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Articles > Community Comment > Community Comment: Q&A with James Burbidge, Digital Marketing Manger of Coach Core

Community Comment: Q&A with James Burbidge, Digital Marketing Manger of Coach Core

Perspectives on the post-pandemic advancement & development landscape

ToucanTech's Community Comment series provides a view of how community management is evolving, from a range of experts around the world.


What is your role at Coach Core? What does a typical workday look like for you?

I’m the Digital Marketing Manager at Coach Core, but my role is fairly broad as we’re a small team. My days are very different because of that, which I love; one day I’ll be planning a social media campaign, the next I’ll be customising our CRM and the one after that I’ll be working on our PR strategy.


What are some services you offer your community?

We offer one service - we set up sports coaching apprenticeship opportunities to help 16-24 year olds, who have come from challenging circumstances, into the workplace and education. We are currently working in 15 sites across the UK, and are very proud of our (pre-Covid) success rate of 90% (compared to a national apprenticeship average of around 60%). The work we do makes a significant and lasting impact on the apprentice’s life, and also increases sport and activity provision in the communities they come from, with all the benefits we know that brings.


The past year


How has your community responded to the unique challenges that we have faced during the global pandemic? What do you think the biggest challenges have been for the community you interact with? 

Our community members are sports coaches, so obviously the impact was huge, with all sessions immediately coming to a stop. The team did incredible work by pivoting to digital delivery and other kinds of work - one of our partners had their staff working with a food bank to deliver parcels to the community. Nevertheless, the large amounts of furlough and redundancies for people who thrive on being active and engaging with others has taken a big toll on people’s mental health.


What impact are you aware of on the ultimate causes behind the communities you are in contact with - have people, campaigns, or goals been put at risk, or suffered as a result? 

Young people have borne the brunt of the negative economic impacts of Covid; they occupied over half of the 800,000 jobs lost in the 12 months up to March 2021, which has led to a 2.3% increase in youth unemployment to 14.4%. Long-term (6+ months), unemployment has a huge impact on a young person, making it incredibly hard for them to catch up with their peers across their whole lifetime. That type of unemployment has risen by 50% over the last year, according to Youth Employment UK. That means that more young people than ever before are going to need Coach Core and the other amazing organisations doing similar work.


The here and now


What is the atmosphere like at the moment within the networks you work with - would you say there is a positive undercurrent and signs of optimism, or are people experiencing fatigue with the limitations that we are dealing with across the world? 

On the whole, people are delighted and excited to be back to work and back coaching. That said, the toll on people’s mental health over the last year, in particular the stop-start nature of lockdowns is having an impact as people and organisations must get up to speed quickly. There is also a tension we are seeing between short term solutions to immediate problems conflicting with long term planning.


Are you seeing any marked change in how networks have started to reinstate in-person engagement practices in recent months, or during periods where restrictions are lifted? 

As part of the sport/coaching community, our partners have been able to (safely) get back out on the field and are rejoicing. That said, they are still limited in what they can do, and many practices that are still digital and remote, such as meetings with colleagues, office work etc.


In the future


Are you expecting to celebrate more online/digital admin or engagement solutions in your everyday, and how could this change your relationship with your colleagues/clients? 

Yes, absolutely. Pre-covid we were visiting each of our 15 sites across the country in person, sometimes for a single meeting. With everyone now comfortable and capable with online meetings, that will change, and bring with it huge savings in both time and money. We now also have two colleagues working remotely and others coming into the office much less frequently, now we are able to operate in a way that fits with people’s workstyle preferences. Building out - and learning new habits - on our digital stack of software is taking some time - in part because we’re hoping not to rush into anything that we won’t want to be using in a year’s time.


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