IDEALS Professional is a UK Sport Programme, developed to offer British sport development practitioners a chance to broaden their professional experience, increase their global awareness and enhance leadership while helping to build the capacity of local National Governing Bodies and local organisations involved in target sports.
In partnership with British Cycling, the IDEALS project has offered a unique opportunity for sports development professionals to take part in a reciprocal exchange of ideas, culture and learning, based in Namibia or Mozambique for short-term placements.
The professionals will work with the Namibian or Mozambique Cycling Federations to support and develop the delivery of community-level cycling programmes and coach education in their respective countries.
The first trip to Namibia has been completed by coach educator, Richard Shepherd. Here, he reports back on his progress:
“I have been a British Cycling coach for many years and have experience of sports development and coach education. Having coached in a number of African countries, I understand the challenges that can be encountered, but also the considerable benefits that can be obtained.
During my stay in Windhoek, the lovely capital of Namibia, we managed to jointly develop a four-year plan, drawing together all the interested groups in Namibian cycling, mainly the Namibian Cycling Federation (NCF), cycling clubs throughout Namibia, together with other projects and groups that have cycling as a priority or focus.
Currently there are no dedicated facilities for cycling in Namibia. Without at least one, the prospects for progression will be very much reduced. This is the single most important part of the four-year-plan.
However, the NCF recognises this and is in the process of identifying suitable locations for what would become an African centre of excellence for cycle sport with multi–discipline facilities and accommodation. Sponsorship will be needed to ensure this facility is established to the standards required, but when completed it will a shining example of what can be achieved and ensure sustainability of the whole project.
During my stay, we identified certain priority sectors within cycling, which need development work. Coach education and development in Namibia is an area that is in need of support, so we will hold a coaching course in January 2015 to achieve just that.
Other elements that will need consideration are the training of officials and the creation of specialist cycling facilities. The mountain bike trials need to be made more challenging and a safe tarmac training/race facility in Windhoek needs to be in place as a priority.
One of the groups I was training with, is the Katutura based Physically Active Youth (PAY) project. The youngsters receive education support and are then encouraged into sports.
Cycling is a major focus for this group. Each day after the learning has been completed, these young people transform into cyclists and prepare for training. The PAY Elite Team and I went on a training ride and we headed for the Independence Stadium. Once there, I led coaching sessions to develop technique, skill and race-specific fitness.
During the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I was asked to accompany the Namibian Team as coach, which was an honour for me at these prestigious games. The project will see further visits through the coming years to support the project aims and ensure Namibia creates a strong, healthy and sustainable structure that is an example of excellence in cycle sport.
There have been success stories within Namibian Cycling in the past, however these have been achieved by the efforts of a few individuals against the odds. In future, these successes will become more frequent and to an even higher level when the project aims are achieved.”