The FCN in 2020; What We Have Been Working On

Well that was a year no one predicted! Firstly, we hope everyone has remained healthy and you and your families are safe. Secondly we hope you have been able to get back to some sort of normality within your coaching roles and are able to push forwards to a (hopefully) more predictable and postive 2021.

As we come to the end of a year were sport was cancelled, the Olympic Games postponed and athletes lived in bubbles, we wanted to update you on what Team FCN have been working on behind the scenes and locked away in our home offices.

Thanks to the explosion of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, we have been able to push forwards with our work, and whilst we haven’t been able to deliver on some of our planned projects, we have been able to move forwards in some exciting ways, making our impact on the sporting world.

Below is a summary of some of the projects we have been working on throughout the year.

FCN x Nike

Since it’s creation back in 2014, the FCN has been through many developments and phases. In it’s early months, the FCN was born to simply be an online forum in which to connect female coaches around the World, providing them a platform to share their thoughts, views and experiences.

Soon after, the FCN became a website, containing blogs and interviews with coaches from around the World, telling the stories of women coaches from athletics to archery and from rugby to rowing. These stories span tens of thousands of miles and a few trips around the Globe as insights into the lives of coaches reach across all continents.

Back in 2016, the FCN were given the chance to spread our message and aims across Europe as Spar International helped us to forge our path into the World of high performance sport.

In 2020, the FCN took it’s biggest step forward to date, as Nike jumped on board to support the development and the aims of the Female Coaching Network. Thanks to this partnership, the FCN have been able to take a much more strategic and impactful approach to the support it gives coaches and the ability to make a much harder push towards sustainable change within sports governance.

Thanks to this development, we were able to launch some major projects this year and work hard behind the scenes to ensure 2021 see’s some unprecidented changes for women who coach.

Achieving Gender Equality in High Performance Athletics Coaching (UK)

After teaming up with the brilliant Professor Leanne Norman (Professor of Sport & Sociocultural Studies. Director of the Research Centre for Social Justice in Sport & Society at Leeds Beckett University), back in April we launched our long term project “Achieveing Gender Equality in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the U.K.”.

This project aims to change the current coaching environments in which women athletics coaches must endure and improve & increase the opportunities female coaches have in developing their coaching careers.

7 months ago, we began work on our official research project, which, once published in early 2021, will highlight the issues, barriers and gaps that women coaches face within the sport and ensure that all stakeholders and decision makers are aware of the changes that need to be made.

Over the last few months, we have been working closely with the key stakeholders (including all 5 governing bodies and a large group of female coaches) to ensure that the impact of our findings are fully understood and our suggested & needed changes will be embedded within the system to ensure real change takes place.

2021 will see the second year of this project, a year which will bring change to the sport, ensuring that once and for all, women coaches (in track & field at least) will have access to the same opportunities as their male peers.

FCN | European Sports Leadership and Coaching Network

This year, the FCN welcomed on board Anna Patsios, an allumini of the Cryuff Institue, a football coach and a Business Development Representive for Zoom, based in the Netherlands.

Together, Anna and our founder Vicky launched the FCN | European Sports Leadership and Coaching Network, an interactive platform providing women across Europe the opportunity to connect, share and develop. Since it’s first event in September, our guest speakers have included the Spar International Sponsorship Co-ordinator Tracey Archer, Kickboxing Coach and Nike influencer Houda Loukili, Deputy Head of Communications at European Athletics Biljana Danicic and Head Coach of Tottenham Hotspur Women’s FC Rehanne Skinner.

Over the course of these online gatherings, attendees have learnt from the stories and expereinces of the guest speakers and joined in with discussions about coaching practices, overcoming challenges and how to progress in their own coaching careers.

“Tracey is so Full of energy and inspiring.  It given me the kick start I need to actively launch SportsFun… It’s made me realise i need to take action and not find reasons not to do it so thank you.”

“Loved it, loved Houda, love her whole ethic that there’s nothing you can’t do – so refreshing! I spent quite a lot of time wondering if the fact that she was a Muslim woman worked in her favor or was an obstacle. I decided in the end that she made it irrelevant and made everything work for her by sheer weight of personality. I’m sure it really wasn’t as simplistic as that but she exudes positivity, and doesn’t accept barriers as barriers.”

“I was left feeling inspired and humbled by Biljana’s story.  To learn what she went through, but to hear how she stuck to her dream and the passion she has for her sport left me with a renewed sense of purpose and focus on my own career goals.”

Our next event will be 11th January – click here to register:

FCN x ALTIS: Women in Coaching Initiative

Another part of our work in track and field has been our partnership with ALTIS: A global community for the discovery of performance through connection, education, and inspiration.

The FCN supported ALTIS with their new “Women in Coaching Initiative” which is a multi-varied strategy motivated by the under-representation of women in coaching generally, and by the relative lack of attendance of women at the ALTIS educational Programs.

Back in Febraury, ALTIS delivered their first Women’s Only Apprentice Coach Programme based at their performance centre in Arizona, USA, just before being forced to move online for the rest of the year.

With the delivery of Virtual Apprentice Coach programmes, moving into 2021, the FCN look forward in supporting ALTIS in the delivery of more programmes aimed at developing women coaches.

The Forgotten First Female Coach in the NFL

The NFL has made waves over the last few years bringing in a number of female coaches across the league.

Whether through projects such as the Women’s Careers in Football Forum led by NFL Director of Football Development Sam Rapoport, the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship or through the many internships clubs provide, the league now has a number of women hired full time coaching across it’s franchises.

This season names include Chelsea Romero (S&C) at the LA Rams, Jennifer King (Offensive Assistant Coach) at Washington, Lori Locust (Asst D Line Coach) and Maral Javadifarat (S&C) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Emily Zaler (S&C) at Denver Broncos, Callie Brownson (Chief of Staff) at Cleveland Browns, and Katie Sowers (Offensive Asst. Coach) at the 49ers.

Over the last few years other hired coaches include Phoebe Schecter, Kathryn Smith, Jennifer Welter and Kelsey Martinez.

There have also been many women in intern roles since 2015, with Jen Welter being the first, followed by Odessa Jenkins, Collette Smith, Stephanie Balachko, Elena Grigelevich, Erica Vinson-Ondecko, Shaakira Hasslell, Mickey Grace and many more since!

However, there is one name left off that list – Lee Brandon.

Lee Brandon, CSCS, RSCC*E, NSPT is an internationally recognized Strength and Conditioning Expert and is the first female coach in NFL history and was hired by the New York Jets in 1990 as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach.

Lee’s journey through the World of elite sport and strength and conditioning is fascinating; from a near death experience and nearly losing her arm in 1979, becoming the first female coach in the NFL in 1990, working with a number of Olympic athletes from 1984 – 2016 and now being a two time World Long Drive Champion.

We wanted to hear Lee’s story in her own words and connected with her via Zoom to hear her insights, her stories and why she feels she has been left out of the conversation of being the first female coach in the NFL.

Exclusively for the FCN – please see our full interview with the forgotten first female coach in NFL, Lee Brandon:

Coach Well-Being with Fourfivecbd

As coaches, we focus so much on the health and well-being of our athletes (and families, and friends, and colleagues!) that often, we forget our own. In a 2017 survey we conducted in partnership with Leeds Beckett University, we asked female coaches from around the World about their thoughts on their own well-being.  A whopping 64% said they had poor or very poor psychological health, only 20% stating they had good psychological health and only 16% stating very good. We partnered with fourfivecbd (the only cbd company created by athletes, for athletes) to promote the use of cbd in the promotion of a coaches healthy lifestyle. Our belief is that through the use of cbd, you can support the healing of body and mind, without having to reach for more traditional aids such as alcohol or prescriptions drugs. To find out how you can add cbd into an active lifestyle, click here:

A big thank you to everyone who has supported and contributed to our work and helping us make progress with our mission to “achieving gender equality in high performance coaching“. We look forward to working with you all in 2021.