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Gloucestershire Cheer & Dance Academy

"Coacha makes my life simpler and less stressful, and gives me more time for the sport I adore."

Take 150 cheerleaders, five coaches, nine competitive squads and 14 regular class registers. Cheerleading is more than a few people waving pom-poms. In fact, it’s an incredibly popular leisure and competitive sport that has recently been given provisional Olympic recognition. As co-director of Gloucestershire Cheer & Dance Academy (GCA), one of South West England’s largest ‘cheer’ groups, Sarah Watkins had found that organising her group presented myriad organisational, payment, data protection and safeguarding challenges. Then she discovered Coacha…

Until recently, like so many sports club owners, Sarah relied on paper and 14 spreadsheets to administer the GCA and its 150 recreational and competitive members, aged between three and 27. She’d got used to carrying her GCA ‘world’ around in a box. And in multiple spreadsheets on her laptop – with all the risks and inconvenience that involved. Then she realised how complicated her administration had become. Surely, there was a better way to conveniently and securely manage all those memberships, classes, teams, payments and personal details?

Nothing was in one place

It was a never-ending admin nightmare,’ says Sarah, ‘with associated risks ranging from the possibility of having personal data stolen from my car to not having next of kin details to hand if someone had an accident. Nothing was in one place and admin was a constant worry for my five coaches and me. And it was so time-consuming.’

Sarah had looked at administration programmes and apps, but didn't have sufficient faith in them to take the plunge. Besides, the typical £60 per month subscriptions seemed high for her relatively small group – especially when the business models usually increased subscriptions significantly when membership exceeded a certain (often just 100 members) threshold. ‘Then, in 2016,’ explains Sarah, ‘Coacha asked if I’d beta test their software. When I talked them and saw their thorough approach, based on experience with sports groups and software, I gave it a go. As it turned out, Coacha is the best thing I’ve ever done for GCA’s admin – a complete gamechanger.’

Coacha made everything straightforward

Sarah discussed her admin issues with Coacha’s team and realised that the app met her needs perfectly. She says: ‘They made it easy from the start. I gave them my spreadsheets and they uploaded members’ data while I got on with coaching and running GCA. I loved their reassuringly friendly, helpful professionalism.’

In the past, Sarah was put off by the cost and complexity of other admin tools. In contrast, she found Cloud-based Coacha to be simple, intuitive, convenient and easy-to-use from the start. ‘I, or any of my coaches, can access it wherever there’s internet access. And if I need support, there are no big, impersonal call centres. Just a helpful support team and fast response.’

I realised how intuitive it is

Was there a single ‘Eureka!’ moment? Sarah says: ‘It was probably when I realised how intuitive and easy to use Coacha is. The reaction from other coaches when I mentioned it on our Facebook group was amazing too – as in Wow! That’s a lifesaver!’

Surely, given how much data had to be uploaded, and the complexity of her admin, there were teething troubles? ‘I can honestly say,’ says Sarah,’ that apart from a few tiny things, as you’d expect from any web-design project, there were no problems. I had this easy-to-use software that made admin simple and intuitive. And for much less than other systems’ fees. That suits me because of the size of our program and I like having no extra fee with more than 100 members.’

Lots of benefits

As of early 2017, Sarah has used Coacha for several months and reports that her admin is much more organised.

‘I would estimate that Coacha saves me up to £30 per month in direct debit fees that we paid with our old way of administering membership. Coacha comes with full Stripe integration for secure payments. The app also cuts my weekly admin from 10–12 hours per week to around five hours. That means more time for members and less stress for me!

‘We also get fewer missed payments and parents love being able to do card payments using Stripe. There are other benefits too. Just recently, we had to evacuate because of a fire alarm. Previously, we’d have had to fetch registers from the office. But Coacha’s so responsive that it was easy to do the register on my phone. We’ve also got members’ allergy and medical information in one place so we can access it with a one click if needed.’

More time for what coaches do best

There’s more. Sarah reports that her and her coaches’ admin work is more up to date than it ever was. That means they can spend more time doing what they do best rather than pushing paper – or fiddling with spreadsheets.

‘It’s so much easier to see who’s been attending, for kids to log-in to classes on an iPad, for me to oversee payments and to keep up-to-date records. That leads on to safeguarding, which is important because we’ve so many under-16s in GCA. I’m impressed by the lengths Coacha went to with safeguarding – particularly with the email communication system. They followed NSPCC guidelines and got advice on safeguarding from experienced coaches. They also drew on research and development conducted in association with staff and students from Hartpury University Centre’s sports coaching team and MSc in Professional Development. Given that Hartpury, which becomes a university in 2018, is a UK leader in sports coaching education, that’s incredibly reassuring for me, my colleagues, my members and their parents.’’

I'd recommend Coacha to any sports club

Now she’s used Coacha for several years, would Sarah recommend it? ‘Absolutely!’ she enthuses, ‘And I have too. There’s nothing else like Coacha at the moment. It’s a long-overdue godsend for anyone running a sporting group like ours. It came at just the right time.’

Using Coacha is so straightforward. Asked to sum-up her experience with Coacha, Sarah describes it as friendly, reassuring and so straightforward.

Coacha was clearly created so anybody could use it with minimal – if any – training. As someone who runs a sports club, Coacha makes my life simpler and less stressful, and gives me more time for the sport I adore. It’s been a real gamechanger for me and my business.’.

Sarah Watkins - Program Director - GCA Cheer

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