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Kate Richardson-Walsh: More female hockey coaches needed for role models

Kate Richardson-Walsh

Kate Richardson-Walsh, left, watches on with Sarah Kelleher PIC: Mark Clews

By Rod Gilmour

They may be featuring in the Conference, but it was a premier start for the Richardson-Walsh name on Saturday. Helen starred with a Cambridge City hat-trick in a 5-0 rout of Southgate, while Kate started her coaching career in style, overseeing a Hampstead & Westminster win against Wimbledon, a team featuring an Olympian and two England players.

While player-coach Helen is seeing through a second season with Cambridge, Kate was still mulling over extending her playing career into this season.

There was an indoor stint with East Grinstead last season and a few forays elsewhere, but it was a prolonged chat with H&W officials which proved the “right fit”, with the Olympic gold medal-winning captain in demand off the pitch with her business speaking engagements.

And so it is the touchline where captain Kate will be seen now, Saturday’s 3-0 home win recorded as the first act in the second part of her immense hockey career.

This season, the 38-year-old is co-coach alongside Sarah Kelleher, the former Irish International and England under-18 coach, and a player she knows well having played with her at Slough HC.

“She is an exceptional person and an interesting coach in the way she goes about it,” she said of Kelleher. “She’s very interested in the psychology and mindset along with all the other aspects of hockey. I will learn a lot from her.”

The all-female leadership is not the norm in the Investec Women’s Conference East. In fact, of the 10 clubs, less than half have female head coaches.

“There needs to be more female coaches full stop,” said Kate before her English coaching debut. “Internationally, there is Alyson Annan (Holland) and Janneke Schopman (USA). They are two outstanding coaches, but why only two?

Hampstead & Westminster are aiming for Premier Division status PIC: Mark Clews

“It’s the same in all sectors; in business and all different sports.

“There are aspects which need to be looked at. Part of it is role modelling. If you don’t see it as a viable option, if you don’t see other people doing it, you don’t ever consider it as an option.”

According to Kate there are financial constraints too. “You can’t have a full-time living unless you are on the international circuit.

“In men’s hockey, the coaches in clubs get paid more than the coaches who coach women’s hockey. There is a gender gap, while the pay split between men and women at club level goes through coaches and players.

“The vast majority of female players continue to pay to play for club whereas for many years a lot of men haven’t paid to pay. It’s how we balance this all out, otherwise nothing will ever change.”

Change and ambition will only come, says Kate, if English clubs invest in the women’s team and coaching.

Meanwhile, Kate and Helen will continue to impart their invaluable knowledge of the sport. After the weekend’s opener, it will certainly be interesting to follow their coaching paths here on in. All the way to the top of the international game? Their drive and love of the game could well see that happen.

For now, October 27 will be noteworthy. Cambridge City v Hampstead & Westminster, a clash Kate was quick to brush off.

“It is one of those things which other people are more interested in,” laughed Kate. “We’ve played against each other at different clubs, it won’t be any different to that.”

My hockey week

It’s fair to say that life for the former Great Britain and England captain has not been the same since Rio 2016. A stint in Holland and now back in the UK has been entwined with carving out a busy schedule off the pitch with speaking engagements. Here, she mapped out her week leading up to her coaching debut with Hampstead & Westinster at the weekend.

MONDAY
Life has been very varied and different from being an elite athlete, where everyday is mapped out in a four-year cycle. The week started down at Somerset at Millfield School, helping Matt Taylor at his MT13 coaching conference. Left at 3pm to get back to training at Hampstead.

TUESDAY
Writing presentations and getting some time to go the gym. Video coding from our practice games and transferring to Hudl for the players to look at.

WEDNESDAY
Travelled to Brighton with Helen to facilitate a culture workshop at a pharmaceutical company where we spent three hours in front of 150 people. Evening training, video meeting with Sarah [Kelleher, H&W co-coach) and home at 1130pm.

THURSDAY
Early train to Oxford for MT13 coaching all day at the Dragon School. Back to London for a keynote speech at Deloitte for a women in cyber conference.

FRIDAY
A morning of phone calls with the players and briefings for future business.

SATURDAY
Early morning gym session before travelling over to Hampstead to meet Sarah and the players. It’s a London derby, so will be a good match up and both sides will look to hit the ground running.

For more H&W fixtures, click here

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