HOW ARE YOU DOING? – a mentoring model to support the sports coach

Written by Stina Kuhlefelt (Icehearts), Miika Niemelä (Icehearts), Anita Ahlstrand (Metropolia UAS) and Pekka Anttila (Metropolia UAS) / Finland

© Jonathan Kuhlefelt

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Who has the responsibility for the coach’s coping and the methods they use to coach? How can a sports club support an individual junior coach and why is club support important? This blog launches the Icehearts’ mentoring model and the importance of peer support in the work of their educators. Only a wellbeing adult can make young athletes feel well!

The purpose of the mentoring model, created by Icehearts, is to support the educators, as they call their coaches. The mentor is another coach who is also a member of the Icehearts’ support team. 
Each Icehearts team is led by a full-time educator who also plays the role of coach, when it comes to exercise. Educator is an adult alongside each youngster, also when the growing up is challenging for the youngster.

The mentoring model works as a support for coaching in any sports club

Regular meetings between the mentor and the coach support the coach’s confidence in his / her potential and ability to interact with young athletes. It helps the coach to be for example approachable for the youngster.
The mentor’s job is not just to give instructions, but to act as a listener who helps the coach to be aware of and evaluate his or her own behaviour. In addition, the mentor acts as a peer support who encourages and builds faith in the coach’s own strengths and ability to coach young athletes in a respectful way.

6 Facts About Icehearts’ mentoring model:

  • scheduled meetings take place every 5 weeks
  • mentoring is pre-calendared to ensure realization
  • appointment lasts about 60-90 minutes
  • the same mentor is available in every appointment for strong trust and uninterrupted process
  • the meeting is carried out in a relaxed and purposeful conversation, for example over a cup of coffee or in the open air.
  • The checklist serves as a basis for discussion


  • How are you doing? 
  • Your wellbeing 4-10? Is it better or worse than last time? What have you done in a different way?
  • What does your year plan look like? (games, camps, events)
  • Is there any need for education?
  • Do you get enough support to your coaching? 
  • Do you feel that you are self-directed (= do you consider the needs of the young athletes first, consider individually each athlete’s needs and start acting) or do you expect guidance from the sports club?
  • Any wishes to the sports club/sports organization?
  • Anything else you want to discuss?

How are you doing?

In Icehearts, the feeling of empowerment is closely related to the conversation between the educator and the mentor. Empowerment always starts with considering one’s own goals and starting points, and the moment of discussion is a personal experience. The casual question „how are you doing?“ is in fact the most important question and the honest answer to that is the essence of the mentoring moment. It is also important to discuss how the educator is doing in his or her daily life and outside of sports club activities.

“I felt I had been seen and heard. I got some good tips on where I can find information about my job / job responsibilities. I also received feedback and spiritual support for a small „not-so-nice event“ that happened to me. I had to deal with a lot of things that I wouldn’t want to share with the whole team. This is good to go on!”

Icehearts educator

Empowerment is a process that requires regular meetings and reflecting on the issues that the coach thinks are important. Being heard has a positive effect on the coach’s self-esteem and acting. It is important to highlight the strengths of the coach and to face them as a valuable and unique person.

How do I face young athletes and what words do I choose?

The coach’s feeling that he or she is valued comes from small things like the mentor’s way:

  • focus on the conversation: put the phone away and choose a peaceful place
  • show genuine interest: expressions, gestures, genuine and enthusiastic comments
  • give feedback: first, give positive and encouraging feedback, say out loud where the coach has been successful
  • give the coach time and space in conversation
  • rely on the process: there is no immediate solution to everything
  • use your own personality and strengths in the conversation
  • look into the eyes and smile

What thoughts have been expressed of mentoring?

„You get to know yourself when you see repetitions in your own activities or when it’s time to breathe.“

„You learn to recognize the signs of exhaustion … where I can get help with anything.“

“Awareness and utilization of one’s strengths is a bridge to working with others.”

Comments from Icehearts educators

Regular mentoring works in many ways

  • a more holistic view of one’s own behavior and operating environment
  • a better understanding of the effects of one’s actions and behavior
  • the desire to share their knowledge with others
  • desire to interact with others and listen to others
  • better acceptance of different people, diversity and different approaches

About Icehearts:

Icehearts is an early intervention model for the benefit of the child, as well as for social work, school and leisure. Icehearts is based on team sports. Each team is on a 12-year journey from childhood to adulthood.
The Icehearts approach provides long-lasting, professional growth support for children who have been identified with concern. The team is led by a trainer who has the professional skills to lead the team.


Miika works as the education manager of the Icehearts Finland. Miika is excited about new human contacts and loves social situations. He plays hockey and is in his opinion a forgotten talent. Miika is father of 4 children and is trying to keep an old detached house up.

Stina works as an educator and an ambassador for Swedish language in Icehearts and as a resource for girls in floorball. Stina gets excited about creative learning methods, lights up when a young person realizes new things, laughs and talks a lot. She refuels her own resources by yoga and running.

Pekka works as a senior lecturer at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and is interested in applying the researched knowledge to practical activities. Pekka is motivated by the development and implementation of new innovations and operating models through collaboration. He takes care of his own wellbeing by mountain biking and running.

Anita works as a senior lecturer at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and is the project coordinator for the KidMove project. Anita enjoys meeting new people, learning new things, and taking long walks in the woods. She is driven by endless curiosity, creative work and positive pedagogy.


Jones, R. 2009. Mentoring in sports coaching: a review of literature. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 14(3):267-284.

Hokkanen, L. Empowerment valtaistumisen ja voimaantumisen dialogina. Teoksessa Sosiaalityö ja teoria. 2009. (toim.) Mäntysaari, M., Pohjola, A. & Pösö, T. PS-kustannus. WS Bookwell Oy. Juva 2009. 

Mattila, K-P. Asiakkaana ihminen. Työnä huolenpito ja auttaminen. PS-kustannus. WS Bookwell Oy, Juva 2010. 

Räsänen, J. Voimaantumisen mahdollistaminen ja ratkaisut. Yhteiskunnan, yhteisön ja yksilön valtaistaminen. Julkiviestintä Oy. Suomen työvalmennusakatemian julkaisu. 2006. ISBN-952-92-0148-6.

Vilen, M., Leppämäki, P. & Ekström, L. Vuorovaikutuksellinen tukeminen. Sanoma Pro Oy. 2008.