Special interview with Piotr Marek

 
Special interview with Piotr Marek

Mr Piotr Marek is a Polish citizen working as Marketing Manager at the Institute of Sport (Instytut Sportu) in Poland. Piotr is very much involved in the development of coaching skills and is member of the team of experts appointed to define qualifications that are significant for sport circles, including disabled sport, and assigning them to the Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF) and Sector Qualifications Framework (SQF).

It is a pleasure and an honour for EOSE that he agreed to take part to our series of exclusive interviews. While sharing his thoughts on the sport and active leisure sector, he offered us a priceless perspective on Polish and European current and upcoming challenges and opportunities.

 

Enjoy the read!

 

 

Piotr for those who do not know you, could you introduce yourself and your organisation?

PM: “I am an employee of the Institute of Sport, an organisation responsible for conducting research in the field of sport and ensuring that science is included as part of the preparation process for the athletes before the most important sport competition events. I am the head of the Coaching Academy, a project offering tutoring for Olympic and Paralympic sport coaches who wish to obtain new skills in the continuous education programme. I am also a member of board the European Coaching Council. I coordinate the project dedicated to drafting the Qualifications Framework in sport sector with an aim to simplify the process and help to compare various qualifications obtained in different time, place and form, and in consequence match the qualifications and the labour market needs better. I also research the competences and the qualifications of the personnel collaborating with the athletes.
Having been into sport since my childhood, I represented Poland in various international competitions and in the Paralympic Games (Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002) as alpine skier. In addition, I also coach in Warsaw’s DeSki club, specializing in wheelchair tennis and coaching young athletes in alpine skiing. Having managed Nestle brand on the Polish market, I am also experienced and competent in this very field.”

 

You have recently developed a “Proposal to the specification of the qualifications in the disabled sports”. Could you let us know more about this initiative?

PM: “Poland is currently working on modernising our national qualifications system with an aim to improve effectiveness of the policy dedicated to life-long learning, which answers the needs of the contemporary knowledge-based economy. Poland’s tasks in this area include developing systematic solutions that would cover the areas of developing and awarding qualifications, without limiting and sticking to higher education only, and improved integration of all qualifications subsystems. There’s been a team of experts appointed and their task is to define qualifications that are significant for sport circles, including disabled sport, and assigning them to the Polish Qualifications Framework (PQF) and Sector Qualifications Framework (SQF). Basing on the analysis of legal documents, scientific publications, field studies, sport personnel education programmes and real-life experience, a proposal has been drafted to describe necessary qualifications and assign them to the levels laid down by the Polish Qualifications Framework; as a result, the sport sector has been defined 6 levels: from 2 to 7. As a result of the works conducted by the experts in the adapted sport, it was indicated that there are qualifications on three levels of the Polish Qualifications Framework that are important for the development of the personnel engaged in the adapted sport, such as:

• Level 2 PQF and SQF (sample qualification name: adapted sport assistant/helper in specific sport).
• Level 4 PQF and SQF (sample name: adapted sport instructor in specific sport).
• Level 5 PQF and SQF (sample name: adapted sport coach in specific sport).

The goal of defining the qualifications in the field of the adapted sport is to improve the accuracy of decisions taken with regard to the qualifications awarded by the sport associations, which are to reflect the requirement in this field in specific discipline. Collaboration with the experts confirmed the necessity to define key qualifications, where knowledge, skills and social competences required for the qualification on given PQF and SQF is fundamental when it comes to taking into consideration the coaching process addressed at athletes with disabilities. Each level includes descriptions resulting from descriptors divided into categories, i.e. knowledge – skills – social competences. Qualifications proposed for the adapted sport fit in the proposed framework. Let’s say that someone has decided to obtain first the qualifications for the adapted sport, after completing and reaching necessary levels, such person may obtain a qualification in specific sport discipline (qualified) including all its aspects, necessary to run sessions with people without disabilities. There are various examples proving that a person with disability is capable of running coaching sessions for people without disabilities, and the other way around. Despite many parallels, we notice the need to award qualifications that cover the differences between those two areas.”

 

How do you foresee its implementation in terms of timescale, stakeholders involved as well as benefits and potential barriers?

PM: “The process of inclusion through sport does not apply to athletes only; the same process must also include the aspects connected with the coaching process. It is important to integrate in the process of individual inclusion some aspects connected with the specifics of the adapted coaching, functioning of sport clubs where the coaching sessions more and more often include people with reduced mobility exercising together with those without disabilities. When a disabled person shows up on a session, all people taking part in the sessions must go through individual inclusion process in order to adapt to the situation they’ve been faced with. With the help of the confirmed competences, people are able to reach more and more ambitious goals, improve their and other people’s lives and better cope with difficulties or even build exceptional relations based on the respect for other people. The trend of athletes and sport organisations’ inclusion has recently become very interesting and popular. Communicating with athletes, coaches should be able to understand specific aspects of their work, what kind of consequences come with a decision that was taken. On the other hand, athletes, employers may better understand the benefits they can get from participating in the process in which clearly defined qualifications become recognisable on the market. Following the trends in sport competitions for people with disabilities organised on international level, the sport for the disabled has been integrated with the sport performed by people without disabilities. The direction of those measures has been coherent with the guidelines laid down by the International Paralympic Committee with regard to transformation and delegating Committee supervised sport management to independent international sport federations. In Poland more and more sport associations are keen to take the responsibility for the development and popularisation of their discipline among people with disabilities. In 2011, there was only 1 Polish sport association engaged in the adapted sport, whereby in 2014, the number rose to 13. Moreover, the tasks are performed by national associations – there are organisations that actively work with people with physical disabilities, hearing-impaired, visually-impaired and people with intellectual disabilities. It is important for the aforementioned organisations to include in their development strategy, the recommended system assigned to the Polish and the European Qualifications Framework. Delivering the aforesaid recommendations will, in a longer perspective, help to identify persons with specific skills and knowledge on the labour market. The threat for this process may be the postponing of the accepted recommendation or, what may be even worse, refraining from awarding certificates and diplomas to people who are prepared to work with disabled athletes, simply as a consequence of the organisational autonomy.”

 

Is this framework meant for the Polish context or do you see some opportunities for wider adoption in Europe?

PM: “The proposed solution has been developed by experts as a recommendation addressed at organisations operating in Poland. Once the selected qualifications dedicated to the adapted sport are assigned to the European Qualifications Framework, it is easier to recognise and compare them with the ones that function beyond our country. The universal nature of the solution may be an incentive for other countries to launch a broader debate on the subject and possibly develop similar solutions in other countries. Basing on my experience in FMCG industry, I know that the products that are the most perspective are the ones that answer consumer’s need. I can see quite an analogy with the products such as the proposed qualifications as they are able to answer the needs of the adapted sport. There’s a growing need to employ experts, people who are able to confirm their fitness to reach the planned goals. The concept we propose may be appreciated by other European countries.”

 

While preparing the interview, you told us you have been using the “7 Step Model” as a support in the development of the framework. Could you let us know to what extend this Model had been helpful to you? Do you think from this experience that the Model could be used in other context?

PM: “In a working definition and description of the qualifications in the sport sector, we applied the methodology proposed by EOSE (The European Observatoire of Sport and Employment). In our opinion, the universality of this tool completes the undertaken measures – it enables to bridge the gap between the community need, the market needs and the university traditions and procedures. For the purpose of our works, we delivered steps 1 to 6 in depth. Step 7 pertaining to process quality assurance was not the goal of the process that was being completed. The document mentions the need for the quality to be ensured by external institution responsible for validation and certification process with regard to individual qualifications. In line with the assumptions of the Polish integrated qualifications system, in order for all processes to run correctly, certification institutions need to have their own quality assurance systems. Implementing the SQF in individual sports, it is recommended to complete step 7 of EOSE’s “7 Step Method.” From this point of view, it will be important to appoint an institution that will “manage” the framework, make sure that it is updated regularly, and develop procedures that will ensure that the conditions it lays down are met, and later on, monitor and control whether the procedures are followed.”

 

How did you get to know about the model? Would you agree to become an ambassador of the Model?

PM: “The 7 Step Model brought a significant concept value to the works dedicated to the draft qualifications framework in sport sector. Once the market needs were defined by the expert groups consisting of 10-15 people (Steps 1-5 according to the 7 Step Model), we started to identify learning outcomes that determine the performance of specific professional tasks in the sport sector. On this stage, it was important to work in a small team (5 people, equivalent of the so called TEG – Technical Experts Group), which ensured improved effectiveness of work and communication between the members. Solutions developed by such team were consulted by a more extensive expert group (ca. 30 people), based on the form prepared for this goal, the experts were asked to comment on the proposed names of qualifications, proposed qualification’s profile and learning outcomes according to the categories, i.e. knowledge, skills and social competences. It was expected that the delivered comments would concern the issues that raise expert’s concerns and propose solutions that could facilitate potential modifications of the qualifications’ descriptions that have been presented. Information obtained from the experts was analysed and discussed in TEG, and the proposed changes that were recognized as reasonable and justified were implemented in the project. Verified working descriptions of the qualifications have been presented to a broader group of stakeholders during expert seminars and published as presentation on the website.”

 

Could you let us know why it is so important nowadays for the sport and active leisure sector to focus on skills development and to what extend the development of qualifications framework may help tackle this challenge?

PM: “Qualification framework is to become one of the key tools of the Polish integrated qualification system. The dynamics with which the industry is currently developing, the fact that the European labour market has been opened, those are the factors that make the sport-related professions more available. More and more important is the continuous education and qualifications, and as a result, confirmed competences (knowledge, skills, social competence) obtained not only through the education and higher education system but also as a result of learning from and in different situations. We reach the learning outcome by taking different paths. Coaches, instructors, animators, who play an important role in promoting sport participation will be able to compare their qualifications with “similar” qualifications that are available in other countries which implemented the national qualification frameworks, by referring them to – just as Polish Qualification Framework did – the European Qualification Framework. The designed qualification system will help sport community, employers, sport associations and their partners to benefit from the unified and cohesive criteria applied to the evaluation of qualifications that function in the sport industry. Settling the structure of coach qualifications levels will surely be helpful in defining training programmes and standards necessary to improve the efficiency of work delivered by the coaches and sport instructors.”

 

Interview by Carole Ponchon, EOSE European PR & Projects manager



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