Thursday 14th of January 2021

The importance of mentoring

With the eventing season drawing to a close and the polo season moving to the arena, now is a good time to reflect on both performance and progress.

As we celebrate National Mentoring Day on October 27th, we speak to 3 leading mentors on the importance of mentoring in sport, their role helping pupils unlock their inner potential and the life skills needed to succeed. 

Chelsey Baker

Inspirational mentoring champion & campaigner, Chelsey Baker has won five mentoring awards including “Business Mentor of the Year” & the British Bankers’ Association Mentoring Award at BAFTA and is the Founder of National Mentoring Day. We spoke to Chelsey about the why mentoring is so important,

“A mentor can help assess strengths and weaknesses, develop new skills and help in planning and implementing short and long term goals. They can often provide a fresh perspective, help in exploring alternative options and potential barriers; and help seek new ways of overcoming challenges and problems. 

Mentoring can guide and support people to develop both personally and professionally and give them confidence to try new things and move in new directions. It really can unlock the doors to a completely different world and totally new you. Sports mentoring can lead to many positive outcomes including greater performance and increased focus. It is well proven that mentoring can help to build leadership skills, confidence and help people move to the next stage in their career. A key part of mentoring is to help develop professional attitudes, values and growth.”

This development in professional values is something that resonates strongly with Caroline Moore, FBHS, British Eventing National Under 18 Coach and joint owner of double World Champion AllStar B.

“As well as being a sounding board for my pupils, I work with many pupils who want to turn their hobby in to a profession. Life skills and professional values are a huge factor in succeeding and drawing from my own experiences, I advise them on areas of their personal development such as how to be marketable, how to deal with sponsors, how to put themselves forward in the public eye and the importance of a clear business plan. It’s really easy to just focus on the social media side of things, but you also need to be successful in the sport and my advice is do it quietly with good results behind you.”

Photo credit: William Carey Photography


Level 3 coach and member of the HPA Coaching and Development Committee, David Ashby is the founder of Oxford Polo and the Oxford Polo Academy and is at the forefront of assisting with the progress of the sport. David mentors a number of up and coming players and is passionate about nurturing the next generation in the sport.

“Largely I think life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself. If you can gain from other people’s experiences, and learn from other people’s mistakes, then you are at an advantage. You are getting instant feedback to further your progression. A lot of what I do comes from a void in my own development. A lack of someone to ask, and we can help change that. A lot of people have their own agenda but shared experiences nurtures talent and helps give them the right start. In order for the sport to be progressive, there is no point in watching kids make the same mistakes I made.”


David Ashby Photo credit: Oxford Polo


Both Caroline and David feel strongly that the majority of their mentoring role happens when their pupil is off their horse. An important part of their role is helping parents navigate their way through the sport, especially when dealing with children and young adults who are juggling school work, body growth and maturity. 

“It can be a minefield for parents – buying ponies, stretching limited budgets, getting experience. Problem solving and opening doors is a huge part of my mentoring. Sharing my contacts and connecting people is key in order for the kids to progress,” says David.

Caroline adds,

“I help parents manage both their expectations and those of their children. That includes looking after their children’s physical and mental health, nutrition, hydration and most importantly, not aiming too high. The ones that come through and do well are the ones that have experienced a few knock backs, whether through injury or disappointment and we help give them somewhere else to go, a back up plan so that if something hasn’t worked out as expected, we can help show them that they have options as we have to remember, we are dealing with children. At the end of the season, I will sit pupils down with their parents and profile their performance, analysing what did and didn’t work over the season. We will then make an action plan for their winter training and work on goals for the 2019 season. It’s a great time to reflect for us all.”

So as well as sharing experiences in a constructive way, what makes a great mentor? Chelsey Baker shares her thoughts,

“They need to be a good listener and communicator, whilst keeping confidentiality and understanding that we all learn and grown at a different pace. A great mentor should support and help the mentee to review their situation through a process of reflection, questions, signposting, challenge and feedback. Mentoring is undertaken this way rather than by advice to allow the mentee to come to their own decisions. Just one piece of sound advice can often be a catalyst of change for a mentee.”

Photo: William Carey Photography

One skill that is crucial for success is resilience, as David explains,

“When you work with kids that have both the talent and the drive to succeed, learning to be resilient is key to ensuring their long term success. As we all know, life with horses is often a bumpy ride. There will be tough days and learning how to get back up again and again develops a strong work ethic. “

So what should we look for in a mentor? Chelsey recommends looking for someone you can connect to but someone who can also challenge you when the going gets difficult.

“You need to be able to trust them and know that they are there for you and not for their own agenda. Mentors should have a desire to bring about change and a willingness to help others. A mentor should have good listening skills whilst leaving their own agendas and egos at the door.”

For Caroline Moore, mentoring allows the process to go full circle, as she explains,

“I encourage all my younger pupils to take their BHS exams in order to help them understand the mentoring and coaching system. By getting a qualification they can one day give something back to the sport and it gives them the responsibility of helping others who are in the same boat as they once were.”

And the rewards? David Ashby on the satisfaction of being a mentor:

“My passion is the sport and I want to see British Polo get stronger and better. At the moment numbers have been dwindling and we need to bring modern sporting techniques to polo. I want to grow the sport and mentoring is the best way I know how. There is a huge satisfaction in taking kids on a journey better than the one I travelled.”

Photo credit: Sarah Heseltine


For more information on National Mentoring Day, click here

For more information about Oxford Polo, click here

Follow Caroline Moore on Facebook here and see below for details of Caroline’s Masterclasses with Ros Canter


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