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Ollie Bell goes to China

Ollie Bell, one of our Learning and Skills Project Officers, was selected to represent Newcastle United and the Premier League on a trip to China this month.

Premier Skills is an international partnership between the British Council and the Premier League, delivered by coaches from Premier League Clubs. The aim is to build local capacity and leave a sustainable legacy in participating countries through training Premier Skills Coach Educators in local schools and communities.

Ollie flew to Zhengzhou in central China for one week to deliver a Phase 1 Premier Skills course to 40 primary and secondary school teachers, alongside colleagues from Portsmouth and the Premier League.

He was based in a high school in Zhenzhou where he first observed their PE lessons. Classes there tend to be between 50 and 100 children to one teacher, making sessions very difficult to deliver.

He observed that children were instructed to run around the athletics track in groups of boys and girls at a steady pace for three laps as a warm up. During this he saw one activity known locally as ‘two people three legs’. Essentially an old fashioned three-legged race. The other 98 pupils waited patiently until it was their turn. Another PE lesson involved four people working together to move hoola hoops across a field. Again the other 96 children observed and waited patiently. For most of the lesson, most children were not active at all which is in direct contrast to the lessons delivered by the Foundation where we see the ball rolling for 70% of a lesson and everyone active.

The Chinese government wants every child in the country to play football which was ultimately the reason for Ollie’s visit. The Premier Skills course included both classroom and practical sessions. Classroom sessions centred on how to design effective and enjoyable coaching sessions for grassroots football. Practical sessions demonstrated how the Foundation deliver coaching sessions in the UK and gave the coaches an opportunity to practice what they learned.

Ollie found the Chinese coaches were extremely dedicated and motivated and he found it really interesting to talk to them about why they enrolled on Premier Skills. Yuan was a 50 year old primary teacher, teaching since 1992. He told Ollie that after 25 years of traditional Chinese coaching methods he wanted to make a change. He realised that PE could be fun, a warm up didn’t have to be running laps and that if children enjoy their football they are more likely to learn. This is something that stuck with me and really made my 14,000 mile round trip worthwhile.

On the last day of my trip the coaches were separated into eight groups and given a section of a football pitch to deliver a practical session to 15 school children. It was clear to see that the Foundation had made a huge difference. All five components of a coaching session were easy to identify and most importantly the children were having fun!

Ollie said ” I thoroughly enjoyed my time in China. I not only found it rewarding but, being part of another culture, really made the whole experience eye opening. Longer term I hope this makes a difference to coaches and the children in their schools, I strongly believes that it can,”




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