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An insight of being a PE teacher- an interview with Nicola Edwards

Nicola Edwards is the current director of girl's sport at Charterhouse. She started her role in September 2019. She previously was the Head of Girl's Sport at King's College School in Wimbledon. I have had the opportunity to interview her and to discuss aspects of her job as well as what makes a good Physical Education teacher and the pathway on how to become one!

What training and education have you gone through in order to become a PE teacher?

'I went to Liverpool IM Marsh. I studied PE at A'Level and then went to do a BA Honours with qualified teacher status in Physical Education and Dance at IM Marsh. It was a 4 year course and we had various teaching practises every year. I had some tough schools in Liverpool and St Helens in my first year and then I had a couple of independent schools and a state school in my last year. It gave me a flavour of both state school education and also independent schools.

How would you describe your coaching style?

'It's all about being engaged. I try and make all of my practises really fun and enjoyable. I am so enthusiastic- I probably talk too much on the side of the courts but for me it's about engaging them. It's about allowing the performer to make the decisions and for them to always asking themselves why, am I doing something, so it's a decision making process and reflects the game. I try and get everyone involved so no-one is ever stood still and I am very very loud!'

What would you say is your most successful moment in your career so far?

'Winning tournaments, gaining high percentage win rates in matches, making finals days are what we all aim for but actually creating a sports programme that is inclusive, where people find a sport that they continue later in life, representing the school regardless of their ability, finding enjoyment in playing sport with friends and breaking down year group barriers is what my biggest achievements are to date.

When pupils return for alumnae matches and tell you that they still play a sport for a university, club or for their work, means a great deal. It shows that your coaching, your prior involvement has had a lasting effect on people.

My sports programmes will challenge those people who are talented and driven to achieve great things but also create a provision that everyone will excel in one way or another. I believe in sport for all and a successful programme is where everyone comes away from doing exercise feeling better than what they did at the beginning of the session. Lasting friendships, social skills, communication, perseverance, resilience are the values that I try and promote through the sports programmes I build.'

What are the most difficult aspects of your job?

'For me, its dropping players. We have a policy that you speak to every athlete regardless if you are dropping them for a game or for a couple of games. I think it is really important that players understand why and also how they can improve and to also set some targets.'

'Also, when you have a good season and you come to a final or a series of important matches and one of your players gets injured. It's so hard to see them being on the sideline and knowing how much it means to them to take part and all their hard work has just come to an end because of an injury. If this occurs, then myself and the other coaches always involve the individual in the coaching side of the game, so they have something to look forward to and get involved.'

Who do you look up to in the coaching world?

' Sue Gaudion. She now is broadcaster and commentator and had great success with both Australian teams and Singapore in the past. I have been on so many of her coaching courses through Independent Coach Education. They run netball conferences every year at Surrey sports park. She is really inspirational, she makes it really easy and delivers thought provoking drills. There are so many coaches that are inspirational out in the world and I think it is so important that every day, you keep on learning and developing through others. '

What would your advice be to someone who wants to pursue a career as a PE teacher ?

' Get involved with as many things as you can. If you are at school, help coach junior teams, learn from their PE teachers. Go out and do some club coaching. Try and gain as much exposure of different sports as possible. You are more likely to get a good job if you are a PE specialist in a range of sports not just one sport. Select the right university for you that meet your needs. Know what sport you want to pursue as well, maybe the type of students you want to work with.'

'What inspired you to become a PE teacher?

'Mine goes back to prep school. I had an inspiring PE teacher, Miss Tow and she was so enthusiastic and developed my love for sport. She got us involved and those lessons were the best part of my week. Every lesson was different and I just wanted to be like her in the future. I remember her teaching us gymnastics. She challenged us, took us out of our comfort zone and made it really fun. At the age of 7, I told my mum, I want to be like Miss Tow and I want to be a teacher. During secondary school, I taught the people I babysat to swim and also had a job as a lifeguard, so from an early age, I was developing my skills in coaching.'

It was a great opportunity to be able to interview Nicola and to learn more about being a teacher and her role as a Director of Girls' Sport. I hope this article has given an insight of sports coaching if you are aspiring to become a sports coach or PE teacher.

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