Today officially marks the start of UK Sport’s new female coaches leadership programme with 27 coaches from 15 sports coming together as part of a plan to more than double representation in the Olympic and Paralympic high-performance community by Paris 2024.

Eight coaches, including the addition of highly-respected duo Jane Figueiredo (diving) and Claire Morrison (boccia), will lead a six-month programme for 19 of the most promising coaches in the UK, all of whom have been identified as having the potential to coach at the summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games from Paris 2024 and beyond.

Figueiredo and Morrison join Paula Dunn (para athletics), Kate Howey (judo), Mel Marshall (swimming), Bex Milnes (para triathlon) and Tracy Whittaker-Smith (trampolining) as coach leaders 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 19 participating coaches will be offered key support and development opportunities, including times to observe an assigned coach leader in their environment The programme will focus on three key areas, leadership, environment and transition, all of which are fundamental to the coaching development journey. The 19 coaches and their pairings are:

  • Paula Dunn: Nicola Benavente (rowing), Hannah Brown (canoeing)
  • Jane Figueiredo: Christine Bloomfield-Harrison (athletics), Jody Kime (artistic gymnastics), Lisa Letchford (hockey)
  • Kate Howey: Jenny Leeming (diving), Shani Palmer (athletics), Jo Ryding (alpine skiing)
  • Mel Marshall: Leah Crane (climbing), Monica Greenwood (cycling), Sarah Kelleher (hockey), Coral Nourrice (athletics)
  • Bex Milnes: Danielle Brayson (swimming), Naomi Johnston (cycling)
  • Claire Morrison: Katie Arup (fencing), Lysa Jones (golf)
  • Tracy Whittaker-Smith: Emma Trott (cycling), Laura Turner-Alleyne (athletics), Christy Mackinnon (alpine skiing)

Sally Munday, CEO at UK Sport, said: “It is really exciting to see such a large number of coaches from right across our high-performance community involved in this programme. We have an amazing group of coach leaders, who are the trailblazers and the people doing it now, and the opportunity for the 19 promising coaches to learn from them – as well as each other – is going to be incredible.

“UK Sport is determined to see greater diversity across the high-performance community and I know the role that I can play in championing this programme. I believe that each of the participants will become role models for the next generation of coaches and will truly enable us to reach our aims and ambitions for female coaches.

“I want to be able to reflect back that this was a turning point of truly making our workforce, in particular our coaching workforce, in the high-performance community far more diverse and a lot more equal from a gender perspective.”

Claire Morrison, Performance Coach at Boccia UK, said: “This is such an exciting programme to be involved in. I have always been lucky to be inspired by so many female role models through my sporting journey from my mum, my PE teacher, coaches and now my performance director. I know how important it is that female coaches have visibility of other female coaches to help show what is possible.”

Katie Arup said: ““I am delighted to have been selected onto UK Sport’s female coaches leadership programme. The programme will give me the opportunity to work with and shadow an inspirational group of female coaches from a range of Olympic and Paralympic sports. I am looking forward to the challenges the programme will throw up for me as a female fencing coach. I feel ready to up my game, push myself forward on my career path as a fencing coach and embrace becoming a better high-performance coach that can bring excellence to our future GB athletes.”

Monica Greenwood, Women’s Endurance Podium Coach for the Great Britain Cycling Team, said: “The ambition and passion in this programme to help female coaches step forwards in their coaching careers is really exciting and I’m really pleased to be able to be part of it. The coach leaders within the programme have such a depth of experience at the top level of sport. The opportunity to learn from my mentor, Mel Marshall, is something that I am really looking forward to and feels especially relevant in my new role as coach to the Great Britain Cycling Team’s women’s endurance podium squad.”

Lysa Jones, England Golf Regional Coach, said: “I am incredibly proud and humbled to be part of UK Sport’s female coaches leadership programme. As an England Golf coach working with our next generation of elite golfers, I am passionate about addressing the current under-representation of female coaches in UK sport and so to be involved with this initiative is really important to me. I am one of only a few female golf coaches and so to inspire and empower other women to follow their coaching goals will be a wholly rewarding experience and one I will relish.”

Coral Nourrice, Paralympic Talent Development Coordinator at UK Athletics, said: “The programme will not only expose me to an unknown environment for learning but will also provide me with a unique opportunity to develop my present skill set and network. I will be able to step up and be part of an increasing cohort of female coaches, learning from their leadership styles, strategic knowledge and experiences. 

“I am excited to be part of a programme that will support me to reach my full potential by working with my mentor, Mel Marshall. I am confident that shadowing Mel will enable me to go outside my comfort zone to seek solutions to achieve the next level in my career as a high- performance coach.”

Jo Ryding, Para Alpine Performance Coach at GB Snowsport, said: “It’s a huge privilege to be part of the first UK Sport female coaches leadership programme, which is enabling more female coaches to progress into higher performance roles within World Class Programmes. I hope we can become role models for more females to make the steps up the ladder in the future and see an increase in female coaches at the top level.”

At present, approximately only 10% of coaching positions within the high-performance community in the UK are held by women. 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.

The first target of this 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%.

UK Sport collaborated with Performance Directors, Coach Developers and Talent Pathway Managers within the Olympic and Paralympic high-performance community, as well as UK Coaching, on nominating female coaches to be part of the programme.

It 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.

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