UKAD report highlights need for ‘coach clean’ education in sports curriculum

  • New research from UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) highlights a knowledge gap. While sports coaches are aware of the risks of doping, many are unsure of how to best support their athletes, and lack up-to-date resources
  • UKAD backs coaches' calls to embed clean sport education into coaching qualifications and build communities of practice

In a research report that launches this week at UKAD’s Clean Sport at the Frontline, a virtual two-day conference that focuses on Athlete Support Personnel, UKAD highlights the need to bolster and embed anti-doping education within the sports curriculum for coaches at all levels, from recreational to elite sports. 

Between January and March 2021, UKAD commissioned Leeds Beckett University to survey more than 340 coaches from diverse backgrounds, covering 56 sports. Coaches shared their support for the fight against doping but stated that they felt it was not their role to coach athletes on anti-doping (preferring to defer to managers or medics), or feeling that they lacked knowledge and confidence to do it themselves. UKAD has identified coaches as a key influential group of individuals best placed to protect athletes through embodying best practice and providing accurate information. 

Speaking on the Clean Sport at the Frontline event, Paul Moss, UKAD’s Head of Education, said: 

“This report plugs an important research gap, gathering evidence of coaches’ experiences and aspirations with regards to clean sports education. The findings corroborate the need for greater tailoring for individuals and integration across the sector. Making clean sport a compulsory part of coach education is needed to address knowledge gaps and better support and protect athletes and those around them. 

“New coach-centred programmes must adapt training to what each coach needs, while ensuring that clean sport is embedded into broader coach education. This will connect clean sport to coaches’ responsibility to athletes’ health and wellbeing as well as performance. Topics might include injury prevention, mental health, nutrition, ethics and integrity.” 

Other linked findings from the focus groups (research was gathered using an online survey, one-to-one meetings and focus groups) disclosed that often, clean sport education was a stand-alone discrete element, rather than being a thread woven through topics. The relevance to the coaches’ role, broader context and environmental aspects also needs to be emphasised. 

The analysis found that coaches wanted a tailored, entertaining and storytelling learning approach to help boost good practice and to make it easier to talk about an often-stigmatised topic. Findings suggested that empowering each coach would foster better peer support and encourage the sharing of experiences and advice through coach-centred communities of practice. Coaches also suggested taking a ‘bite-sized’ approach to make the information more digestible.  

Chris Chapman, Learning Experience Manager at UK Coaching, said: 

“The report’s approach of listening to coaches’ needs is very welcome, as is the emphasis on putting coaches at the centre of the development of the curriculum. Here at UK Coaching we support UKAD’s recommendation to embed ‘coach clean’ education in the sports curriculum and we’ll be encouraging the nation’s coaches to use its educational resources.”  

The Report will help UKAD bolster its support for coaches (building on online resources that include Coach Clean and Clean Sport Advisor) and accelerate work with National Governing Bodies and other key partners to both embed anti-doping in the coaching curriculum and to help provide teaching resources and the latest advice and regulations.