Sectoral Qualifications Framework: Sport

SportThe Sports Framework. For the Olympian and the Guy Next to You in the Gym.
Today, 67.8 per cent of recreation instructors in Poland describe their own professional background training as average, while 25 per cent believe it to be high and 7.2 per cent – poor (research by Wiesław Siwiński of the Academy of Physical Education in Poznań). Staff quality is to be improved thanks to the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports. Concurrently, the overall propensity to engage in physical activity should grow as well, as recommended by the World Health Organisation. Such are the objectives of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for s under implementation.

The sports-related Framework will serve to organise and describe qualifications of all sports staff, duly confirmed by diplomas and certificates issued to coaches, instructors, animators, and other individuals running sports activities for amateurs and professionals. The Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports serves as sectoral representation for the Polish Qualifications Framework, systematising all existent qualifications at eight levels.

The sports Framework comprises six levels: Two through Seven. It describes all competencies required to achieve trainer/coach qualifications for each level. It thus assures the quality
of professional qualifications, facilitates the recognition of competencies gained as a result of different forms of learning (informal and non-formal education included), and outlines potential career paths. This will enable i.a. a comparison of individual trainer/coach qualifications domestically and internationally.

“The Framework is to suggest to employers how to prepare individuals for the athletic trainer/coach profession, and what competencies such individuals should have to assure compatibility with those achieved abroad. This is hugely important, as we are operating on an open labour market – this is why the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports is subject to the Polish as well as the European Qualifications Framework,” project basics are explained by Krzysztof Perkowski, project manager and professor at the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw.

This Will Help Kids Too

Authors of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports declare, “We are doing anything and everything we can for the qualifications system in sports to become legible and transparent to sports classes instructors, trainers/coaches, and employers alike.” They expect Framework implementation to greatly help schools, clubs, sports associations, as well as authorities, health centres, and recreation entities, not to mention institutions educating professionals, trainers/coaches themselves, sports activists, as well as athletes, club and association members, sports and fitness class attendants, and sports and recreation centre staff.

All that because the Framework is not limited to professional athletes only, in the junior, varsity, qualified, professional, Olympic, or Paralympic varieties. It also encompasses whatever might be described as sports for everyone, including the academia, military, police force, other uniformed services, and the disabled. It extends to leisure-time sports pursued by adults and children as a holiday or free time activity, at school and/or in the home neighbourhood.

Similar competencies are expected of people engaging in all these fields of activity – sample skills including physical effort planning, handling, and supervision, not to mention knowledge of how the body of an exercising person evolves. The purpose of training and the participant’s capacity and needs will determine the extent to which such skills will be applied by the coach or trainer.
In light of all these factors, a common qualifications framework was outlined for the entire sports sector, albeit along two different development paths:

  • For individuals delivering activities classes targeting continuous performance improvement in competition circumstances (i.e. professional athletic trainers),
  • For individuals holding classes or delivering activities targeting overall wellbeing and health condition improvement through recreation (i.e. professionals focusing on sports for everyone).

Assistant to Coach

The Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports does not force the community to adopt specific qualification names, albeit (according to Professor Perkowski) the team had an ambition to regulate the “chaos prevailing in Poland in terms of awarding professional titles in sports” at the grassroots level.

Accordingly, names of sample qualifications for general leisure sports purposes were suggested, with each additionally requiring the name of the sports discipline:
  • Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports Level Two Assistant
  • Level Three Instructor,
  • Personal Trainer and Trainer/Coach – Level Four,
  • Health Promoting Exercise Specialist and Advanced Instructor – Level Five,
  • Advanced Physical Exercise Trainer/Personal Trainer and Advanced Trainer/Coach – Level Six.
In emulation of the national framework, Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports level contains
a description of all related qualifications required in three categories: knowledge, skills, and social competencies. Thanks to all these descriptions, everyone knows what can be expected of e.g. a Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports Level Three qualifications individual. All Level Three individuals will be expected to know and master identical skills and knowledge, regardless of where or how they were educated. When presenting the project, Doctor Anna Szumilewicz explained that “This resembles the hotel standard description system. Everyone knows what to expect from a three- or five-star hotel.”

Five so-called sectoral indicators were used in the drafting of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports descriptions, said indicators standing for key requirements expected of individuals attending respective stages of the learning process. The ultimate purpose is to determine the skills and attitude represented (referred to as “orientation focused on…”):

- Activities determining the delivery of a class or training session, including the following phases: a diagnosis of an individual’s capacity to participate in a given sports activity; class/training session planning, organisation, and delivery; exercise effect supervision and assessment; ensuring the safety of all participants of a sports/exercise evolution; technical and fitness preparation for class/session,
- Methods, forms, and measures applied in training, relevant for the specificity of the given discipline. The ultimate purpose does not only involve the proper selection of exercises, but also of the accessories, appliances, locations, and time required for the target to be achieved as set,
- Conditions and psycho-social factors relating to sports activities. Experts conclude that participation in sports activities depends on the following factors: gender, age, education level, economic status, health condition, lifestyle, general fitness, accessibility of facilities, appliances, and equipment, natural environment conditions, social support, fashion, and media influence. As the number of factors is considerable, and sports activities are engaged in during free time and voluntarily, Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports authors believe that the following is required to work with individuals interested in exercise: professional preparation (communication and motivation), true care for the attractiveness and atmosphere of classes, individual class selection skills, and educational/development skills,
- Effects of participating in sports activities; health condition and overall sports achievement levels. This requires healthy lifestyle promotion, non-contagious disease prevention thanks to regular exercise, and activities targeting competition in sports,
- Factors supporting professional sportsmanship, that is the use of scientific research results and support areas, such as medicine, physiotherapy, dietary sciences, and others. In qualified sports, such factors also extend to activities going beyond sports training itself – social and economic conditions and labour quality control systems.

Doctor Szumilewicz thus summarised aforementioned requirements: a sports/exercise instructor
of a given discipline, that is the holder of the most popular qualification in the field, should have the knowledge, skills, and social competencies allowing him or her to plan, organise, and deliver sports and leisure classes and/or events in a selected recreational discipline in a manner ensuring safety, efficiency, and satisfaction for all attendants involved. Sample recreational disciplines include skiing, sailing, and team games. As opposed to qualified sportsmanship, where top sports performance remains the ultimate goal, the mental and physical health of participants and their social condition are the focal point of any related activity.

Post-Framework Framework

Immediately prior the drafting of the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports, the sector had been developing solutions in recognition of national qualifications frameworks. The Polish Equestrian Federation drafted their respective and binding qualifications structure, comprising professional training and educational requirements for future equestrian athletes and staff. The system was set up within the framework of the International Equestrian Federation.

Furthermore, a framework for fitness instructors was created as well, with five qualification levels proposed (One through Five), with an additional two for institutions of higher learning (Five and Six, with the phrase “Academy of Physical Education” added to qualification names: e.g. “Academy of Physical Education fitness coach/trainer”). The following names have been drafted for the field: fitness consultant (Level One); fitness animator or fitness instructor assistant, school fitness instructor, fitness form specialist (Level Two); fitness instructor specialising in modern forms of gymnastics or strength-building exercises (Level Three); fitness or personal trainer (Level Four). Professional qualifications of the first two levels were a new educational offer directly relating to labour market needs.

System authors emphasised that incompetence of physical recreation instructors ought to be prevented. “Polish sports and recreation clubs frequently employ insufficiently educated instructors. Another issue is that of a dissonance in the quality of educational services offered by various entities, with the number of entities educating specialists in recreation growing,” emphasised Anna Szumilewicz, employee of the Academy of Physical Education and Sports in Gdańsk, and physical recreation qualifications team leader in the group responsible for designing the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports.

There were four teams working on the Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports, including a qualified sports qualifications team and a qualitative and quantitative research team. The Sectoral Qualifications Framework for Sports formed a consortium including the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw, the Institute of Sports, and the Toruń Chapter of the Organisation of Physical Education. Krzysztof Perkowski of the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw was appointed project manager; he is an instructor and qualification courses examiner of highest trainer/coach classes, and co-author of professional development course programmes. Piotr Marek of the Institute of Sports in Warsaw and Trainers’ Academy manager was appointed project co-ordinator. The overall team of more than 40 experts comprised representatives of trainers/coaches, sports-related institutions, athletic trainer colleges, Polish sports associations and clubs, and local government agencies.

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