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Understanding Your Environment

Understand your context to maximise your capabilities

In this theme of the Coach Learning Framework, you will find resources on:

  • Holistic thinking and working as part of a team. Learn how to meet your participants' personal, emotional, social, psychological, physical, and cognitive needs.
  • Developing independent learners. Provide the right balance of challenge and support to encourage your participants to take ownership of their own development.
  • Talent identification and development. Understand the importance of creating a flexible and supportive environment to enable participants to maximise their potential.
  • Understanding age and stage of development. Explore the impact of age and stage of development on your participants.
  • Transitions. Learn how to support your participants through a variety of transitions, including into new coaching environments.

Why is Understanding Your Environment Important in Coaching?

A high quality coaching environment transforms the experience for everyone involved, from participants and coaches to members of the wider support network. This is an environment that is enjoyable and provides diverse experiences with the aim of developing well-rounded individuals, and that makes everyone feel valued, supported and welcome.

When creating an appropriate and supportive environment for the people you coach, you must consider their wider developmental needs, and how you can create opportunities for them to take ownership of their own development. You will also need to consider how you can provide support and assistance to participants’ support networks.

By taking a person-centred approach, you can develop a rich environment that meets individual needs through inclusive and welcoming practice. Importantly, it should be challenging and supportive: an essential combination to help participants thrive. It’s also important for it to be flexible, as development isn’t linear, and you will need to allow for multiple entry and exit transitions.

Finally, a long-term focus that prioritises the development and growth of individuals over winning and immediate success is critical, as this helps to create an environment that celebrates an individual’s potential over performance, giving them the confidence to experiment, learn from their experiences, and develop as people and participants.

Through the pillars below, find resources to help you on your journey to understanding the environment.

Holistic Thinking

By prioritising holistic development in your coaching, you are ensuring that the wider needs of the person are met.

This incolves creating an environment where you (and the participant's support network) considers and pays attention to the individual's personal, emotional, social, psychological, physical, and cognitive needs, thinking beyond the technical and tactical demands.

While having access to specialist support (such as a strength and conditioning coach; psychologist; nutritionist and physio) may not be possible, it is worthwhile to consider how a coach who does have access to these can provide strong foundations to support the people they coach by creating an inclusive, holistic environment.

This means providing participants with a consistent, non-judgemental, familiar and supporting 'base' from which to explore their learning environment.

Developing Independent Learners

Individuals want to take responsibility for their own development and practice, and it is your responsibility to support them as they navigate the journey to become independent learners. It is important for individuals to develop their own self-awareness and regulations as they take greater responsibility for their own development.

You need to ensure that you're providing the appropriate challenge and support to meet the individual's stage of development and unique needs, ensuring that they sustain the motivation necessary to grow and develop by meeting their basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness.

You also need to provide opportunities within your environment for them to make increasingly important decisions and choices as they manage their own development. Work with the individual and their support network to create a rich and high-quality experience. Communication is essential, especially around transitions and 'pinch points.'

Talent Identification and Development

Development is not linear, and while few individuals make the transition into the performance arena, creating a flexible and supportive environment to allow individuals to maximise their potential and that provides everyone with the opportunity to achieve their individual goals.

It's essential to recognise the stage of development and appropriate progression for their age. Once you have gained a wider understanding of the development pathway, you can then more effectively support transitions and prepare the people you coach with wider holistic development, providing a firm and supportive foundation for progression. To achieve this, explore the challenges of developing talent from identification, monitoring, selection, development and transitions.

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    • Arsenal FC’s Duty to Care: Championing Inclusive Coaching

    • A Guide to Safeguarding

    • What Motivates Young People to be Active?

    • Coaching Disabled People: What Coaches Need to Know

    • Understanding the Activity Inclusion Model

    • Coaching Disabled People: What Coaches Need to Know

    • Understanding the Activity Inclusion Model

    • Three Ways to Help People Set Goals


Free Resource Picks




Creating a Welcoming Environment

Creating a welcoming environment is just as important as the coaching and meaningful activities delivered for people to take part in. These tips will help coaches in creating an environment that works for people.


Expert Opinion 


Coaching Through Transitions in Adolescence

Adolescence is an important transition period for young athletes. The COMPASS model can be one way of looking at your coaching practice and developing it to help get the best out of young athletes




Applied Coaching Research Journal: October 2020 Volume 6

Register / Login to Access. The Applied Coaching Research Journal is aimed at everyone interested in extending their knowledge through coaching research and insights. The theme for volume 6 is transforming lives through coaching and it includes an article on learning and development environments

Included with Subscription


Expert Opinion 


Flip Thinking: Stepping into the Athlete’s Shoes

Considering how the athletes at your sessions think and feel is a key step in ensuring that your coaching environment meets their needs. Key points to think about include how and when you communicate with athletes


Expert Opinion 


Principles of Great Coaching: Positive

A positive environment isn’t just one in which the people at your sessions enjoy themselves. It’s also one in which constructive learning and good communication take place

Coach Learning Framework

The Coach Learning Framework has been created to help you design memorable and engaging great coaching experiences that meet the needs of all your participants, regardless of your sport or physical activity.

Understanding Your Environment is one of nine themes that comprise this insight-based framework.

Continue your journey through the framework to learn more about the other eight themes and the key attributes of high-quality coaching environments, and how you can demonstrate the skills, qualities and behaviours that will empower the people you coach to achieve their personal goals.