‘I can’t imagine ever not coaching these days and don’t see an end anytime soon’, Benji Hamilton-Rhys

During Coaching Week, hear from Benji Hamilton-Rhys on his journey into coaching

“I never really benefited from sports coaching as a kid. In fact, I don’t remember receiving any coaching at all. Even our PE teacher at school laughed and teased me about my sexuality. So sports wasn’t really a thing. I avoided any and all situations where I might be ridiculed, and the sports hall was a prime spot for that. I still feel an anxiety now and it’s awful how not being picked for a team or shunned can have a lasting effect. Outside of school of course, was a different story. I’ve always been active, fast and agile. An ideal teammate, actually. But that was overlooked, and I now recognise that this was all because of poor coaching. The overall result of that was a diminished interest in sports, a lack of respect for coaches and a jaded concept of teamwork.

“But that all changed when I joined the London Otters Rowing Club almost five years ago. I’d never rowed before in my life but desperate to do something different and find somewhere to belong, I took it up, and honestly it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with it. Forget rugby or football. Rowing is the epitome of teamwork because a crew really do have to work together as a unit in order to perform.

“Learning to row and all the way through my journey as a rower I have received some great coaching. Four people in particular stand out for me. Each had a different coaching style and their own approach, and I think that the blend of these approaches all culminated in the best possible way to reach and connect with me. The mission here, although they didn’t know it, wasn’t just to teach me to row, but to teach me to trust, to reignite a self-confidence in me that had long been extinguished, and become something, someone, better than before.

“I row with two of my coaches these days. And I’m still coached by one of the others, whilst my third coach still rows with an elite club and still feeds my ambition and aspirations. All four are heroes in my eyes and I’m eternally grateful to them.

“Asked as a school boy whether I would row, let alone be a coach and I would’ve laughed and ran a mile.

“It was because of that great coaching that I became inspired to do the very same: coach. Inspire, empower, develop. I was quite taken with the transformation and the power of our coaches to deliver that. Their coaching went far beyond what they could ever teach me in a boat, and into other parts of my life. So much brighter, so much more confident and full of energy again. I was enriched.

“And that’s our job isn’t it? That’s what we really set out to achieve. To inspire the young people we coach to reach further, go further than they can imagine. We empower them to become better versions of themselves, to set new goals and achieve them again and again and again, and thus all in all, developing these young people into exceptional, well-rounded human beings.

“I qualified with British Rowing as a coach, and I’m now a Session Coach with London Youth Rowing.  The very organisation that provided the coaches whom taught me to row. Whilst it’s just one day a week, slotting neatly around my own training, I look forward to that perhaps even more than I look forward to training sometimes. Just those few hours a week leave me positively beaming with pride. For some of these kids, it’s a bit of fun, for others a break from a perhaps harsher reality, and for others, a stepping stone towards a bigger, more ambitious rowing dream. To see those kids so engaged, listening, learning, growing; they inspire me more than I inspire them. I’m proud to play just a small part in that and in their own journey wherever that may take them.

“And, in being a coach, I’m constantly learning and developing myself, learning from the other coaches around me, to continually improve my own knowledge, approach and skills.

“I can’t imagine ever not coaching these days and don’t see an end anytime soon. In fact, I’m planning to coach more and more. It’s what I do, what I’m good at. A coach is who I am.”

Inspired to give coaching a go? Find out how to get started here.