Meet the Interns: Laura Kerr, Athletics, Northern Ireland

Meet the Interns

Name: Laura Kerr

“This is an innovative programme and I very much appreciate that this is a central part of the CGF’s Gender Equality Strategy.”

Sport: Athletics

Mentor Coach: Jackie Newton, Director of Coach and Athlete Development

Country: Northern Ireland

Games Role: Laura is contributing to Games time planning and athlete and coach preparation. She will be one of three coaches with the track and field team and will assist with athletes’ daily schedules, coaching, competition day planning, team meetings, and reporting and liaising with medical personnel. She will work closely with field athletes and several teenage athletes with whom she has significant coaching experience.

Current Occupation: Athletics Northern Ireland (ANI), Coach Development and Physical Preparation Lead

Athletic Background: Laura was an U23 javelin thrower for Great Britain; she also competed in rowing and weightlifting. She became involved in track and field while a schoolgirl, attracted by the individual nature of athletics and the opportunity to compete in speed/power events.

Coaching: Laura has always been interested in the science of sport and the methodology that underpins training programmes. During her undergraduate and master’s degrees, she enjoyed modules in sports development and exercise physiology and pursued strength and conditioning qualifications. Her interest is in optimizing human performance as it relates to athletes, coaches, support personnel, and teams. While still an athlete, Laura was supported by Ulster University with a coaching internship and scholarship. At McNeese State University, she worked with NCAA athletes as a coaching intern. With ANI, she has progressed from community coaching to a talent role and now her current position as lead.

Laura aspires to change the culture of athletics in Northern Ireland so that athletes and coaches are exposed to the best physical and technical preparation and have a mindset that allows them to work together, with each other, and with ANI to maximise their opportunities and performance. Personally, she would like to coach an athlete to the Olympic Games.

As a young strength and conditioning coach, she recognized that it was a male-dominated industry but was undeterred. She believes that acceptance by male colleagues and athlete should depend upon the quality of the programme and the coach’s ability not gender.


Master’s degree in Human Performance, McNeese State University  

Bachelor of Science degree, Sport and Exercise Science

UK Sport Aspire Programme for Talent Coaches

Importance of the WCIP: “This is an innovative programme and I very much appreciate that this is a central part of the CGF’s Gender Equality Strategy. The WCIP will help build women’s coaching capacity across the Commonwealth … I am delighted to be one of a select few who will benefit from the WCIP and look forward to the opportunity for learning and networking alongside coaches from a range of sports.”

After Gold Coast: Laura will continue to work with Northern Ireland athletes in their preparations for the world junior championships and European Youth and Senior Championships. She intends to travel to ALTIS/World Athletics Centre in Arizona to extend her network and see first-hand coaching practice based on ALTIS principles. She will share her WCIP experience with women coaches so they are inspired to develop themselves and their coaching and understand the skills and experience required to coach at the national and international levels. She will undertake reflective practice tasks and will deliver a seminar on her learning and experience to provide a female coaching role model within Northern Ireland.

Commonwealth Connections: “The Commonwealth Games is particularly important to citizens of Northern Ireland and the other home countries of Great Britain as it represents an entirely unique opportunity to represent our country on a global stage. The Commonwealth Sport Movement represents a commitment to sporting excellence and development combined with a celebration of culture. To be a coach at the Commonwealth Games is a milestone for me … it will give me the opportunity to contribute to the performance of our athletes and hone my skills and knowledge of a major Games … "


Meet the Mentors

Name: Jackie Newton

“My role as mentor is to support, challenge, question, and listen.”

Sport: Track and Field

Country: Northern Ireland

Current Occupation: Director of Coaching and Athlete Development, Athletics Northern Ireland

Athletic History: Jackie was a successful long distance road runner, representing Great Britain in marathons and half-marathons. She started athletics at the age of 13 and it had a very positive impact on her life. “I want others to have this same positive experience.”

Coaching History: Jackie was a teacher and athlete and saw coaching as a natural progression. She gets great satisfaction from seeing others progress in whatever their interest is. Involved as a full-time professional in high performance sport since 2012, she was worked with athletes, coaches, and performance services in preparing for major championships and for long-term athlete development. She has mentoring experience through the England Athletics coaching mentoring programme, has a deep appreciation for the power of reflective practice, and has built a strong network of professionals.


Master’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science with Coaching Studies

UKA Level 3 coach

Importance of the WCIP: “My colleague, Laura Kerr, is a talented coach and keen learner so I volunteered to help her. I expect her to gain further experience in a senior international multi-sport environment, networking opportunities with like-minded coaches and service providers, insight into collaborative work, and contribution to athlete preparation. My role as mentor is to support, challenge, question, and listen.”

Jackie says a lot of work needs doing before women coaches will have the same opportunities as men. Barriers include attitude, perception of what a woman can do and be, perception of how a coach should operate, tradition, and male-dominated environments.

Commonwealth Connections: "The Commonwealth Sport Movement is a unique opportunity for athletes to compete for their home nation, whether large or small, at a world-class level. It means a great deal to me to be a coach at the 2018 Games, to be able to help and support athletes and coaches to perform at their very best.”