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People: Roger Black on the launch of Coach Cycle

A team of entrepreneurs – including double Olympic medallist Roger Black – has launched a new online service that will help connect members of the public with sports coaches. Called Coach Cycle, the new service will aim to make sports coaching more accessible by offering an online database of coaches across 30 different sports.

Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 3
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Roger Black won two silver medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
Roger Black won two silver medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

What is Coach Cycle?
We describe it as the ‘Uber for sports coaches’. Coach Cycle will offer an online database of coaches. People will be able to search for coaches and coaching businesses via a map directory, while coaches can upload their certificates and experience onto a public profile, advertising their services in their area.

There currently isn’t any obvious place to go to find a sports coach, other than contacting local sports clubs. Coach Cycle really puts coaching in your hands. The coaches will come to you, to fit in with your life, rather than you having to go somewhere at a certain time.

It will be particularly useful for those who want to try a sport, but might be intimidated by facing a club environment for the first time.

How did the idea come about?
It was (co-founder) Ryan McCarthy’s idea and he’s the main person behind the venture. As a coach, he realised that you live on your reputation – and most of that comes through word of mouth.

He wanted coaches to become more accessible. His idea was that if someone, whether an individual or a team, wanted a coach, they should be able to just go online and find one near them. As that service didn’t exist, he decided to create it.

How did you get involved?
Ryan came to me for a bit of advice. He lives locally and apparently when he was seven years old, I signed a pair of running spikes for him! So there was a personal connection there.
He wanted my opinion as a former athlete but, after hearing his concept, I became interested – partly as I could see the benefits of the service from a parent’s perspective.

I have 12-year-old twin boys and at the time Ryan contacted me, we’d been trying out table tennis. I wanted to get a table tennis coach to pop in and offer the twins the occasional one-on-one session.

What I discovered was that the only way to get some coaching was to contact a local club and then attend whichever night they had training on – so you wouldn’t have a choice regarding timing or place. So from a parent point of view I saw that there was a problem that Coach Cycle might be able to solve.

Another aspect that got me interested in Coach Cycle is that it can give opportunities to retiring athletes. I was very fortunate myself because when I retired, it was at a time when not many of us were winning Olympic medals. So I was high-profile and was given opportunities in broadcasting and as a corporate speaker.

Team GB’s recent successes, however, means that we now have around 70 Olympic medallists. They can’t all become business speakers or TV pundits. You still have your Mo Farahs, Jess Ennises and Chris Hoys – the really high profile champions – but there are a lot of athletes behind them who have got Olympic medals in their pockets, but who might struggle to find a career after they retire. I think Coach Cycle can help with that.

What could Coach Cycle mean for sports in the UK?
I’m surprised that this platform doesn’t already exist. For me, what it can do is transform coaching from being a word of mouth, ad hoc business, to a much more well-administered business. It will certainly prove the quality of coaching and hopefully engage people who have been lost to sport as it will give them a way to get involved that’s not intimidating because they are in control.

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