Olympic Focus on High-Performance Coaches

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023, and Gender Equality Month, the Olympic Federation of Ireland has today announced a series of profiles of some of Ireland’s high-performance female coaches, who have been blazing a trail in Irish Olympic sport. The series kicks off today with interviews with two well-known names in Irish sport, Lisa Jacob (Hockey Ireland Performance Director) and Noelle Morrissey (Athletics Ireland Olympic Coach).

Whilst the Olympic movement is increasingly moving towards gender parity across many arenas, from the athletes on the field of play to the constitution of boards and committees, there exists a significant imbalance in high-performance coaching. In Tokyo 2020 only 8% of coaches representing Team Ireland at the Games were female. This is a statistic that is echoed across the world; 10% of the coaches overall accredited at the Winter Olympics in Beijing were female, and 13% of the coaches at the Summer Olympics were women.

To address this issue, over the coming weeks the Olympic Federation of Ireland is embarking on an independent study to explore some of the challenges that face female coaches and leaders within the high-performance system. The study will combine several methods of research including quantitative, qualitative, desktop and focus groups, and will be run in conjunction with the OFI Gender Equality Commission.

Speaking about her own experience in high-performance sport, Performance Director with Hockey Ireland, Jacob said,

“In high-performance sport, the conversation is not usually about gender, but about whether you’re good enough for the job. The problem often is that women just don’t believe they’re good enough to get involved.”

lisa jacob, hockey

The IOC has also rolled out several initiatives, including the Women in Sport High-Performance Pathway Programme (WISH), which is funded by Olympic Solidarity. This is a joint initiative between Olympic Solidarity and a number of International Federations, bringing together outstanding high-performance coaches from around the world and providing a unique opportunity and environment for learning that will support women high-performance coaches to further develop and progress in their career path. Over the past few months, four Irish coaches have taken part in this programme, and they will be profiled over the coming days.

Morrissey participated in the programme, and describes her step into the high-performance field,

“I didn’t have the confidence initially to do it but, when it transpired that I had such a good relationship with my athletes, I had to upgrade my coaching skills to match them.”

Noelle Morrissey, athletics

The following coaches participated in the WISH pathway programme with IOC;

  • Noelle Morrissey (Athletics) is an Olympic coach, who is the personal coach to Tokyo Olympic hurdler Sarah Lavin
  • Francine Meehan (Cycling) is an elite athlete who is transitioning into coaching, having previously won a silver medal at the Paralympic Games as a tandem pilot.
  • Eleanor Condon (Triathlon) works as a coach and development officer with Triathlon Ireland and is using her experience to step into high-performance coaching.
  • Katie Fitzsimons (Rugby) is part of the coaching team in the IRFU, and will also be using this as a step into high-performance coaching.

Throughout March, amplifying the IOC focus on high-performance coaches, the Olympic Federation of Ireland will be profiling some of the top female coaches and leaders in Irish Olympic sport in a move to shine a light on coaching as a profession, and the need to address this imbalance.

The series can be viewed on our social media channels Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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