Helen Scott is a dedicated elite rider, who has many accolades to her name - including two medals from the London 2012 Paralympics and two gold medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Here, she talks about her experience of coaching and how we’re about to enter a new era for women in sport.
Q & A
Tell us about your cycling background.
I started cycling when I was ten. My parents encouraged me to get involved with my local Go-Ride club, Halesowen athletics and cycling club. I saw Chris Hoy win the Kilo and Kelly Holmes win two gold medals in Athens, and that inspired me to want to do the same. I started progressing through the ranks as a teenager and then joined the para-cycling team in 2010, where I’ve fallen in love with the tandem.
So, what was it like taking part in home Paralympics?
Competing at London 2012 was incredible. The atmosphere amongst the entire squad was brilliant. Whilst the Olympics were taking place, we would finish our training every day and then dash home to watch the GB squad competing in the Velodrome. They really set the bar high; they were fantastic. Before we knew it, it was our turn to get on the track for the Paralympics. The atmosphere in the Velodrome was unbelievable. I couldn’t hear myself breathe. It’s not like training in Manchester, where all you can hear is the chain on your bike and your coach shouting at you!
Why did you decide to get involved in coaching?
It was Tim Buckle, a Talent Development Coach, who inspired me to get into coaching. He was my first BC coach, and part of the reason why I still ride my bike today. He has a natural ability to get people to want to ride their bikes, the kids absolutely love him. I've spent many weekends helping him at Youth Sprint sessions, and to be able to observe his coaching style and expertise has been a privilege. Tim makes it look so effortless and fun to coach. It's now something I'd love to do when I finish competing.
How have you found coaching?
I've just finished one to one coaching working with two riders. It’s been really helpful to be able to draw on my own experiences of riding, but coaching is about much more than that. I have to think about cycling differently now; from other perspectives. The challenge of coming up with new sessions to keep it interesting for the riders and developing my knowledge of how to train effectively for different events is something really exciting to me. I’m getting quicker at drawing up training plans and programmes now, but there's still a lot of things I'm yet to learn. Because I'm a full-time cyclist, training is my priority – I am in the perfect environment. But I’m now coaching riders that need to work hard at combining real life, careers and education with high cycling aspirations.
So, what’s next for you?
Obviously my bike riding is my priority, but I'd also love to start coaching in my spare time and building up my experience in this area ready for a later date. I need to make the decision about what level I want to coach and which types of riders – whether it will be elite or working with children. At the moment, I think it will probably be youth; it would be amazing to see them progress and follow them as they make their way to the podium. I’ve met with Craig Ansell, the Go-Ride coach for Wolverhampton, to talk through his work with the local children. We were discussing the potential of hosting women-specific sessions, which may be a focus for me in future.
As a female rider and coach, do you think women-specific sessions are important?
World class is male-dominated when it comes to coaching. It makes me want to take that on. When females perform at the highest level, it has a knock-on effect throughout the sport and encourages more females to get into coaching, as well as riding. As a kid, I did not see any difference between male and female coaches – a coach is a coach. But when you progress through the sport, there are no women going for the top coaching jobs. We need to provide opportunities for more women to enter the sport and give them the chance to demonstrate what they can do. Once this starts, then we will have changed it forever. Yes, there are men with more experience at the top, but there are a lot more girls coming through the sport now and they will change this. We have seen a change in perception when it comes to para-cycling; now we need a similar sized culture shift when it comes to women.
What would you say to females who are considering coaching?
You don’t have to be a top rider to be an amazing coach. We need female coaches at every level of the sport, who can be the right role models for young girls and can inspire riders to get into cycling and progress. We are entering a new era for women in sport and I hope I am not the only one to come from this generation who aims to break into new ground, to shape and change perception.