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I Thought Courses Were Free

In the last of the London’s Coaching Women series I’m chatting to Fionnuala Duhaney-Keown who is the Basketball Senior Head Coach at Clapton Girl's Academy. Fe as she’s known to many is employed by Greenhouse Sports and has been working at the Academy since 2012.

Fionnuala Duhaney-Keown image 1As an employee of Greenhouses Sports, Fe is based at the school and coaches basketball to the girls six days a week. Coaching girls across the spectrum of first taste of the sport through until when they leave the school, she takes PE lessons, groups out of school and as with all Greenhouse programmes there is a focus on the social and emotional wellbeing of the girls. “It’s the sport that really allows me to tap into their social and emotional sides” she tells me.

Fe has been instrumental in developing a comprehensive basketball programme in the borough where there are now national league sides at U14, U16 and U18. This gives her a great sense of achievement “the PE team are so supportive in allowing me access to the facilities at the school and have always supported the trips away from school” she says, “although it’s been a challenge to get girls from other schools to buy into the programme, which can be quite frustrating at times.”

Growing up in Hackney, Fe feels a real connection with the school and the wider community. “My options to play basketball in Hackney were limited” she tells me, as the only option at the time was local league basketball. “I didn’t think about becoming a coach until I reached 16 and knew I was leaving school” she tells me. Fe’s PE teacher had been a big influence over her and invited her to come back and help out with the year seven groups. Supporting her development by putting her on a range of courses, “I thought courses were free” she tells me “because I never had to pay for one!”. This influence over her development has obviously had a lasting effect. “It was great to be involved with sport and coaching in the area which I was from” Fe says and found that coaching became a way for her to stay involved in the sport that she loved without actually playing.

After successfully securing a job as a community sports coach working across two boroughs, Fe moved on to work with Greenhouse Sports as she was attracted by the way that you were able to develop and build programmes “I haven’t looked back, it’s been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had” she tells me.

Fionnuala Duhaney-Keown image 2

Fe is the driver behind the women’s coaches forum that exists within Greenhouse Sports. After hearing how coaches at other Greenhouse programmes were finding it difficult to get girls involved in activity, she wanted to take action to address this. “It wasn’t through lack of passion or energy, it was just not really knowing what was the best way to get girls involved” she says, and goes on to tell me “we’ve been looking at the soft touch things that we could do.” Is this beginning to have an impact I ask? “I’ve had some nice emails from other coaches, but it’s going to take a lot of time” she says “numbers are up, but there is still a long way to go.”
What’s next for Fe? “I’m at a happy place, I love this school and love this department” she tells me. There no immediate changes in the future for Fe, she’s happy where she is. “I’m doing what I really love and if engaging more girls is it then that is it” this may change in the future, but not for now.

As the bell rings to signal the end of the period, I ask Fe what advice she would give to girls looking to do what she does. “Volunteer, get involved and commit to the learning” she says. It’s clear to me that this is the path that Fe took and is now encouraging others to follow in her footsteps.

If you've been inspired by Fe’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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