The Path to Coaching


Are you interested in entering the world of coaching? Sarah gives some tips on this truly rewarding venture.

Serpentine is a club run by volunteers, including its coaches. There are opportunities for newly qualified coaches to help at one of the existing training sessions, or to set up their own, whether that’s on the track, road or the trails.

I’ve coached the Tuesday track sessions at Paddington Recreation Ground for just under 2 years, alongside Andy Reeves and Max Harrison-Tosatto. Coaching has been one of the most enjoyable experiences for me in Serpentine. It’s great to see both regulars and new faces showing up (even in less favourable weather conditions), pushing themselves and (I hope!) enjoying it.

Although I had been running for a number of years before becoming a member of Serpentine and had been involved in the organisation of previous running clubs, coaching was something new to me when I joined.

To become a qualified England Athletics running coach (which insures an individual to lead coached sessions at Serpentine) there are two main pathways, focused either on “on track” or “off track” events. The “on track” courses are designed for individuals who want to train athletes for 100m-10,000m track races and field events, while the “off track” courses are designed for training athletes exclusively in road running, fell, cross-country or multi-terrain events.

The “on track” pathway involves qualifying as a Coaching Assistant and then as an Athletics Coach, while the “off track” pathway qualifications are a Leader in Running Fitness (LIRF) and then a Coach in Running Fitness (CIRF). I mixed things up a bit by qualifying first as a Coaching Assistant and then a CIRF (but it’s not possible to start off as an LIRF and then qualify as an Athletics Coach).

The Coaching Assistant course takes two days and the LIRF takes one, with both the Athletics Coach and CIRF courses taking four days. The courses usually take place over the weekend at locations throughout the UK, including venues close to London. On both courses my group had a range of running backgrounds. There is some classroom-based teaching and reading to do, but a lot of the days were spent practising coaching skills such as observation and demonstration. The group acts as athletes to give you a chance to practice, with the course facilitators from England Athletics providing regular feedback.

As a club, Serpentine provides regular support to its coaches including reimbursement for the course costs, a representative on the committee and a free hoodie! There is a wealth of coaching experience already in the club, so it’s a great place to develop as a coach. For me, taking part as an athlete in the coached sessions has been one of the best ways to learn.

It would be great to see more people becoming Serpie coaches, so the club can continue to offer a wide of variety training sessions. More details can be found on the Serpentine website, England Athletics website, or by emailing our Athletics Coordinator.

Sarah Pemberton has been a member of Serpentine since 2012. She is currently one of the coaches at the club’s Tuesday night track sessions at Paddington.