Lauren Fisher is a rowing coach from the UK and currently works as the High Performance Coach with the U23 squads. Having recently had a baby, Lauren took time off her maternity leave to coach the U23 Women’s Quadruple Scull team at the World Rowing U23 Championships in Bulgaria in July 2017 and came back with the Gold Medal!
We asked Lauren her experience of becoming a new mother alongside being a high performance coach and how she juggled the commitments of both roles.
Congratulations on your team winning Gold at the U23 World Champs, a little birdie told us that you took time out of your maternity leave to coach the team?was that a tough decision to make?
Whilst I knew it would be difficult to leave Felix for that amount of time, I committed to being part of the team early on in my pregnancy. I set myself a goal, in this case returning to work for the period of the world championships, I knew it would be important to set myself the challenge of being ready to return to coaching (both physically and mentally) and also to demonstrate that being a mother, especially a new mother, is not a barrier to achieving your goals. The championships are the pinnacle of our season and it?s exciting and important to see the athletes we have helped to develop all season achieve their goals. It was a privilege to be involved in the championships. Ultimately, it was the kind of example I wanted to set for Felix, that you should strive to accomplish your goals.
Am I right in saying your husband came along with your 3 month old?how was that for you in terms of energy and mindset. Was it difficult to juggle between being a committed coach and a committed new mum?
I’m lucky enough to have a strong support network of family and friends who were very positive and encouraged my decision to return to work, they relished the opportunity to spend time with Felix and we managed to balance the demands of being a mother and coach very well. My husband took leave from work to bring Felix along to the residential camp in Reading prior to our departure for Bulgaria. The team really embraced Felix being there and I think it directly contributed to the supportive atmosphere we were trying to cultivate amongst the athletes.
Are you glad that you made the decision to do this and coach the team?
Definitely. I’m incredibly passionate about my job and for the crew to achieve gold was the icing on the cake. They are an incredibly talented bunch and I was privileged to be able to work with them. I knew that there would always be an element of sacrifice in my decision to return to coaching during my maternity leave, but I think that when we explain it to Felix in a few years? time, he’ll be proud of his mum.
Are you now back on maternity leave?or are you keeping in touch with your coaching duties as such?
I’m officially back on maternity leave until Christmas. I’ll be keeping an eye and monitoring the athletes we have coming in to the team next season, understanding them and their progress will be crucial for a smooth transition back to work. I’m also helped by the fact that I am passionate about my job and relish the prospect of returning to work when Felix is old enough.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge in being a new mum and a coach?
Whilst I fully expect it to be challenging, both my husband and I have tried not to become too daunted by the prospect of both being working parents, we’re lucky enough that my husband can take Felix to a nursery at work, but after day one I think we?re just going to try and take each day as it comes!
How have GB Rowing supported you as a mother and coach?
Completely. The GB Rowing team have been supportive and accommodating since the beginning of my pregnancy. They expect a high standard and formidable work ethic from their coaches, but in return they have been an excellent organization to work for throughout.
Do you hear of other female coaches who struggle with coaching commitments due to a lack of NGB support? Is there more that can be done for new mothers who are also coaches?
I think a network of support would be very useful, and I would be glad to offer advice to any coaches considering becoming a parent. Embracing parenthood, by both male and female coaches, and realizing that it is not a weakness or threat to their performance as a coach is the key.
What advice would you give to female coaches who are or planning to become new mothers? Is it really possible to have it all?
I think the important thing is to try. I don’t believe just because you have children you should have to give up on your career. Crucially, coaching makes me happy and that transfers in to all aspects of my life. I want to set an example for my son, that you should pursue your ambitions and fuel what motivates you.
What are your ultimate coaching ambitions?
I really enjoy working with development athletes, new Seniors/U23’s. I think this is such an important area and one that is critical to the long term success of the team. We are responsible for feeding the Olympic team with robust, talented athletes who understand the mental and physical journey they need to take to ensure success. Coaching internationally is the ultimate accolade for a coach and I enjoy it immensely, and if you can deliver four world champions when you do it, that?s a bonus!