UK Sport has today announced a new leadership programme as part of a plan to more than double the representation of female coaches in the Olympic and Paralympic high-performance community by Paris 2024.
The new leadership programme will involve six of the best female coaches in the UK providing key support and development opportunities for the next aspiring generation of elite coaches.
Paula Dunn (para athletics), Kate Howey (judo), Mel Marshall (swimming), Bex Milnes (para triathlon) and Tracy Whittaker-Smith (trampolining) will, over six months, provide a unique opportunity for other female coaches to learn from them, observe them in their environment and develop understanding of high-performance coaching, while Karen Brown, who spent over 15 years as a coach for Great Britain Hockey and England Hockey, will act as a mentor throughout the programme.
UK Sport is working with Performance Directors, Coach Developers and Talent Pathway Managers within the high-performance community, as well as UK Coaching, to nominate female coaches who the group collectively agree have potential to coach at the Olympic and Paralympic Games at Paris 2024 and beyond.
The nomination process will close shortly and coaches will be finalised by the end of the year.
The leadership programme forms part of UK Sport’s long-term plan to address the current under-representation of female coaches at all levels of the talent pathway within the high-performance community. Significantly increasing the number of female coaches available for Paris 2024 is the first target of this long-term plan.
CEO at UK Sport, Sally Munday, said: “UK Sport is determined to see greater diversity across the high-performance community and this programme will focus on seeing more women at the top end of high performance. Coaches, alongside athletes, are at the heart of our high-performance community and we firmly believe that a more diverse cohort of highly skilled coaches will help more of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes realise their potential.
“There are currently far too few female coaches operating at the highest level of performance and we are committed to addressing this reality and, working with our stakeholders, driving the change we want to see.”
The programme arises from UK Sport’s People Development Team, working in partnership with sports and stakeholders to address diversity and inclusion ambitions, removing barriers and introducing bespoke programmes, with gender the first characteristic and other initiatives to follow.
At present, approximately only 10% of coaching positions within the high-performance community in the UK are held by women. The first target of UK Sport’s long-term plan is to ensure that by the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024, the number of female coaches available to Team GB and ParalympicsGB has more than doubled to 25%.
Working with key stakeholders, UK Sport has a responsibility to play a part in closing gender gaps by focusing on diversifying the high-performance coaching community and increasing opportunities for female coaches to take up senior and leadership roles.
Deputy Director of People Development at UK Sport, Debbie Jenssen, said: “UK Sport is delighted to be announcing this leadership programme and our first step in addressing what needs to be done to increase the number of female coaches across the talent pathway in our high-performance community.
“We have some outstanding female coaches already, as demonstrated by those great coaches contributing to the leadership programme, and we can be extremely proud of their achievements, but more needs to be done to increase the number that get to coach at the very highest level.
“UK Sport is committed to leading the change for female coaches in our high-performance community, and through a collaborative approach with our stakeholders, we believe we can inspire, promote and create the working environments that will allow for more female coaches than ever at Paris 2024 and beyond.”
Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, said: “I’ve been clear that it is a priority of mine to support women’s sport at every opportunity, pushing for greater participation, employment, commercial opportunities and visibility in the media.
“Key to this is having an infrastructure in place that delivers a pipeline of talent, whether that be athletes, coaches, officials or administrators.
“I welcome UK Sport’s ambitious leadership programme, which I hope will mark a turning point in greater diversity at the highest levels of coaching in elite sport.”
Para Athletics Head Coach at British Athletics, Paula Dunn MBE, said: “I am very proud to be part of the inaugural leadership programme, and I am fully supportive of UK Sport’s target to increase the number of women in the high-performance coaching pathway by 2024.
“I’ve always said, ‘you have to see it to be it’. Initiatives like this are so important in supporting the development of female coaches in the elite pathway. There are so many female coaches out there who have really good and innovative ideas, so I am looking forward to sharing experiences and engaging with other female coaches over the coming months.”
British Judo Head Coach, Kate Howey, said: “I feel very privileged to be part of the first leadership programme UK Sport are launching. For far too long there has not been enough women working in high-performance sport, so to increase this number going forward to 2024 is a great initiative and one I fully support.
“I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with other female coaches within the UK sporting pathway and passing on some valuable lessons that I have learnt along the way to hopefully help them on their journey.”
National Centre Loughborough Lead Coach at British Swimming, Mel Marshall, said: “It’s important that people see what is possible and I am honoured to be part of this project with UK Sport and with a group of extremely successful female coaches from across the Olympic and Paralympic environment. We have to talk about opportunities for women in high-performance coaching and we shouldn’t be afraid to have those conversations, talk about our ambitions and challenge those not supporting them.
“UK Sport are leading the way on this through their ambition and I am extremely excited to be a part of the project and am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experiences with up-and-coming coaches as well as everyone else involved.”
British Gymnastics Head National Coach – Trampoline, Tracy Whittaker-Smith, said: “I am really excited to be involved in UK Sport’s amazing programme to support and increase the number of women in high performance coaching. Understanding the factors and breaking down the barriers to creating a sustainable talent pool of female coaches is not only aspirational but forward thinking as the demand for high-performance coaching and diversity changes. I relish the opportunity to share my experience and passion and can’t wait to play my part in mentoring those women who can go on to achieve even higher levels of coaching.”
LTPC Lead Paratriathlon Coach at British Triathlon, Bex Milnes, said: “I’m really pleased to be part of the leadership programme and supporting coaches on their career journey. The number of women coaching at an Olympics and Paralympics is incredibly low and programmes like this highlight the importance of the presence of women at all levels of the performance environment. I look forward to seeing the coaches on the programme develop and become our leaders of the future.”