CEO, UK Elite Sports Group
Chris Vertannes, CEO of UK Elite Sports Group (encompassing Planet Education, Elite Football and Elite Rugby), embodies the coaching skills he is such an advocate for; inclusivity, integrity and fun.
The self-proclaimed sports fanatic has turned his passion into a business which makes a difference; coaching children skills and values applicable to both sport and to everyday life.
Having spent 25 years encouraging activity for UK children, Chris is now embarking on expanding the arm of his knowledge internationally.Connect on LinkedIn
What first sparked your interest in sport coaching?
I’m one of ten children in a sports mad family so I found myself being a coach at a very young age. I would always be the one organising the games. I was such a sports fanatic, whatever the season I had this appetite for playing sports; making sure it was safe, fun and that everyone was involved. That really was the start of a career path I was later to explore.
In the early 90s, I moved from London to Hampshire, took my football coaching badge, and worked for Southampton Football Club. After 4 successful years there, I decided to branch out and with the help of a sister (Linda) and a brother (Roger), we launched our own sports coaching company.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your ambassadors?
Our ambassadors are the inspirational team of coaching and management staff that we employ.
As well as their talent and passion for making a positive difference to children’s lives, our team cares deeply about how their own actions reflect on the children we teach, the organisations we partner with and the legacy they are creating.
I absolutely believe our responsibility as coaches and managers working in this sector is to be excellent role models; to pass on knowledge, increase a child’s self-esteem and confidence whilst encouraging vital life skills and adopting our values like respect, trust and integrity.
We have access also to World Class Sporting Professionals and we will be announcing some new ambassadors to our group in 2021.
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"Working with my dad taught me a great deal about values, integrity and passion; all the principles that you would want in your own company."
How has the world of sports coaching evolved?
I’ve seen many changes. When I took my coaching qualifications, there was far less emphasis on the technical side of the game. From a coaching perspective, the introduction and expansion of sports science and sports nutrition have been extremely positive steps forward.
As a nation, we were once well behind our European counterparts, but this is changing. For example, there was a time when it was common at European clubs that their best coaches worked with the much younger children. This is due to the fact that it is easier to train good habits and nurture those technical efficiencies during a child’s peak developmental years. Thankfully, we have narrowed the gap and we now have a strong coaching workforce in the UK. We are also seeing a greater number of ex-professional players going down the coaching route, which is another positive step, especially for those who have demonstrated to be good role models.
What impact do you think technology is having on young people’s health and wellbeing?
It’s a massive issue for us. When I first started this business, we were not battling against the tablet, mobile phone or PlayStation; children were encouraged to go out and play.
There is of course a time for technology, so rather than fight against it, we embrace it by bringing it into our lessons and sessions where possible. We use it to help monitor and improve performance and to help with a pupil’s core subjects. There are lots of ways we fuse together Physical Active Learning with technology and initiatives like our popular Active Maths programme is just one example.
"2020 has been a stock-take, not in terms of counting material possessions, but in taking stock of the things we need to be grateful for."
Do you have a proudest moment in your journey so far?
There is no doubt in my mind that I have been blessed and there have been so many highlights along the way. There was a time when a player I coached made it into the Premier League as a footballer, so that was great.
I have also been fortunate to work with two national team coaches: Eddie Jones, England Rugby’s Head Coach and Steve McClaren, ex England Football Manager. As well as being a great experience for the players and coaches attending, personally it was a very proud moment to hear such well respected world-class professionals reinforcing their messages, values and beliefs which were in line with my own and that we have encouraged over the years.
More recently, earlier this year my colleague Lakbir Singh and I visited India to see how we could help develop sport there for children, schools, government, charities and private sporting organisations. It was a wonderful, yet humbling experience and we have several exciting projects to roll out in 2021.
We are looking at working with other countries too, my mother and father were born in Burma (now Myanmar) and I have had the privilege of meeting the UK Ambassador to discuss several projects that we can deliver in the country and over here.
How have you adapted your approach to coaching this year?
When schools were closed earlier this year, we quickly re-evaluated to support schools as much as we could. We had to retrain our minds to change everything that was natural before; no contact, no high-fives, disinfecting equipment, and taking temperatures.
The way our coaching team has adapted to, and faced these new challenges, has given me even more of an appreciation for them; I couldn’t be prouder of them.
2020 has been a stock-take, not in terms of counting material possessions, but in taking stock of the things we need to be grateful for.
You’re inspiring many young people through your work, who inspired you at a young age?
Without a doubt, my father. Dad had three petrol stations in London and when I started working for him at 17, I was just in awe of what he did; his work ethic, the way he treated customers and his staff taught me great life lessons.
Working with my dad taught me a great deal about values, integrity and passion; all the principles that you would want in your own company.
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