Motivated by a desire to improve his ability as an endurance coach, Keith Scofield has launched the UK Endurance Conference, a one-day event; for coaches, by coaches.
Books, science and qualifications can only get you so far as a coach, but the most valuable resources for any coach, or athlete, are their peers and experience.
While qualifications are a good starting point, Scofield noticed that in every course he attended; he gained as much knowledge from his fellow attendees, as the course itself.
That was the spark that set him on his way to create the UK Endurance Conference, a one-day event in London, on July 28, which will give coaches an opportunity to network and learn from experts and each other.
“One of the most important tools in my coaching is the network of peers and more experienced coaches that I turn to when I encounter a new problem or idea,” says Scofield. “There is such a wealth of knowledge within the coaching community, so I wanted to find a way to help people tap into that.
“All the good coaches I’ve met have said that they are constantly learning from one another, it never stops.”
The conference has already gained the involvement of respected coaches, such as former world cross country runner Richard Partridge and Tonbridge AC’s Mark Hookway.
The aim is not only to have excellent speakers but a vast range of coaches in the room itself.
Eamonn Martin, the last British male London marathon winner, is also confirmed as a speaker.
“We’re working with Kingston University and have space for 40-50 coaches and athletes for this first time,” he adds. “Ideally, this will become a long-term project.
“Not only would I like to host it again in London, but also further north in Manchester or Leeds. So many of our great endurance coaches like Steve Vernon and Paul Roden are up that way.”
There have been several studies carried out that look into coaching expertise. Cote and Gilbert’s 2009 work is notable in how it defined and conceptualised an ‘expert coach’.
Other works have tried to build on this to understand the main reason individuals became, or were given, the label of experts in their sport or field.
Peer networking and interaction often ranked highly, more so than the general structured coaching qualifications one might expect.
Another factor was a never-ending willingness to learn, something that is very obvious when talking to Scofield. The Wimbledon Hercules runner defines himself as a developing coach, but his eagerness to learn is evident.
Keeping British endurance running on the up
Several discussions have taken place recently about the health of British athletics and endurance running, and how it can be improved.
We have seen initiatives like Scotland’s ‘Club Together’ and ‘Athlete to Coach’ from Kelly Sotherton and Goldie Sayers.
Races like Highgate Harriers’ ‘Night of the 10,000m PBs’ and Scotland’s ‘GAA Miler Meet Night of 10ks‘ have a positive impact on participation levels, but for the development of athletes, coaches hold the most important role.
Work needs to take place alongside what is happening at the participation level to bring people to that next level. As global levels of endurance running continue to improve, Britain and England need to work to have a presence amongst the leading nations.
It is good to see events like the UK Endurance Conference being set up by coaches, for coaches. Deep down the needs and development of athletes need to be central and working to increase your network of peers in an open environment is a good start.
UPDATE (May 10): Tickets are now available for the event and details can be found here.