As part of National Apprenticeship Week we spoke to Thomas Fisher, one of our Apprentice Coaches with the Destination@BritishJudo Programme. Thomas looked back on his first few months with the Programme and told us what’s he learned about coaching and working with different groups of young people.

When I was offered the job as a Destination@BritishJudo Apprentice Coach after my interview it was like a dream come true. Judo has been a big part of my life since the age of four.

Before taking on the role I had done some coaching with players who had some experience and over the age of 11 as well as some basic break falls with novices before.

So, one of my main aims when joining was to improve my coaching skills over a variety of ages and skill groups not just older more experienced players.

We were put on a structured learning plan including support with work and learning. We’ve also had engagement with all levels in the BJA and I feel that the organisation has invested into the success of all their apprentices.

With the structured learning plan, we have frequent meetings to make sure that we understand the workbook we’re working on.

Throughout the first few months of the Apprenticeship my overall coaching skills started to improve and I started taking classes and not just watching and helping to demonstrate the techniques.

During this period, I also started practicing my school taster sessions with the younger classes which prepared me for when I was going into schools with the coach I was working with, Billy Snowdon.

The next part of my job I needed to learn was the best way to perform school taster sessions which was completely new to me. I had worked with novices before and within my club time but it is a very different when trying to teach some basic judo to a whole class of novices.

I have been lucky to be able to work with four different coaches which allowed me to really learn that you need to develop your own style when conducting a taster session. At the start I was copying coaches’ styles and I was not getting the same sort of reaction from the children.

Through the apprenticeship the BJA put myself and Adam, the other Apprentice Coach, on a Level One Coaching Course with Dermot Heslop where we had a day of going through the workbook pretty much 1 to 1 with Dermot allowing maximal learning and a really in depth look at the basics of coaching.

All the coaches regularly meet up for a ‘coach to coach’ meeting where we are given a topic to create a lesson plan from. This can range from traditional judo sessions such as tomoe-nage for children 8+ to a Star Wars based Judo session.

These sessions are really useful as they allow each coach to discuss their ideas and it also allows the coaches to have a catch up

With the role we get to go on training courses such as the recent ‘Shaping The Future’ course with Hiroshi Katanishi 8th Dan where we went over the basics of judo from his point of view which was really interesting as it has allowed my judo to improve.

It was a great weekend all the coaches came away feeling enlightened by the course.

The first few months in the apprenticeship have been really enjoyable and it has really opened my eyes to the world behind coaching.

It may be hard at times but it is a very rewarding job and seeing the improvement in the standard of Judo within the clubs makes the job even more enjoyable.