Jo Coates, CEO at British Athletics, has made a major decision with the new Performance director appointment at British Athletics. In hiring Sara Symington, an experienced Olympic athlete and administrator, Jo Coates is helping British Athletics build towards its next challenges. This column, by Stuart Weir, is about this major decision by Jo Coates.
New Performance director appointment at British Athletics
New CEO at British Athletics has made her first significant appointment as he begins the task of re-stablishing confidence in the governing body.
Sara Symington, who has been appointed as Performance Director will lead the coordination of a UK wide performance strategy and talent development system working closely with the Home Country Athletics Federations. She brings with her a significant wealth of knowledge and experience across four sports as an Olympian, a professional athlete and a performance director. She competed for Team GB in cycling at both the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games before moving into coaching roles at British Cycling and British Triathlon and then working as performance advisor at UK Sport.
Symington spent six years as Performance Director for Archery GB, leading the Olympic and Paralympic World Class Programs, and in 2015 took up the same position at England Netball while Coates was CEO of that organization. Symington will now also form part of the selection panel for British Athletics’ next Olympic Head Coach to work alongside Paralympic Head Coach Paula Dunn and will begin in the role in the autumn.
Symington said: “I am delighted to join British Athletics at this juncture in its journey. On a professional level I’m looking forward to sharing some of my experiences whilst learning from others within this great sport, including all the staff, athletes, coaches, stakeholders and partners as to how the sport moves forward but ultimately strives for future success on the world stage. I’m an athlete at heart who moved into leadership roles but my overriding ambition has always been about creating an environment where our athletes and staff thrive and deliver continued success both individually and collectively.”
In her official quote on the appointment, Coates said: “I am extremely excited to welcome Sara as our new Performance Director. Her appointment is a major step as we move into an incredibly exciting time for athletics in the UK and is a brilliant opportunity for her to make a difference both immediately and in planning the future. Sara possesses a vast wealth of knowledge and experience as both an athlete and a successful leader at a number of sports, which will prove vital in our short-term planning towards Tokyo and allow us to quickly review and evaluate for the cycle to Paris.
“She will be essential in helping to shape not only a UK wide performance strategy and talent development system working closely with the Home Country Athletics Federations but also how the sport moves forward and guarantees exemplary cultures and behaviors – and, along with myself, ensures athletes are at the heart of everything we do. I can’t wait to work with her.”
On her personal twitter account, Coates posted a photo of herself hugging Symington at the moment when England netball had defeated Australia – in Australia – to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal, with the following caption “In 2018 after three years of giving our lives to a sport as CEO and PD this is what it felt like when we achieved what some people said was impossible. I look forward to more moments like this in our athletics journey”.