COURTESY OF THE
This week's Global Project comes from the EuroHockey Under-18 Championship, Santander.
It was a historic EuroHockey Championship for Belgium women as they claimed their first ever slot in the Championship final, led by Head Coach Emily Calderon.
Indeed two of the other teams - England, who finished third, and Spain who stayed in this tough division, finishing fifth, were also led by female Head Coaches, Sarah Kelleher and Mar Feito respectively.
As an unusual but salient fact and an indicator that whilst the majority of coaches (clubs and schools) in Europe are female, it is a small, but growing number that pushes through to take the top job as Head Coach.
"I’ve been coached by a lot of female coaches, the difference is the number of female coaches as soon as you get to high performance - I think there should be more! As the world is changing, there is a greater recognition of creating environments where people can flourish and be themselves."
Sarah Kelleher, England Under-18 Head Coach
Emily, Sarah and Mar took time out of their busy week to chat with us about their route to coaching, their experiences and possibly most importantly what wise words they have to other female coaches who want to achieve at high-performance level.
Mar’s route to coaching was not exactly planned, like a lot of things in life, when no one is there to do something, someone has to step up!
She said: “I did not decide to be a coach, I was directed towards it due to the lack of coaches in my club as a player!”
As a young woman, she was exposed to different kinds of training for different sports and then specific to hockey when she made the Spanish national team. Her belief is to develop the player well before a tournament and to make sure they believe in themselves.
Asking her if she believes that women have a different approach to male coaches she said: “I’ve been trained by both sexes.” Her experience is that: “Women contribute in women’s hockey with more empathy than men towards their players for the simple fact of being a woman.”
Emily’s route was a bit different as she was always, even as a player, drawn to the tactical side of the game. She said: “As a player, I already enjoyed the tactical part of the game. I loved the feeling of giving training and seeing kids evolve at every training session, and seeing their faces after they played a good game or scored a nice goal.”
Not untypical of most hockey players she started her coaching in her club. “From the age of 15 I started giving training at my home club and I have always enjoyed it. After my studies, I gave myself a year to try to be a full-time hockey coach/performance analyst. I told myself that I would continue for as long as I was making steps forward every year.”
Her advice to female coaches who want to achieve at a high level is not to be shy. She said: “Dare to share your opinion. As (coaching) is a man’s world you will often surprise and impress by having a different view on things.”
On whether men or women coach differently she didn’t agree, saying: “I was lucky enough to have female coaches as examples throughout my career. For me, the skills don’t really differ.”
Sarah, England’s Head Coach, a former Irish International, on what made her take the coaching path, said: “I played for a number of years at a high level and became interested in a different way of coaching. I went and did a lot of studies around high potential and how we get players to be their absolute best.”
She found that she loved coaching as much as she did playing, which surprised her “There is some joy in working with a group of people and having an end goal in mind and actually really achieving their goals. That sense of togetherness and to enjoy ourselves and play exciting, attacking gritty hockey. I got hooked.”
On gender “I’ve been coached by a lot of female coaches, the difference is the number of female coaches as soon as you get to high performance. I think there should be more! As the world is changing, there is a greater recognition of creating environments where people can flourish and be themselves. So whether coaches are male or female, players are now treated as people in a very holistic way.”
Her words of wisdom for younger coaches who want to achieve at high performance? “I think the key is to set a goal to be the best coach you can be. When a door opens feel ready to accept the challenge, even though you might feel nervous. Know that you have the capability. You don’t have to be the loudest person in the room. Absolutely be ‘on it’ when it comes to helping people develop and you know what it’s ok to not know everything! In fact, I always say I’m going to have an 'L' on my back as a coach, I’m always learning, and that’s ok, we are all on this journey together.”
“As a young female coach, I would say, back yourself, when the opportunity comes, walk in the door with your head up and share your view in a confident way. Have enough humility to ask questions and that is just as good as thinking you have all the answers.”
There's plenty of advice for young female coaches who see a career path in high performance. As and 'Equally Amazing' sport, it is fantastic to see how these coaches have achieved their goals and are still on their own personal coaching journeys. The EHF offers many educational pathways for coaches, for more information .