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Independent Women

The second of the London’s Coaching Women series is a slight contrast to the previous blog. This month I focus on one of the women behind the women coaches as I talk to Lorna Leach about anything and everything to do with coaching.

Lorna is the Coaching Officer for London Sport and is responsible, among other things, for the development and provision of training courses across the capital.

I asked Lorna are women well represented in terms of those attending training courses in London?

“On average we see an even spilt in the attendance rates across the courses we offer” she tells me. “When planning the courses, we use a method of different locations and days of the week in an effort to make the courses more accessible for everyone”. 

This has been a key factor in the number of women accessing funding for training in London and I ask if this is because there is simply a bigger pool of people in London?

“It’s a confidence thing” she says. “You have to be independent in London, and there are more independent women with that confidence in London that want to get a qualification and coach”.

Independence has been a key driver in Lorna’s career. Talking about her background she tells me that after a failed attempt to become a forensic scientist, she discovered an interest and then a passion for sport. Attracted by the policy and development side of the industry, she started out in local sports development before taking on the role with London Sport. 

Lorna saw this as an opportunity to be part of implementing government strategy,

“My reason for turning up to work is that I like seeing the government’s idea for what should happen and how it should happen and I like to be the conduit between the two to make activity as easy as possible to access.”

We spoke about whether women are well represented as part of the professional workforce in London. She mentions that within the London Sport staff team, the profile is around 50/50 and this is a picture that is repeated across other areas of the sector. Lorna comments that she thinks women feel better suited for support roles and talks about how her mum used to wash the kit for the local club. Drawing the parallel, she considers sports development to be a support role and therefore one that women feel most confident working in, as they tend to “get things done”.

Lorna currently supports coaches at her fencing club and has previously been a swimming teacher. Confidence, however, is a big barrier that she has faced in becoming a coach. She has held off taking her fencing qualification as she still has as desire to continue to develop her skills. It is clear from talking to her that Lorna is a very determined and focused individual, and she has always been keen to be in control of her career.

“Coming to work is like doing my hobby all of the time” she tells me, “but you do need to have some flexibility in your life to be able to do this job, which could be a challenge for some women.”

Lorna isn’t inspired by role models and has always been very driven. That being said, she tells me how many of her friends have been inspired by the This Girl Can campaign.

I asked her whether London need to do more to encourage more women into sport and coaching? “Yes” says Lorna without hesitation. “London Sport’s target is to get 1,000,000 Londoners more active by 2020 and part of reaching that target is reaching those who aren’t engaged and find ways to engage them in both coaching and participating”. 

Lorna can’t predict where she’ll be in the future – she hasn’t decided her next career move yet as she doesn’t feel her job is done with London Sport. So for the time being, women coaches in London can be confident that there is someone thinking about their needs.

Follow Lorna on Twitter under the London Sport Coach & Volunteer profile

If you've been inspired by Lorna’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.

Steven Bentall, Coaching Network Manager