Folkard, Dema join leadership programme as archery aims for more female coaches at Olympics

The Women in Sports High Performance programme participants.

Two talented coaches from archery have joined the second group on the Women in Sport High Performance Pathway, a programme developed by the University of Hertfordshire to empower women towards fulfilling elite coaching positions.

While archery’s competitions at the Olympic Games have been split equally between men and women since 1996, the coaching line has not.

Just 19% of the coaches at Tokyo 2020 were women. (Shockingly still above the overall Games figure of 13%.)

At Rio 2016, the figure for archery was 14%, compared to 11% across all sports.

“Sport has been historically male-dominated and even in progressive cultures, the underlying effect is that there are blockers to women becoming coaches at the elite level,” says Naomi Folkard, who joined the British coaching staff in early 2022.

Folkard and Yeshi Dema are archery’s representatives on the current cohort of the Women in Sport programme, which is supported by Olympic Solidarity as the International Olympic Committee invests in getting more females into high-performance roles.

“About 50% of the population is women. In archery, 50% of the athletes are women. It is time for equality in coaching,” continues Folkard.

“Courses like the one we’re fortunate enough to be part of can accelerate the trend towards diversification, and every female coach who advances to the elite level becomes a role model for any who follow.”

Naomi Folkard and Yeshi Dema.

The two-year programme that Naomi and Yeshi have joined started with a residential week in late 2022. The course is now online with meetings every two months as well as one-to-one mentoring until graduation in April 2024.

By then, they’ll have learnt the tools and techniques to coach world-class athletes.

The focus is not specifically archery – but on how to teach and lead.

“I’m taking part in this programme to better understand my strengths, weaknesses and opportunities as a female coach – as well as how to address challenges,” says Dema.

“My long-term mission is to encourage and empower those interested in archery but cannot afford or do not have the social opportunity to take it up as a profession.”

Dema has coached in Bhutan since 2016, while Folkard represented Great Britain as an athlete at five Olympic Games, most recently in Tokyo, after which she made a permanent move into coaching.

“There’s an underlying belief that the more you score as an archer, the better you can coach. There is so much more to it,” says Naomi. “I’m here to learn about the softer skills that make a great leader.”

The shift to equality on the coaching line won’t be immediate. But through programmes like this, it will be accelerated.

Header image courtesy International Olympic Committee.