-Aboard staff and those at the unit, she was encouraged to pursue this new avenue and embarked on a period of work experience. Following this work experience, Ebony was inspired to continue her role as volunteer. She was keen to gain further understanding, both technically, but more importantly, to acquire the skills and expertise to support those with additional needs. She wanted to be that person to help create the welcoming environment that had been so crucial to her recovery and revival of her love of water sports. This first-hand experience, at such a difficult time of life, has really highlighted to Ebony the vital role that coaches have to play in people’s lives; that first experience really can make a difference to the enjoyment of an experience, but more importantly can have much wider impacts on people’s health and well-being.

Ebony has fulfilled a variety of roles through her work at the Centre, including assisting people to go out on the water, supporting kayaking and sailing sessions, and even doing a number of capsize demonstrations!

On discharge from the adolescent unit, attendance at All-Aboard has provided Ebony with a great focus and most definitely had a positive impact on her continued recovery.

When asked what she has enjoyed most about her time volunteering, it is clear that she has relished the opportunity to gain training and develop herself as an instructor, but her main enjoyment has been seeing how much others get out of their experience on the water.

Ebony lists her top three reasons for taking up the role of volunteer as - smiles, free tea (!) and fulfilment in an active learning role.

When asked what she would miss, if she no longer volunteered, she explains:

'I would miss the lovely, encouraging words of the other staff, the experience working with such a variety of people and the peace you get from just being on the water and exploring the harbour side from a different perspective.’

As the conversations move onto the impact her volunteering has had on other young people at the Centre, Ebony explains that she doesn’t really know, but hopes she has helped them enjoy their time on the water and feel more confident participating. This point highlighted to me the real power of coaching. Due to Ebony’s positive experience from the perspective of a participant, it is very clear that this is quite simply seen as the norm to her, and that she doesn’t think she is doing anything special as she is simply replicating those fantastic coaching attributes through her role as a volunteer. It is very clear that her positive experience as a participant has resulted in her replicating this supportive behaviour to others. Ebony has overcome some real life challenges, and through these difficult times has not only managed to rekindle her love for a physical activity, but more importantly she has been inspired….inspired to participate…..inspired to volunteer and she is now inspiring others.

What a simply fantastic story and a real example of how #CoachingCan change lives.

Don’t forget to read our other #CoachingCan stories, please get in touch with us at info@wesport.org.uk or CLICK HERE for more information about the campaign.