Call for online sports coaching to continue after COVID-19

Researchers monitoring sports coaching habits during lockdown are calling for online training sessions to continue, even after the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end.

A study by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and Abertay University has taken a detailed look at how the first lockdown during March and April affected tennis coaches when face-to- face sessions were banned.

Researchers found that the online setting allowed players to practise in their own time, encouraged them to learn new skills and encouraged greater engagement and interest from family members.

Tennis coach and trainee Sport and Exercise Psychologist on the GCU DPsych programme, Julie Gordon, said: “As a practising coach as well as researcher, I have continued to use online coaching as a way of connecting with and motivating athletes particularly those in self isolation.

“Working with individuals and groups online has positive benefits well beyond the limitations that are imposed on us with this pandemic.

“Coaches who embrace online coaching can be confident that they can adapt to future lockdowns and restrictions but also that they have a tool that they can use to complement their existing offering and has implications for example, of continuing to coach when athletes are competing away from home or are injured or ill.

“Online coaching also benefited coaches themselves and helped to enhance the coach/athlete relationship. It has also provided positive psychological benefits for the athletes in terms of feeling connected and cared for by the coaches.

“The coaches also benefited psychologically from feeling part of something and feeling they were able to contribute and help athletes when face-to-face coaching was not possible.

“In the context of the pandemic, there was a sense of enhanced cohesion among the team of coaches who delivered the online coaching.

“The team of coaches who delivered the sessions reported that the challenges of delivering online helped them to become more creative in their coaching practice.”

Jonathan Glen, from Abertay University’s Division of Sport and Exercise, insisted they would never suggest that online coaching should replace face-to-face coaching, but it can be very effective as a supplementary tool.

“During the early weeks of the pandemic it was imperative that coaches were able to engage with athletes in some way to keep them engaged and to prevent, as best as they could, performance levels from dropping,” she said.

“As part of this research we observed multiple training sessions and found that the online coaching was remarkably effective.

“In terms of the participants, there were definite skill improvements and at the very worst, skill maintenance. Given the fact there were no face-to-face sessions, skill maintenance is a great thing to achieve during a pandemic.”


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