June 13th and 14th saw the iCoachKids conference hosted by Sport Ireland Coaching at the University of Limerick and attended by over 300 delegates. Co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the EU, iCoachKids is an international, collaborative, multi-agency project aiming to support the development of children’s coaches across Europe. The aim of iCoachKids is to make sure that all youth sport participants have a positive experience led by suitably trained coaches leading to a lifelong involvement in sport and healthier lives. A video showing highlights of the conference is available here.
The conference featured a range of international speakers, including:
- Professor Dan Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University,
- Sergio Lara-Bercial, iCoachKids project director,
- Kris Van Der Haegen from the Royal Belgian Soccer Association,
- Professor Nicolette-Schipper can Veldhoven from the Netherlands Olympic Committee, and
- Professor Marie Murphy from the University of Ulster.
In addition, four members of the PESS department delivered either presentations or workshops at the conference. Professor Catherine Woods presented a keynote on ‘How serious is ‘dropout’ from sport and physical activity for children and young people? What we know and what we have yet to learn’. Her presentation clearly indicated that movement between sports is a significant feature of youth sport participation. Therefore, providing children with the foundational physical literacy to successfully move between sports is a critical objective for those providing children’s sport.
As such, it was fitting that several of the practical workshops focused on strategies that coaches and teachers could use to develop children’s physical literacy. These included Dr Phil Kearney’s workshop on Skill Acquisition for children: Learning the Fundamentals of Movement, and a collaboration between GymAble and Special Olympics Ireland’s Young Athlete programme, at which three third year Sport & Exercise Science students from PESS, currently completed their Coop placement with Special Olympics Ireland, supported.
The iCoachKids conference also incorporated a workshop by another Erasmus+ funded programme, Keep Youngsters Involved, whose core team includes two PESS staff members. Professor Woods was back in action, this time accompanied by Dr Joey Murphy, guiding participants through card games designed to help stakeholders understand more about how to implement actions in their sport club to keep youngsters (12-19 years) involved and protect them from dropout.
With the huge volume of information available for coaches, advice on how to critically evaluate and enhance one’s coaching practice was essential. This advice was provided by the final member of PESS staff presenting at the conference, Dr Ian Sherwin, who delivered a session on Reflective Practice for Children’s Coaches.
iCoachKids has already produced The iCoachKids Pledge: 10 Golden Rules to Create Positive Sport Experiences for Kids, a host of resources written by internationally recognised experts on topics such as Motivating kids in sport, and most impressive of all, FREE e-learning in the shape of three Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These resources will prove to be invaluable for coaches, parents, teachers, club administrators, and all involved in children’s sport.
Dr Phil Kearney is Lecturer in Motor Skill Acquisition Coaching and Performance and Course Director of MSc. Applied Sports Coaching in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Dr Kearney’s current research interests include maturation and youth sport, coaches’ knowledge and practices and enhancing practice quality. You can contact Dr Kearney via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or view his research profile on Researchgate Google Scholar ORCID