National Coaching Week: Alison O’Riordan

This week, England Athletics (along with UK Athletics, Athletics Northern Ireland, Scottish Athletics and Welsh Athletics) are supporting UK Coaching’s ‘Coaching Week’ by showcasing great coaching stories about the many coaches who volunteer their time to do great work in support of individuals and communities across the country. The theme of this year’s initiative, led by UK Coaching, is healthy and happier communities, and this week we are showcasing these stories on our websites and social media channels.

Today’s nominated coach is Alison O’Riordan.


What has been your coach education journey?

I’ve held a L3 UKA coaching level for 30 years. I gained Athletics Australia Level 5 (Master) Cosch status whilst working as a high performance para throws coach at the Australian Institute of Sport from 2002-2011. Since returning to the UK I have participated in the following coach CPD; British Athletics Female Coach Legacy programme UK Coaching Women in High Performance programme England Athletics National Coach Development Programme UK Sport Para Coach to Rio IAAF Women in World Athletics

What have you learnt and put into practice from this and what impact has this had on you and the people you work with?

I have globall coaching experience and have worked alongside some of the world’s greatest coaches across multiple sports. This enabled me to mould my craft using a variety of coaching styles. Working specifically with Para athletes has meant I’ve become very adaptive, creative and inclusive both in my coaching and in my everyday life. I love to help those that are more disadvantaged & have more barriers for participation.

How has your coaching impacted your local community or the social and mental well-being of the people you coach?

I only work with Para athletes, and those specifically that have potential to be Paralympians. However, sport is not the main focus for me and my coaching. Long term health and wellbeing for the athletes I work with is the paramount focus enabling and supporting them to be as functional and successful, physically and mentally, as possible which will assist them in all life activities during and post sport.

What do you plan to do next to continue your development as a coach and why?

I’m a life long learner & always seek CPD opportunities. I recently participated in a UK Sport “Critical Conversations” workshop and will be attending the UK Coaching WinHP Alumni event on 30 May. I am also close to finishing a PHD on the applied biomechanics of Seated Thrower which will consolidate my world leading status in this area. I will continue to search for CPD opportunities as learning never stops.

How do you think athletics coaching can help build stronger communities?

Creating supportive environments is the key to successful athletics participation for both athlletes & coaches. My Para Throws squad is made up of athletes that are coaches (or working towards) too. This enables everyone to play a part in each other’s progress and development. Coaching, and being part of a supportive coaching environment is a very poweful tool.

How do you think UKA and the Home Countries Coach Education offering can or could support this?

Providing more mentoring opportunities for coaches to work alongside and with each other.

What has been your proudest moment as a coach?

There are many but 2 stick out the most; At the 2004 Athlens Paralympic Games was the 1st time an athlete I coached won a medal (and broke the world record). Identifying and working with someone that had never trained or competed at any level, &nd getting her to her 1st Paralympic within 18 months. This person had lived for many years in isolation and low mood due to impending and increasing disablility. Providing the opportunity for this person to recognise their amazing talents and participate.

Alison O’Riordan