Fionnuala Duhaney-Keown is the Basketball Senior Head Coach at Clapton Girl’s Academy. Fe, as she’s known to many, is employed by Greenhouse Sports and has been working at the Academy since 2012.
As an employee of Greenhouses Sports, Fe is based at the school and coaches basketball to the girls six days a week. Coaching girls across the spectrum of first taste of the sport, through until they leave the school, she takes PE lessons, groups out of school and as with all Greenhouse programmes, there is a focus on the social and emotional well being of the girls. “It’s the sport that really allows me to tap into their social and emotional sides,” Fe said.
Fe has been instrumental in developing a comprehensive basketball programme in the borough where there are now national league sides at U14, U16 and U18 levels. This gives her a great sense of achievement: “The PE team are so supportive in allowing me access to the facilities at the school and have always supported the trips away from school,” she said, “although it’s been a challenge to get girls from other schools to buy into the programme, which can be quite frustrating at times.”
Growing up in Hackney, Fe feels a real connection with the school and the wider community. “My options to play basketball in Hackney were limited, as the only option at the time was local league basketball.”
“I didn’t think about becoming a coach until I reached 16 and knew I was leaving school.”
Fe’s PE teacher had been a big influence over her and invited her to come back and help out with the year seven groups. Supporting her development by putting her on a range of courses.
“I thought courses were free, because I never had to pay for one,” said Fe. This influence over her development has obviously had a lasting effect.
“It was great to be involved with sport and coaching in the area which I was from.”
Fe found that coaching became a way for her to stay involved in the sport that she loved without actually playing. After successfully securing a job as a community sports coach working across two boroughs, Fe moved on to work with Greenhouse Sports as she was attracted by the way that you were able to develop and build programmes “I haven’t looked back, it’s been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” she said.
Fe is the driver behind the women’s coaches forum that exists within Greenhouse Sports. After hearing how coaches at other Greenhouse programmes were finding it difficult to get girls involved in activity, she wanted to take action to address this. “It wasn’t through lack of passion or energy, it was just not really knowing what was the best way to get girls involved” she said, “we’ve been looking at the soft touch things that we could do.”
“I’ve had some nice emails from other coaches, but it’s going to take a lot of time” she says “numbers are up, but there is still a long way to go.”
What’s next for Fe? “I’m at a happy place, I love this school and love this department” she said.
“I’m doing what I really love and if engaging more girls is it then that is it” this may change in the future, but not for now.
What advice she would give to girls looking to do what she does. “Volunteer, get involved and commit to the learning” Fe said.
This coach story comes courtesy of Sports Coach UK’s: London’s Coaching Women series