June is certainly action-packed in the athletics world! The outdoor season is underway, schools are turning their attention to sports day and coaches across the country prepare their athletes for a summer of competition.
We were lucky enough to recently catch up with PE teacher, Head of Junior Sport and Exercise, club and pathway coach, Hayley Hemmings who first fell in love with athletics and cross country at school, kickstarting her lifelong journey in the sport.
From English Schools to becoming a PE teacher
If you speak to senior athletes now topping their ranks, they will no doubt mention how English Schools was their first taste of a national championships, and this was no different for Hayley.
“I have always enjoyed running but wasn’t the best at school. I would compete across both cross country and athletics. I was always the reserve for English Schools but in my final year I persevered and was able to compete in the race.”
Although now focusing her efforts on coaching, Hayley does still compete to keep it fresh and fun.
“I did an indoor race for the first time this year and I aim to compete over the summer. The beauty of our sport is you can just get out and do it and it doesn’t matter about ability. I still compete but I think I am a better coach than athlete.”
Creating a fantastic coaching environment
Creating an inclusive and welcoming group within a club can give athletes the perfect environment to thrive and enjoy taking part in our sport, something which Hayley fosters within her mixed ability group at Chelmsford AC.
“When coaching I love to see runners progress, and anything is possible especially with track racing when you can’t predict what will happen on the day. I love to help athletes believe in themselves and that’s the important thing about coaching, we can’t physically do it for them, but our job is to make sure that they have confidence and know they can achieve it.
“The most important aspects of our role as a coach are to reassure athletes and set up a support system around them. They may not perform every time and that is ok, but as long as they enjoy it. I take the same principles into my teaching. My first question isn’t ‘what was the score,’ it is ‘well did you enjoy it?’”
Fostering connections and always learning
As a well-respected coach supporting junior international teams, Hayley is often surrounded by incredible coaches from a range of disciplines and uses her network to learn and seek out opportunities. After dipping her toes into international coaching support, Hayley emphasises the importance of making connections for the future of our sport, but also for personal development.
“Our sport is all about people, from the grassroots level all the way to the top. It is about connecting people, and everyone has something that that could give to coaching. For me, I love to learn from other people. The philosophy behind coaching is forever changing and it keeps you on your toes and evolving.”
Whatever your experience of the sport as an athlete or spectator, you could have something amazing to offer as a coach, and to learn from others as you go.
“Unlike complex team sports, running is putting one foot in front of the other and it is not rocket science. Anyone can be a coach but it’s about having the right characteristics, being empathetic, open to communication. Don’t be scared about becoming a coach, you can’t know you don’t like something until you give it a go.
“If you asked me 10 years ago, or even one year ago do you think your coaching would lead to where I am now, I wouldn’t say yes. That is the excitement of our sport, anything is possible. Too often in coaching we’re focused on the outcome, but it is about the process to get there. Sometimes we train so hard we forget to enjoy the journey and we need to remember that.”
Making memories in the sport
To mark National Volunteer and Coaching Weeks this June, we’re asking the England Athletics community for their favourite memories within the sport. Listen below as Hayley talks us through the opportunity of a lifetime last summer, presenting the medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
A word of advice
It is not hard to be inspired by the incredible network of thousands of coaches throughout the United Kingdom! However, if you are not sure where to start or how to take the first step, Hayley is here to help you with some top tips.
“Reach out to a local coach or someone you know doing a role you are interested in to shadow. You could also look at coaches from different event groups, genders, or backgrounds to see what people have to offer, and how people’s approaches differ with their athletes.”
“If you can, get down to a local athletics meeting and instead of watching the events, take time to observe the athlete coach relationships and interactions as you can learn a lot. It is an unusual thing to suggest, however it can help to breakdown any perceptions or fears you have of coaching.”
Take your first step!
If you feel inspired and want to begin your coaching journey, visit our Coaches and Officials pages with lots of helpful information and courses to help you on your way whether in track and field or road running!