Sport Ireland launches New Network for Women in High Performance Coaching


Sport Ireland has launched WinHP Coaching, a new network for women in high-performance coaching. There is a significant gap in female representation within high-performance coaching, and WinHP provides a targeted approach to addressing this area over the long-term.

The WinHP Coaching Network will be delivered across three groups:

  • Women working in high-performance roles
  • Those aiming to progress into such roles
  • High-performance athletes who seek to enter this role in the future.

Each group will be supported through professional development, mentoring and networking.

The three groups incorporate a select professional network of women who are:

  1. Coaching senior high-performance athletes or playing a professional role in high-performance sport
  2.  A larger group of women who are coaching at pathway/international level and are seeking to progress to a senior high-performance role
  3. Recently retired or currently active high-performance athletes considering coaching as a profession after they stop competing.

A needs analysis will be completed by all participants to ensure the future development of WinHP Coaching is informed by current national and international context, professional wants/needs and lived experience. Support will be delivered across a broad range of sports.

A principal ambition under the Sport Ireland High Performance Strategy 2021-2032 is that Ireland’s high-performance system will reflect the contemporary values of our nation, and we will develop solutions that meet our needs and unique circumstances.

Both nationally and internationally, females are underrepresented in high-performance coaching. The reasons for this are multi-faceted and longstanding.

Throughout the Paris Cycle to date, 2021-2024, 50.3% of major medals achieved were won by female athletes. This is a positive indicator of the health of our high-performance system and extends to grassroots and pathways which enable the development of these athletes.

Coaches are a key part of an athlete’s journey at all stages, and it is important that this indicator is reflected across all levels and roles within the high-performance system.

Whilst in a minority, Irish sport has exceptional female coaches working with many of our most talented athletes and teams. These women have led Irish athletes to European and World success and are a testament to the possibilities of opportunity. There are currently four female Performance Directors in the Irish high-performance system.

Speaking about the launch Dr. Alison O’Riordan, Para-Athletics Technical Lead said: “I am delighted to be a part of the Sport Ireland Women in High Performance (WinHP) Network. It’s a much needed and important initiative. Being a female coach in high performance can be a lonely and isolating place sometimes. It’s important to bring female coaches together so they get to know each other and can provide mutual support. Such initiatives bolster confidence and self-belief meaning coaches are more likely to be ready to perform at critical times such as the Paralympic Games, the same as for athletes. I’m heading into my 6th Paralympic Games, my second for Team Ireland. It’s an exciting time and the next 100 days or so will be critical so that performances can be optimised in Paris for Paralympics Ireland. I’m certainly up for the challenge and in a much more confident place as a result of the mentorship I have received from both WinHP and the PEP programme.”

Neasa Russell, Paralympics Ireland Sports Director and Chef de Mission for Paris 2024 added: “I’m really thankful to Sport Ireland for hosting this network of high performance sport leads and to Paralympics Ireland for the support to be involved. As women we’ve often had to navigate additional and different barriers to get to be in a leading position in our sporting area. So I’m chuffed to be able to link in with, and learn from, other like minded professionals. We know the importance of lived experience when setting about culture change so hopefully I can add to the many voices seeking a more inclusive and successful sporting culture in Ireland.”

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