My Experience of Being a Volunteer Coach in School

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Many of our children miss out on opportunities in and out of school because they lack confidence or certain skills. So when I had the chance to work directly with some of these young people, to coach them and uncover skills they didn’t know they had, I jumped at it.
The charity, Yes Futures, empowers young people to believe in themselves and reach their potential, achieved through personal development programmes. I applied to be a volunteer coach and have recently completed my time with one of the 66 schools Yes Futures works with.

The Yes Futures programme
The programme focuses on improving four elements; confidence, resilience, communication and self-awareness through building trust and relationships. Yes Futures supply the training course, and coaching volunteers, such as me, deliver the course. I had an online session in school with a group of year 8s, once a month for four months, and then helped at a weekend residential. In between our sessions, the children also went on day-long work placements, some experiencing journeying into London for the first time, and community programmes where they discovered what can be achieved by giving back.

In the monthly sessions we talked about what the young people had achieved in the previous month, what they’d like to do in the coming month(s), and I supported them generally with their goals and aims. We looked at how to set SMART goals and talked about their hobbies, skills and strengths, and how these cross over into everyday life. This helped them think about what they might like to do as a future career and how their loves and skills could be used.

There was thinking time during the calls for them to figure out their thoughts and it was a safe space to work through the coaching journey. As the months progressed, it was evident to see the change within those that participated. They had the chance to work through their anxieties, had the space if they needed it, and there was never any pressure for anyone to join in. Some didn’t want to participate, but those that did join in really engaged and got involved and found it beneficial.
The school I worked with was completely committed to the programme as well, encouraging the pupils who would most benefit to take part. It’s undoubtedly difficult for the schools to organise - they have to find enough laptops and then the charity induct the children in what to expect and how to log on, and the school had to locate time as well as space – but they could see it was 100% worth it for what the students got out of it.

One of the most incredible things for me to witness was the young people’s realisation of what they have within them. Their attitudes changed visibly to ‘I can do it’ and at the very least that they were willing to have a go.

The residential Into the Wild Weekend
Going away with the young people for a residential team building weekend was amazing and gave me the chance to see first-hand the results of the coaching sessions. The weekend activities were carefully structured to encourage co-working, relying on others and problem solving. Many of the youngsters were participating in activities far from their comfort zone – as was I.

There were several groups from different schools who had never met each other before but some ice-breaking games saw them start to talk to each other. Before long, they were using their newly found communication skills to pull together and work things out. They quickly and willingly learnt from their mistakes, even seeing these as positives rather than negatives. I could see them grow in confidence, see how engaged they were throughout but also having the option to have quiet time if needed. They respected the rules that were set, kept their rooms tidy and were respectful to each other and the volunteers. Some were quieter than others and there was plenty of breakout time to check in to make sure everyone was ok.

My takeaways from coaching in school
I have talked previously about how we shouldn’t expect schools to take on the teaching of life skills for our children. Programmes like Yes Futures enable this to happen though, especially for those who can’t access the support at home or are overlooked at school. Our children and young people need to know that the skills they have within are transferable and they will be able to utilise problem-solving skills throughout life. They have to understand that it’s not a weakness to ask for help. They often won’t do this when their egos kick in or they think they’re being judged by their peers. But adults know it can be lonely at the top – or at any stage - if you’re not willing to ask for support.

It was also a pleasure to meet the other volunteer coaches on the residential weekend, and learn from their experiences both with these children and with other clients. Everyone brings something different and it’s important to keep learning, especially from others.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to help our future generations, keep them engaged and see their education stretched beyond the classroom. It would be great to see schools investing more into these sort of collaborations, and for parents to understand the benefit of supporting and investing in future generations. Check out the Yes Futures website for more information about their programmes. And contact me to see how personal coaching can help your child or young person realise their potential and grow in confidence.