Creating an online ‘coaching company’ to overcome the absence of placements due to Covid-19 in Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences


Creating an online ‘coaching company’ to overcome the absence of placements due to Covid-19 in Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

Placements are a fundamental and popular element of the BSc Sport Coaching Science. 

At Level 5, students take the 20 credit ‘The sport coach in action’ module, which requires them to attend a sports placement for at least 40 hours.  At Level 6, students taken the 40 credit ‘The expert sport coach’, which requires them to spend 60 hours on placement.  Both run long and thin, across two semesters. 

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, few placements have been available this academic year.  Organised sports, leisure centres and coaching companies have been hard hit by the pandemic.  Many have been unable to open, or have been operating at vastly reduced capacity, due to social distancing.  ‘This is a fast-moving environment’, Dr Katie Dray explained.  ‘Changing government guidelines have impacted companies’ ability to operate and accept student placements; changing university guidelines have affect students’ ability to attend; and, of course, operators, clients and students are personally affected by the pandemic, too.  As a result, around half of students have been without a placement provider this year’. 

To overcome this, the Sport Coaching programme team has established an ‘online sports coaching company’, to provide students with a placement experience. 

In this ‘company’, staff acted as the placement provider.  Students acted as consultants, taking the company’s requirements to conduct a needs analysis for the individual or group, setting up a project, negotiating the agreement of the project brief and implementing the coaching plan.  Instead of building their coaching hours during face to face sessions, students are guided by their mentor to work on remote coaching practices, like developing training videos, doing match analysis or providing session plans for other coaches to use.

There have been many unanticipated benefits. 

  • Students have experienced ‘the real world’ of coaching, gaining essential employability skills, not only in terms of the ability to coach online, but also including assessing risk and rapidly adapting practice in the face of a complex, changing environment. 
  • Where placements could go ahead, they did, but with the added security that, if this position changed, students would have an immediately available alternative. 
  • Staff-student partnerships have developed and the learning community has deepened through this enhanced interaction. 

Here are Katie’s top tips for making this work for you. 

  • Take the time to manage student expectations.  Students understand why they can’t attend placement, but may still be disappointed.  Listen to their concerns and talk to them about the positive benefits of this approach, namely, the employability benefits of learning the skills to coach online, which place them at the cutting edge of their discipline. 
  • Work with your Faculty Director of Quality to understand the minor modifications that may be necessary.  This is likely to include changing the assessment, but may include modifying the module learning outcomes, too. 
  • Build in ‘check points’ to maintain student engagement and focus.  This is a challenge with portfolio assessment, because we cannot assess individual components.  However, it can be achieved informally, through tutorials and by working with students to develop a structured timetable, with opportunities for formative assessment. 

For more information on this innovative substitution for placements in Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, please contact  For more information on L&T in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Social Sciences, contact

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