Our first profile looking at the pathways women cycling coaches are taking features Heidi Blunden, Go-Ride Coach in the South Region.
Heidi is based in Bristol and is a Level 2 cycling coach with specific interest in road cycling. She started on her coaching pathway five years ago at the age of 31.
Heidi’s favourite riding for herself is both road and mountain bike, although currently she is enjoying the track and can occasionally be found trying her hand (or rather, legs) in a local time trial. Heidi started her British Cycling Go-Ride role in summer 2017, shortly after she joined the Ignite community.
What originally motivated you to become a cycling coach?
“Feeling like my desk job at work was not fulfilling enough and realising that I enjoyed my volunteer work a lot more. That’s when I decided to start my career shift to coaching. I have always loved cycling but found I most enjoyed having the opportunity to inspire others to ride their bikes and when riding with my club or friends.”
What has your pathway in coaching looked like?
“I started as a Breeze Champion around five years ago; I led rides and found that I was quite good at encouraging others to ride their bikes and reach their goals. From this I got involved with some local community projects, worked with young people and hard to reach groups, at which point I decided to do my Level 1 coaching qualification to support me in assisting people to ride.
“The Level 2 followed shortly afterwards and then the discipline-specific road qualification, as part of my progress towards working in coaching. During the last three years I have chosen to work in a number of different roles, including part-time and flexible work that allowed me more time to volunteer, get involved with cycling projects and groups and develop myself along the coaching pathway.”
What strengths from other areas of your life did you bring to your coaching career?
“I have worked in a youth charity and in other roles within the voluntary sector and I think this has allowed me to bring a good understanding of some barriers that particularly young people face when it comes to physical activity and cycling. Other work and personal experience has provided me with good communication and delivery skills that are strengths that I have brought to my coaching.”
What have you achieved since you have been on your coaching pathway?
“I feel I have achieved a greater understanding of cycling as a sport, and the performance pathway. I understand more about the different cycling disciplines and how these can be used in my coaching. On a more personal level, I have gained greater confidence in my own ability to deliver good quality coaching sessions as I see young people improve and develop as riders.”
What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome these?
“The main challenge I faced is having not come from a sport development background. It was a career path that I followed in ‘later years’ and I thought that this would put me at a disadvantage with people not taking me seriously as a sports coach. Since gaining my coaching role with British Cycling though, I have come to realise that this challenge was my own perception and that my varied skill-set and background is actually an asset to my coaching.”
What does your support team and resources look like?
“My partner has supported and encouraged me with becoming a coach and making a career change. He continues to listen to me, talk through session plans and helps me be organised when I’m going out on a long day coaching! Friends have also been really important in encouraging me to keep learning and telling me that I am good at what I do.
"Spending time with other coaches and clubs to see different delivery styles and ways of working has been one of the most useful resources. I am always looking for ways to improve my own practice and to try new approaches to sessions. On a day-to-day basis I am lucky to work with experienced colleagues at British Cycling and coaches who are always approachable, willing to answer my questions and help me talk things through.”
Where are you heading now on your coaching pathway?
“I’ve reached my ambition of being a full-time coach. I’m currently looking to get as much coaching done as possible and work with lots of different groups of riders so I can gain more experience and keep developing as a coach. Along the way I’d like to do some more discipline specific courses and keep meeting and working with different coaches.”
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman thinking about coaching what would it be?
“Find your local Go-Ride club and get involved as a volunteer. Go along to some sessions and meet the riders and coaches. There are lots of opportunities to gain coaching qualifications, find support and develop further if you want to become a coach.”
If you could use three words to describe your coaching pathway so far, what would they be?
“Rewarding, exciting and evolving.”
Follow Heidi on twitter @girlguideheidi