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28 Jan 2021 573

UK Sport names 27 coaches as part of plan to increase female representation

Today (28 January) 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. I believe that each of the participants will become role models for the next generation of coaches and will truly enable us to more than double representation by Paris 2024 and beyond.
“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.”

City of Glasgow Swim Team Assistant Head Performance Coach Danielle Brayson.


One of the coaches under the tutelage of Bex Milnes is UK Coaching’s 2019 Talent Development Coach of the Year Danielle Brayson, who won the award for her work with teenage swimmers at the City of Glasgow Swim Team, including nuturing para-swimmer Louis Lawler, who won bronze at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. 

The 31-year-old assistant head performance coach was encouraged to apply for the UK Sport leadership programme by Scottish Swimming and says she is excited to be paired with British Triathlon’s highly respected lead paratriathlon coach.

Danielle Brayson, said:

The programme will be of huge benefit because Bex will have lots of experience to tap into, which will be great.

“I really enjoy the level I coach at right now, and the club and the set-up that I’m in. I just want to be the best [coach] that I can be and do right by my athletes. And if that leads me to coaching at an Olympics or Paralympics then that would be great.

“At the moment, we’re still coaching but on a slightly reduced timetable with a lot less athletes in the water [because of the pandemic]. We’re still really fortunate to train and that I’m getting an opportunity to coach – a lot of my colleagues and my boyfriend are not in that position. It’s been vital to have the support of UK Coaching and UK Sport. There’re no competitions or anything at the moment, so it’s about keeping motivated [to learn and develop] as a coach. It’s about helping to better yourself and challenge yourself through the support that you get.”

UK Coaching Head of Coaching Nick Levett, said:

It’s fantastic to see that the nation’s top female coaching talent is being recognised and honed by UK Sport. Of course we support its goal to double the representation of female coaches in the Olympic and Paralympic high-performance community, as it’s our collective responsibility to ensure equality and inclusion happens at every stage of the sport and physical activity pathway, including coaching.

“Seeing one of our award recipients go on to develop their coaching and be selected for such a prestigious opportunity is hugely rewarding for us as an organisation. It reinforces our mission to ensure the nation’s coaches are equipped with the right tools to be great coaches and take their coaching as far as they want to. Best of luck to Danielle and all the other coaches on the programme.”

Additionally, coaches Nicola Benavente and Laura Turner-Alleyne are graduates of UK Coaching's Performance Foundation coach support programme, which is designed to help coaches maximise their potential and impact.

Address the current under-representation

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.

UK Sport is the nation's high-performance sports agency. You can read the full press release at uksport.gov.uk.

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