Judo ace Howey determined to banish gender perceptions on UK Sport programme

Kate Howey says she’s tired of being seen as the exception – rather than the rule.

But the UK judo head coach is backing an innovative new leadership program by UK Sport to radically shake up the women’s coaching environment and embark on a long overdue path to gender equality.

Howey, 48, is the only British woman to have won two Olympic medals in judo and was at the helm of UK Sport’s groundbreaking Female Coaches Leadership Program this year.

The program aims to more than double the percentage of women in the high-performance Olympic and Paralympic community by Paris 2024, and Howey, one of the few elite female head coaches, hopes the initiative can decisively counter this trend.

Andover-born Howey, one of eight coaching executives involved in the program, said, “I took the chance when I found out because I really believe we should have more women in high-performance coaching roles.

“I definitely want my role to be no exception – there are some of us out there and as one of them I am enjoying this opportunity.

“It’s very hard to get a foot in the door as a woman and a couple of Olympic medals helped me get through that door. But that shouldn’t be the case.

“Women’s coaches are just as good as men’s coaches – and sometimes even better – but sometimes we don’t get the opportunity because society looks at women in every role. I think sometimes we have to work twice as hard just to stay on an even keel.

“Take everyone according to their earnings and not according to what they have done before. There are thousands of women out there who don’t get this opportunity.

“I am 110 percent committed to promoting women’s coaching. Every woman who works as a trainer in this environment is a trailblazer because there aren’t that many of us out there and that shouldn’t be the case. “

Howey rose to -70 kg silver in Sydney in 2000 after taking bronze middleweight in Barcelona in 1992.

Three world championship medals – one gold, one silver and one bronze – cemented her legacy as a great and after ending her career on the mat in 2004, she started out as a coach.

Howey has been Head Coach at British Judo since 2017 and this year was one of eight elite trainers handpicked to train for UK Sport’s new Female Coaches Leadership Program.

The British judo immortal worked with Jo Ryding of alpine skiing, Shani Palmer of athletics and Jenny Leeming of diving to share their insights on key coaching pillars such as leadership, environment and transition.

Howey enjoyed working closely with the talented younger generation and hopes the groundbreaking British sports program will be a turning point before the next Olympic cycle.

Howey, also the only British judoka to have competed in four Olympics, added, “It was good to hear their insights – there are many challenges I had in my youth that I can talk through.

“It was good for me to think – since I faced the same obstacles.

“It’s time [an initiative like this happened] – I’ve been involved in sports for a long time and UK Sports have had some fantastic courses. Now is the time to get even more women into these positions, so it is time.

“My advice to a trainer would be: be true to yourself and do it. Stick to your weapons, be yourself and you will shine through. “

UK Sport’s Trainer Leadership Program positions 28 trainers as role models for the next generation of trainers. It marks a turning point in truly making the coaching workforce in the Olympic and Paralympic communities much more diverse and gender equitable. For more information, visit www.uksport.gov.uk

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