Generation Z is the focus for British Equestrian’s latest Youth Pathway Coaching seminar


British Equestrian ran its third annual Youth Pathway Coaching seminar on 29–30 January, which had ‘Coaching Generation Z’ at the heart of its programme.

The seminar, which was funded by Sport England, was opened up to invited coaches nominated by their discipline and working within the youth development pathways for British Dressage, British Eventing, British Showjumping and The Pony Club.

“This is the third annual seminar we’ve run that’s dedicated to helping coaches understand the best ways to work and communicate with young athletes,” explained David Hamer, Head of Performance Pathways at British Equestrian. “It’s a great opportunity to bring coaches from different disciplines together with a shared goal, so they can gain insight and input from external experts from different sports and fields of work that can add and bring value to their coaching practices.”

The opening workshop was led by Dr Kieran File from the Centre for Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, which focused on building a framework for effective communication with Generation Z – a demographic cohort encompassing those born between 1997 and 2012. Kieran provided context in the form of recent scientific findings on this group, then invited the coaches to discuss and dissect the research based on their individual experiences.

This was followed by a session on managing conflict and challenges by sports psychologist Leonie Lightfoot, who supports British Equestrian’s World Class Programme. The coaches were invited to share and discuss recent challenges they’d faced, then learned about conflict resolution skills and strategies for maintaining a harmonious environmental. Leonie closed her session by sharing a warm-up exercise for the coaches to try using before their next difficult conversation, to help them stay grounded and in the moment.

Martin Dighton, Chris Porter and Emily Handyside from UK Coaching opened the second day with a coaching leadership workshop. This professional development session encouraged the coaches to reflect on how to be an effective leader within the coaching environment, including discussions around values and ethical practice. They also had the opportunity to reflect on the content of the first day and create actions to take away and implement into their coaching practice.

The two days wrapped up with an inspiring keynote address from Olympic medallist Kelly Sotherton MBE on her journey into coaching after a successful career as a heptathlete and relay runner. Kelly is currently the Development Manager at Sport England, having previously been the Track and Field Leader for Team England at the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and Non-Executive Director of British Weightlifting.

“Being here is satisfying my inquisitive drive – I love learning and being around this group of coaches,” commented dressage coach Hannah Biggs. “To be able to have these conversations with like-minded people really helps me because I can bounce ideas off everyone and hear from people who have similar issues with clients, and it creates a really nice community where we’re helping each other. Because it’s a safe environment, I feel able to discuss things openly – there’s real emotional security, which is great.”

“As a coach, you’re often working on your own, so being able to come together in a group like this is really great,” added Stef Eardley, who is Para Dressage Coach Mentor for the World Class Programme. “It helps to refresh things you already know, you can discuss things you might have forgotten, and there are new things to talk about and learn, all with a group of like-minded people – it’s so good for your personal development as a coach.”

Further youth coaching development opportunities are planned to take place later this year.

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