Track to Teaching

Lessons from an athlete who transitioned to teaching after elite sport

guest piece from David Coleman, Team GB Bobsleigh

As an athlete we are seen by the public as role models that represent the peak of human physical performance. Skills that have been crafted over decades of dedication in the individual’s whole lifestyle in order to reach one specific point in physical performance. Subconsciously we are developing skills and traits that when harnessed can be applied to life after professional sport. However the challenge is to reapply these skills to more open practices as opposed to one specific application.

Following from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, I continued my coaching and personal training which then developed into teaching “every lesson changes a life”. This appealed to me and I realised that I could have a positive impact on multiple lives.



A big feature of many athletes’ lives is trying to secure criteria for funding or private sponsorship. This can be as a result of performances achieved with funding coming after or someone investing in you as an individual. Either way, the challenges are high risk for all involved and the returns on investment unclear. Teaching has a range of initial funding schemes to attract new individuals into the profession. Similar to sport and depending on the level of your degree, the subject you choose will depend on the money that you receive.

My advice is do your research as to what subjects you enjoy and don’t just follow the funding. There’s a reason why some areas command higher grants.

Don’t expect to be on the same income after your training year; you could be receiving a grant of £30k tax free for training and then start on a salary of £26k before the usual deductions.

Hidden features

Depending on your sport, you may have had to relocate for long periods for training and competitions. As part of the Team GB Bobsleigh team we could be away for 5-6months a year on training camps, attending competitions in Europe, USA and Canada. This provided a whole range of challenges for elite performance.

Similar challenges can happen while training to become a teacher. You may start at one school and build up good routines and practices that will see you excel quickly, growing in confidence and ability. However, you are required to complete a placement at another school to gain more diverse experience. It’s an opportunity to pick up more skills and also to network. Teachers can help each other and share best practice, similar to coaches and athletes in training (assuming you aren’t competing for the same spot).

You’ll be used to being judged by certain metrics in elite sport and the same applies during your journey of teacher training. You’ll be constantly assessed but beware, the criteria also continue into your NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. As in your sporting endeavours, you’ll have to provide evidence to show you have met or completed the standards.

The myth of Outstanding performances

As an athlete I naturally wanted to bring my best to every performance the same is for me and teaching when being observed. At times I have spent a week planning and preparing a single 60 minute lesson. The feedback was “That was an outstanding lesson but I can’t give you that due to how you dismissed the students”. What actually constitutes an outstanding lesson and to a certain extent, elite performance can be incredibly subjective.

Teaching is an amazing experience and students will always provide you with challenges and questions. If you have a high emotional quotient and can commit to investing your time in the students to change their lives, I would highly recommend it.

– David Coleman

If you have any questions for David, you can find him:



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