‘Miss Volleyball’ – “I’ve never done volleyball coaching to be recognised.”
Sarah Booth

Coach Sarah Booth looks on as her participants take part in a volleyball training session. Photograph: ©Sarah Booth

A New Yorker by birth; but hailing from San Diego, Sarah Booth, has flourished in the world of coaching a little further from home in Leicester.

Dubbed ‘Miss Volleyball’ during her time at university, the De Montfort University (DMU) graduate was positioned as a Higher Education Volleyball Officer (an initiative run by Volleyball England to develop higher education volleyball) and responsible for coaching beginners, umpiring matches and hosting charity tournaments. Additionally, she coached the DMU Dragons mixed volleyball team, and local teams: Loughborough Panthers and Leicester Athena. Sarah also played for the DMU women’s team and captained Athena’s regional team – all whilst studying for a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

In honour of her volunteer work at the university and in the local community, Sarah was awarded Young Volunteer of the Year by Volleyball England. And although pleased to be recognised for her efforts, the 21 year-old made it clear that coaching is more than just accolades.

“I’ve never done volleyball coaching to be recognised. But it was pretty cool getting an email from the governing body of your sport, saying ‘you have done pretty well this year, this is for you’.

“I enjoy what I do, and automatically feel an increased sense of well-being, health and attitude because I know that people enjoy what I’m doing for them.”

“Helped others to progress”

From the age of 17, Sarah knew she wanted to do her level one volleyball coaching qualification and once she had the opportunity to; with the help of the DMU Sports department and Leicester City Council’s sports scheme – who each paid half the course fees – she qualified. Sarah explained that there wasn’t one particular person that inspired her to start coaching, just a desire to pass her knowledge onto others.

“I’d gotten to the point where I knew I was happy being a regional player, and thought it would be pretty cool if I was part of the process that helped others to progress.

“I think if you have an influential coach as a young person, or even as an adult, and they make [sport and physical activity] fun and enjoyable, and you learn something, then people automatically are going to stick at it. My club in Loughborough has a couple of 17 year-olds, but we also have a couple of 50 year-olds, and both groups are still sticking with volleyball because they enjoy the atmosphere of the club. That’s probably the most crucial thing that you can do as a coach; make sure people enjoy it, have fun and learn.”

3.6 million cohort of coaches

Even though Sarah can see the benefits to participants, she is still reluctant to attribute her coaching to increasing the well-being of others: “…there was one girl, she wasn’t struggling with anxiety or depression, but she was struggling with confidence issues because she’s never really done team sports or anything. I’m not going to attribute my coaching to the 100% reason why she’s now a lot more confident, but she’s now training with our women’s team at DMU so she’s come a really long way from where she was in the beginning…”

But the fact of the matter is, Sarah is part of a 3.6million UK-wide cohort of coaches, who provide motivational climates that increase the self-esteem, self-worth, enjoyment and vitality of their participants. And what’s more these benefits work for coaches too.

“Boost your confidence”

Sarah has now entered the world of work, and is currently training to be a full-time Custodial Officer at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre in Rugby, where she’ll work with juvenile offenders. She says her coaching skills will give her the boost she needs to take on this new challenge in her life, and encourages others thinking about getting into coaching to not give it two thoughts.

“Being able to plan a session, deliver it and help people develop really does boost your confidence. I’m training to be a prison officer, so having that extra little boost is really important for the type of career I’m going into.”

“I didn’t think twice about doing my level one course; I did think twice about whether I could actually do it in real life. But it worked out well. It’s just the sheer case of if you do a level one course towards coaching then you’ll always have that behind you, and as long as you either have the confidence in yourself or have other around you to help with your confidence, then you’ll have no issue.”