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Coaches need more support to improve disabled people’s sporting experiences

March 16, 2015

A report released by the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) shows that taking part in coached sport has a positive impact on disabled people’s experiences of sport. However, worryingly disabled people, especially young disabled people, seem to have a less satisfactory experience than their non-disabled peers.

The national charity’s report is based on the recent sports coach UK report The Impact of Coaching on Participants. EFDS worked on analysing the data that is applicable to disabled people and their coaching experiences. The key findings include:

  • ·         Eight in 10 adults, disabled and non-disabled, say taking part in coached sport increased their enjoyment of the sport. 
  • ·         Young people are less likely to agree that coached sport improved their enjoyment– seven in 10 non-disabled young people agree, and fewer young disabled people- only six in 10.
  • ·         Disabled people feel coaches are less likely to be able to deal with any problems that they may have, set goals or monitor progress. 
  • ·         Young disabled people also feel that coaches are less effective at being able to communicate with them and make sessions fun.
  • ·         Coaching can have a positive impact on disabled people’s experiences, but coaches need further education to ensure that disabled people’s experiences are equivalent to their non-disabled peers.

 Commenting on the report, sports coach UK Development Lead Officer Sarah Milner said:

“We know that some coaches lack the experience and confidence to work with disabled people. We’ve developed a range of workshops and other resources which can be used by coaches from all sports to give them the skills required, and we’re pleased that these are now being used. Our long-term goal is for every coach to have the ability to work effectively with every participant.”

Expectations of coached sport also seem to play a role in why both disabled and non-disabled people enjoy their experience. These expectations differ by age, rather than whether a person is or is not considers themselves as disabled.

The report showed that the main reason that adults take part in coached sport is to develop their skills (16%). When asked why they do not take part in coached sport, the main reasons stopping them is because they take part to improve their health and fitness (21%) or to have fun in sport (19%), suggesting they do not assume coached sport can offer this. 

The main reasons why young people stated that they take part in coached sport is to have fun (20%) and to improve their fitness (16%). However, a higher proportion state that these are actually the main reasons they are discouraged from taking part in coached sport (35% say they do not take part as they only play sport to keep fit and 20% because they only take part to improve their health). This suggests that whilst young people want to take part for fun or to get fit, they do not see coached sport as the best way to achieve this.

This shows adults and young people seek different things from their coached sport and coaches need to be aware of that. They also need to realise that to keep young people engaged, regardless of whether or not they are disabled, they must make the sporting experience fun.

Emma Spring, EFDS Research and Insight Manager said:

 “This research highlights that whilst coaches are generally doing a good job in supporting disabled people to take part, more needs to be done to ensure disabled people receive a quality experience. EFDS and sports coach UK will use the research to offer the relevant support and guidance to coaches to address some of the areas of concern.”

For more information, visit EFDS’s website on