HP WIS Coaching

Sport Ireland launches new network for Women in High Performance Coaching

10 May 2024
Sarah Stanley

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. 

Sport Ireland considers the move to increase female coaches within high-performance sport as not only an important stage in the system’s maturity, but also a potential competitive advantage for Irish athletes. Attracting new talent into high-performance coaching opens further opportunities for success. 

HP WIS Coaching

Back row, left to right – Noelle Morrissey, Karen Brown, Alison O’Riordan

Front row, let to right – Jo Hopkins, Ciarán Ward, Neasa Russell, Gillian McDarby

Sport Ireland Head of High Performance Coaching, Ciarán Ward said: "WinHP Coaching is an exciting initiative that targets the support of women in high-performance coaching and leadership roles in the Irish system, as well as the development of more female coaches moving into high-performance roles, and an increased transition of female high-performance athletes into coaching. WinHP will endeavour to safeguard a critical and enduring support for women coaching in high-performance and those women who aspire to be future high-performance coaches." 

Sport Ireland Director of Strategic National Governing Body Programmes & Women in Sport Lead Nora Stapleton added: “A key objective of the Sport Ireland policy on Women in Sport is to broaden the coaching base to include more women from grassroots to high performance. To achieve this objective, clear actions relating to high-performance coaching are included in the new policy, which was launched in November 2023. The creation of the WinHP Coaching Network is an exciting and important initiative that can support and increase the number of women coaching in high- performance sport. We look forward to engaging with the National Governing Bodies and their Performance Directors and coaches, as this initiative gets off the ground.” 

Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, Dr. Úna May, said: “Two of the actions within the Sport Ireland policy on Women In Sport are to invest in specific initiatives to increase the number of women coaching and officiating in high-performance sport and to provide opportunities to female coaches within Ireland’s high-performance system. Increasing the number of women coaches will not only reflect the values of Sport Ireland and the Government, but it will also significantly add to the development of our athletes. Sport Ireland are delighted to be delivering on these actions and objectives with the launch of WinHP Coaching.”