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That was me flying

In the latest part of the London’s Coaching Women series, Steven Bentall, our Coaching Network Manager for London once again goes behind the scenes to talk to the women who are behind the coaches working with some the 8.6m people in the Capital.

This month I’m talking to Katie Couchman who is the learning and development manager for Greenhouse Sports. Greenhouse are a charity who have been working in the capital since 2002, putting coaches into schools and community settings in inner-city London to work with young people to develop their life skills through sport. Katie’s role is to work with the coaches to maximise their outputs in these environments, using insight that the charity conducts to understand how they can raise the standards of their coaches. “Our coaches are great technically so in order to fulfil our mission we are consciously focusing on developing mentoring skills” Katie tells me “this focuses more on developing young people’s life skills”.

Coaches in a sports hallThis is a key factor in Katie’s story, “I’ve always known I wanted to work in sport” she says and cites support from PE teachers to follow her passion. At the age of 17, Katie volunteered for a street sport programme in Colombia. This was a life changing experience as she found herself heading to a country known for its terror threats and kidnappings. “Everything was so different, the children I was working with had never seen a blonde haired girl before and it was a challenge” she recounts “but by the third week I had learnt more Spanish, built rapport and had started a routine of regular coaching and activity”. Upon returning, Katie knew exactly what she wanted to do and started on her journey.

During her degree at Loughborough University, Katie worked for the Youth Sport Trust on the ‘Step Into Sport’ programme and this shaped the direction of her career. She knew that she wanted to work with young people on skills development and volunteering. So she was successfully offered a role at Skills Active, working with young apprenticeships with a focus on employability skills. “That was it, that was me flying, I’d found what I want to do” she tells me. From this Katie moved onto a role in Copenhagen looking at the effectiveness of the industry across Europe, although she found that she had become so far removed from grassroots sport that she felt she had lost the connection to what it was she was passionate about and wanted to get back to seeing what impact sport was having on young people. Opportunity knocked when an apprenticeship post came up at Greenhouse Sports, and allowed Katie to manage the Coach Core project which had a focus on awarding apprenticeships to young people who have the ability but not necessarily the opportunity.

“Everyone has similar passion and drive at Greenhouse Sports” Katie says and this is a key driver for her. She is ambitious and so is the organisation, so she can see herself growing. Katie has been given a lot of freedom in the way the she develops and manages coaches, including implementing rolling programmes for high performing coaches to shape the training offer for other coaches with a view to increasing standards across all programme delivery.

Katie is certain of the power of sport; as a keen netballer she volunteers for her club “I believe in what physical activity and sport can do not only for young people but for anyone and I really live that”.

Through her career Katie hasn’t encountered many barriers, “there are just as many women working in this sector, just as many influencers, this is one of the aspects of sport that is really great” she says “but the industry attracts alpha type characters, whether male or female, and this isn't necessarily good for the sector because as with sport, these are the ones who can dominate. People that love sport pushing other people to love sport, is in itself a barrier”.

Looking into the future, Katie is certain that she’ll remain in the charity sector. “I love the charity sector, I don't want to go back into bureaucracy, Greenhouse Sports is about to transform an amazing building in Cosway Street, Marylebone into a fantastic sports centre and they are going to do some big things here in the future. I am excited to be part of this next exciting phase” she says. Longer term she’s looking at how she might create her own charity, focusing on women and girls and addressing access to opportunities. “I would love to target this group, because right now we’re only skimming the surface” Katie tells me to finish, and I wonder how long it will be before she starts dig deeper.

Follow Greenhouse on Twitter and Facebook.

If you've been inspired by Katie’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

Also make sure to read Zamira’s, Lorna’s and Abigail’s stories from the London’s Coaching Women series.

Steven Bentall, Coaching Network Manager, sports coach UK