“The days of the old boys network needs to come to an end…”

Dalton Grant is one of Britains best ever athletes. With the second highest high jump in British history (2 meters 37) he achieved a string of GB appearances and World medals between 1985 and 2003. Dalton was also on the Board of Directors for London 2012 Olympic Bid Team and was President of the South of England Athletics Association for 2010–2011.  He is now a motivational speaker and coach.

After publication of our research project on 23rd February 2021 “Achieving Gender Equity in High Performance Athletics Coaching in the U.K“, Dalton shared his thoughts about the findings and his own experience of coaching in the U.K.

“I’ve just read a very interesting article about female coaches in UK athletics and the levels that they achieve compared to their male counterparts. 

The CEO of UKA, one year into her new role pledges to take the findings of a recent audit on board.

Of the many female coaches who have achieved so much with the juniors, not one in the past ten years has progressed to be an Olympic coach. This should be seen alongside the drop out rate of junior women who never reach the senior ranks which is far higher than for their male counterparts.

Challenges facing women don’t stop with raising their families. Often female coaches choose to move out of the sport as salaries don’t compare to other jobs. Politics and back stabbing are areas that they often choose to avoid.

Women have a different mindset and the culture of UKA doesn’t develop either the female coach or athlete. Girls are often afraid of gaining muscle mass in case it makes them look less feminine. Where is the message that girls can be both feminine and strong?

One of the best coaches I had was a lady. She taught me so much, yet when it comes to UKA they don’t appear to value female coaches. UKA should have a structure that retains great coaches and develops new ones regardless of their sex. UKA should understand that for an athlete to achieve their goals, they need the support and knowledge of their coach. Female athletes need female role models. 

The days of the old boys network needs to come to an end. Grass roots athletics needs support and coaches need confidence and time in order to deliver. Talent with potential needs support to climb the rankings otherwise our sport will lose them for ever.

What do you think? As a former athlete who grew in a culture where success was at the sport’s core, and there were elite female coaches, I’d like to hear your views.

I hope I’ve given you food for thought and I’d welcome your feedback so that we can have an open an honest conversation. If our mothers inspire us, why aren’t they developing our athletes?

The most important thing is for future generations to be able to learn from those who had the right mindset to achieve, who competed consistently. To learn from people who have achieved is priceless!

Our former champions and high achievers need to speak up in order for our sport to move forward. Some don’t feel comfortable speaking out, if this is the case and they are shy, we need to extract their knowledge.

We need to learn from those who have been there and done that before its too late in order that we can replicate their success.

This is one of the reasons that I have the Dalton Grant Academy Talkshow. We have to learn from the past. Learn from the journeys that champions have been through and what it took for them to become champions!”