Job search
Job Search

Profile: Mark Gannon - Coaching the UK

From the first sports lesson all the way to the Olympics, good coaches transform lives. UK Coaching CEO Mark Gannon talks to Kath Hudson about building a robust network of great coaches

by Kath Hudson | Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 3
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
Mark Gannon is CEO of UK Coaching
Mark Gannon is CEO of UK Coaching

UK Coaching wants to get more people active,” says Gannon. “Ultimately our aim is to support, guide and inspire people to achieve goals and transform their lives through sport and activity. Great coaches are the key – they can change people’s lives.”

Hopefully, we’re all lucky enough to have fond memories of that coach who changed our lives, either by inspiring us to do a sport that became a habit for life or by pushing us to reach a level we never thought possible.

Malcolm Brown, for instance, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the UK Coaching awards in December for his work with the Brownlee brothers, has created a fantastic legacy, with the Brownlee’s success on the international stage bringing triathlon to the forefront.

But it’s not just elite coaches who transform lives. Gannon says he’s inspired by former national gymnastics coach and lecturer, Mike Talbot, who worked with people of all abilities, helping them achieve more than they thought possible – in gymnastics and in life.

Gannon says coaches can make the difference between a community sports club that’s sustainable and one that’s not. If the coach training the five-year-olds at Saturday morning football shouts all the time, they’ll stop coming and the membership will dwindle.

Improving accessibility
UK Coaching’s research has found that in any given year, there’ll be around three million registered coaches, 60 per cent of whom are unpaid. The coaching population is fluid, and while new people enter each year, others move on. This can be a challenge, as sports that are enjoying surges in popularity, such as gymnastics and girl’s football, can find themselves unable to meet demand. Not to mention the difficulty for a club when a favourite coach retires or leaves and must be replaced.

Ensuring good quality coaches keep coming through the pipeline, and stay in coaching, is UK Coaching’s primary focus, and the organisation has identified that in order to make this happen, access to training and qualifications needs to be easier. “Everyone is time-poor and parents who offer to help with the rugby team don’t necessarily want to go on a three day course,” he says.

“Over the next 12 months, we’ll be investing heavily in technology to provide more online education services, which will allow coaches to undertake qualifications in bite-sized chunks, when it’s convenient for them. We’ve made a significant investment in a new website, which – as well as incorporating learning – aims to build social interaction through a virtual coaching community.”

People skills
In recent years, there’s been a major shift in the focus of coaching qualifications, which now centre around interpersonal skills. This can be seen in UK Coaching’s recently developed Coaching Behaviours Framework, which sets out its vision for the future of coaching.

“Coaching has changed greatly during the 30 years I’ve been involved in sport,” says Gannon. “Traditionally it was focused on technique, but now the core element is people skills, because it’s people who inspire people. It’s people who deliver the experience and make participants want to come back. A good coach has to understand what the participant wants to achieve and also how to get the best out of them.”

This approach has the added advantage of opening up coaching to more people, even if they lack some technical prowess. Gannon says people choose to coach for a number of reasons, sometimes they’re an ex-athlete wanting to give back, or a youth on a leadership scheme. But often it’s just a parent offering to help out, who may not have fantastic ability themselves, but are good with children or have a gift for imparting information.

Diversity and inclusivity
Another focus for UK Coaching is to improve the diversity of coaches. A number of initiatives are underway across four key areas: women, talent, children and lower socio-economic groups. ‘Reach’ is one such initiative that’s aimed at getting more women into coaching. “A lot of women go into the fitness sector and they’re great coaches, because they’re first and foremost a people person,” says Gannon. “But there isn’t the same amount of female representation in traditional community sport and we need to address this and get them involved.

“Part of this comes down to changing the culture of sport – some golf clubs have only just started allowing women into the clubhouse. If more women and people from diverse backgrounds start coaching, those clubs will become more inclusive, but we have to support coaches better to enable them to thrive in these environments.”

The organisation was awarded UK Sport’s Intermediate Level of Equality Standard in 2017 for its commitment to equality and diversity, and is currently working with a number of clubs that understand the benefits of being more diverse. The aim is to use these clubs as case studies to bring more people on board.

Over the next three to four years, UK Coaching will be looking to train more coaches in hard-to-reach communities, including areas of socio-economic deprivation. “We already have good examples of where we’ve supported people from deprived areas, training them as coaches, and they’ve gone on to set up sporting activities in that area,” says Gannon (see case study).

“Sport is competing with other sectors, such as electronic gaming, so to engage people, we have to provide a great experience. And this comes back to the coach, as they create the environment. If you can work with someone inactive and give them a good experience, they’ll become an ambassador for that activity.”

Going forward, Gannon advocates further collaboration with a variety of sports and also the health and fitness sector, with the organisation working with CIMSPA to develop professional standards for coaching. “Sports can learn a great deal from health and fitness, where instructors have raised their game in order to earn a living from coaching. They’re all about offering a great service and experience to keep people coming back.”

It’s an exciting time for coaching, with fresh thinking and new approaches being embraced. Hopefully the end result will not only be greater participation numbers in a variety of sports, and from a wider spread of the population, but also a population with improved physical and mental wellbeing and positive outlook on life.

New name, new horizons

Formerly known as Sports Coach UK, the organisation was rebranded as UK Coaching in order to have a wider focus, beyond traditional sports. Aiming to be the first port of call for all coaches, it receives funding from UK Sport and Sport England, as well as undertaking revenue-generating activities such as training. It works closely with national governing bodies, county sport partnerships, employers, local authorities and REPs.

Case study

Coaching Birmingham

The Birmingham Way, an initiative led by UK Coaching, is an example of how it’s engaging hard-to-reach groups. Research showed 80 per cent of Birmingham residents were inactive, a situation that was costing the NHS around £20m a year: forty per cent of people in the city are in the top 10 per cent of most deprived households in the country.

Insight work revealed delivery needed to change, as the traditional, one size fits all approach was considered boring. People wanted fun sessions, doing activities they enjoy, near home and led by people like themselves.

UK Coaching used different recruitment tactics to find people with the right values and then provided them with flexible learning and training opportunities. Once they started coaching they were supported through mentoring.

Sign up for FREE ezines & magazines
Sports jobs
Everyone Active
featured job

Swimming Teachers

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive hourly rate
Job location: Nationwide


Lex Leisure
Salary: Competitive
Location: Barnstaple, UK


Lex Leisure
Salary: Competitive
Location: Erith, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £7.96 per hour
Location: Appleby-in-Westmorland, UK

Duty Manager

Mytime Active
Salary: £19,000 - £20,002 per annum
Location: Kent, UK

Insight Manager

Women in Sport
Salary: £32,000 - £35,000
Location: London, UK

Swimming Pool Duty Manager

Millfield School
Salary: Competitive
Location: Street, UK

Head Green Keeper

Mytime Active
Salary: £25,000 - £28,000 per annum
Location: Orpington, UK

Green Keeper

Mytime Active
Salary: Up to £18,000 per annum
Location: Orpington, UK


Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive rate of pay
Location: Chichester, UK
recruiting with sports management


Mytime Active
Salary: £21,000 - £24k
Location: Bromley, UK

Front of House Receptionist

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive rate of pay
Location: Burton upon Trent, UK

Recreation Assistant

Everyone Active
Salary: Competitive rate of pay
Location: Burton upon Trent, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £10.20 per hour
Location: Ruislip, UK

General Manager

Salary: Up to £39,820 per annum
Location: Reading, UK

Sports Development Officer

Ashlyns School
Salary: Competitive
Location: Berkhamsted, UK

Duty Officer

Rubicon Leisure
Salary: £20,541 - £23,866 per annum
Location: Redditch, UK
recruiting with sports management

National Training Co-ordinator

Wheels for All
Salary: £20,384 a FTE of £25,480
Location: Warrington, UK

Reception Supervisor

Letchworth Sports and Tennis Club
Salary: £18,720 to £19,760
Location: Letchworth Garden City, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £10.20 per hour
Location: West Ealing, London, UK

Leisure Assistant

Circadian Leisure Trust
Salary: £7.90 - £8.45 per hour
Location: Kingswood, Bristol, UK

Assistant Sports and Leisure Manager

Away Resorts
Salary: Competitive
Location: Hayling Island, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £16,187 per annum
Location: Taunton, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard)

Salary: Up to £16,187 per annum
Location: Wellington, Somerset, UK
training with sports management

General Manager

The Gym Group
Salary: Competitive Salary and Benefits
Location: West Hampstead, London, UK

Commercial Administration Support

Parkwood Leisure
Salary: Competitive
Location: Worcester, UK

Assistant General Manager

The Gym Group
Salary: Competitive Salary and Benefits
Location: Bloomsbury, London, UK

Casual Recreation Assistants

Legacy Leisure
Salary: £6.15 to £8.21 per hour
Location: Kidlington, UK

Sports Centre Manager

Ecclesbourne School
Salary: Competitive
Location: Duffield, Belper, UK

Greens Keeper (Fixed Term)

Salary: Up to £21,460 per annum
Location: Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, UK

Recreation Assistant (Lifeguard) -Training Offered

Salary: Up to £21,284 per annum
Location: Ealing, West London
lifeguard jobs  Swimming Teacher jobs  apprenticeships jobs  recreation assistant jobs  Gymnastics Coach jobs  membership consultant jobs  Swimming Instructor jobs  general manager jobs  General Assistant jobs  duty manager jobs  fitness instructor jobs  Leisure Assistant jobs  Customer Advisor jobs  Club Manager jobs  Team Leader jobs 
More jobs

Video Gallery

Tracking your workout effort just became effortless.
Visit website
More videos

Company profile

Company profile: Taylor Made Designs
Taylor Made Designs (TMD) supplies all manner of uniform, workwear, performance clothing, PPE and branded merchandise, looking after teams from all departments including gym floor staff, teachers, catering, maintenance, front of house, outreach, corporate wear, swim teachers, PTs and more.
View full profile >
More company profiles

Featured Supplier

Dyaco UK launches the Johnny G Spirit Bike with first installation at Feelgood Fitness, Grantham
Dyaco UK has announced the official launch of the long-awaited Johnny G Spirit Bike to the UK, with the first installation in Feelgood Fitness in Grantham
View full details >
More featured suppliers

Property & Tenders

Location: Huddersfield
Company: Kirklees Active Leisure
Location: New Brighton, Wirral, Merseyside
Company: Wirral Borough Council
Location: Waterlooville Hampshire
Company: Horizon Leisure Centres
Location: Various Sites
Company: Porters Commercial
More properties & tenders

Diary dates

27-28 Mar 2019
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
24-25 Apr 2019
Business Design Centre, London, United Kingdom
05-10 May 2019
Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Queensland, Australia
08-09 May 2019
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
More diary dates