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I can go higher

I’m going behind the scenes again to chat to Kelly Montgomery who is the East London programme manager for Greenhouse Sports and directly manages a team of 12 coaches.

I’ve known Kelly for many years, she and I were Sports Development Officers in neighbouring boroughs in London for a period of time so have a shared experience of what it is like working in London.

Kelly’s journey in sport started at school. Having no options at the time to study PE at school she came into professional sports development via what many would consider as the ‘traditional route’. “I worked in a sports shop, then started lifeguarding before moving onto a duty manager role in a leisure centre” Kelly says. From here she moved into a sport development role with Newham Council and part of this role including coaching in a number of sports. After being in this role for seven years, Kelly wanted a new challenge and left to work with the London Active Partnership (a version of a London Sport predecessor) “this was a good step up for me” she says “it allowed me the move from working in a single Borough to working across London”.

Kelly Montgomery and groupWhen I ask Kelly why she does the job, she tells me “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else”. After the London Active Partnership, Kelly worked out of the sport sector for 10 months, working in the voluntary sector, but found the lack of sport element a challenge. “I was desperate to get back into sport” and at the time School Sports Partnerships were thriving a she found a role working in a school as a Senior Competition Manager. “This was my perfect job, I loved it, the mix of education and sport together was exactly what I wanted to do” she tells me.

This triggered Kelly’s next career move to Greenhouse where she is now working directly with coaches who are delivering in schools. Her role as a programme manager involves managing coaches work programmes, their CPD and performance reviews. Part of the role also includes observation of these coaches. “I have to focus on the non-technical side of coaching, how the coaches integrate with the school and how they relate to the students” she says. Part of the role is also to focus on the relationship management with the school which can be a challenge as although the coaches are line managed by Kelly they will have more time with the manager in the school. It’s great to see that the coaches are very much viewed as a member of the school staff team. “It’s so important to build the relationship with the staff” Kelly tells me “to ensure the coaches are looked after”.

Kelly Montgomery and groupOccasionally finding time to take part in sport, Kelly has been an active member of Newham & Essex Beagles for 32 years. It’s hard to imagine in the modern age of throw away consumerism someone staying affiliated to a single club for so long. She’s currently taking a break from her own sport but still gets asked to compete and to coach, something which she is finding difficult to balance with the day job. As a pole vaulter she is very reliant on others at the club to help with equipment but this hasn’t deterred her “I still believe I can go higher” she says “but there is no coach, no other vaulters, no one to train with so I’m essentially on my own”. There aren’t many pole vault coaches in London with is a challenge not just for Kelly but also for the club and the young people who may want to try this discipline.

We talk about the role of coaches as role models and Kelly believes there are not enough positive women role models in sport. Less than 10% of the coaches at Greenhouse are female and there just don’t seem to be enough women applying for coaching roles when they come up. The focus for Greenhouse at the moment is addressing this, they have established a ‘female coaches forum’ as research has shown them that if a programme has a female coach then more girls will attend.

What’s next for Kelly? Right now, she is enjoying what she is doing with Greenhouse and if there is another move she hopes that her next move will still be in sport, maybe in education but is finding that because she doesn’t have a degree, she is still held back by this. “I’ve got 25 years of experience in sport but without the degree it’s difficult to move on”. Kelly is determined to stay in a job where she will see the end product of a young person’s developmental journey “I want to be a part of that, it’s why I come to work every day”.

If you've been inspired by Kelly’s story and want to get involved in coaching but don't know where or how to start, check out sports coach UK’s Reach campaign. You'll find hints and tips as well as case studies about women who are succeeding in coaching

You can read all of the London’s Coaching Women Series here.
Steven Bentall, Coaching Network Manager


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