Award 2023: Meet our Finalists: Kath Coles, Nick Bonney, Annabelle Philips for the Children’s Coaching Collaborative

30 Oct 2023 | ICG Award

This was a collaborative piece of work, spearheaded by Kathryn Coles (White Rabbit Research), with Nick Bonney (Deep Blue Thinking) and Annabelle Phillips (AP Research), for the Children’s Coaching Collaborative. 

Helping children play their way

The Children’s Coaching Collaborative (CCC) is a collection of coaches, educators and policymakers who have come together to kickstart coaching in children’s sport from the ground up. Along with Sport England, they were keen to develop a campaign that would empower coaches to adopt a more ‘child first’ approach to coaching, with the aim of reducing drop-out rates and boosting greater life-long participation. Critically, the campaign had to reach groups where participation is typically lower, such as girls’ team sports, disability sports, under-privileged areas and ethnic minorities.  In order to best fulfill the project objectives, White Rabbit Research created a specialist team of highly skilled researchers.  Our approach was split into 2 stages, the first providing in depth exploration of how coaches currently operate, using a mixed methodology of online group discussions, extended face to face sessions with audiences that required a greater level of depth / sensitivity and ethnographic video footage. From this we identified different audience needs as well as a preferred strategic route (Play Your Way), which was worked up into different creative options for stage two. Online groups were then conducted, with diversity again at the heart of our recruitment strategy.  From these sessions we were able to provide clear direction for both a digital film and supporting assets. To ensure longevity from our research, we also developed guiding principles which the team could use to inform future creative development.  The full launch campaign has already received nearly half a million unique views on YouTube; supporting this, the associated online portal ( allows coaches to customise their experience based on their current behaviour and attitudes towards coaching, in line with the differing needs identified throughout our study.  The research has also had a significant impact on us as researchers. Whilst the recruitment challenges of reaching such a broad and diverse sample were considerable, we would not have achieved the same the level of richness had we decided to ‘play it safe’. As researchers, it was a humbling and inspiring experience to witness the impact coaches can have on young people’s lives, especially in often highly challenging environments and under difficult circumstances.

Hear more about what Kath Coles has to say about the work here