An inspirational weekend as the EHF hosts the first ever European Hockey Female Leadership Forum

Posted On 26/03/2019

The EHF is striving to promote gender balance and drive change forward at a rapid pace on and off the field. Our new programme the ‘EHFL’ was the first of the actions towards this change.

The EHF agreed at its Executive Board meeting in December 2017 to set a clear strategic goal to build actions to advocate and support equal and equitable opportunities for all our member nations and their members.

Led by Tom Pedersen-Smith (EHF Development Manager) a group of 27 women from 22 European countries gathered in the Thon hotel on Saturday morning to listen, engage, network and finally to make a personal pledge of where they wanted to take their own personal leadership journey.

The weekend started with an opening session from EHF President, Marijke Fleuren to welcome the delegates and to reassure them that the EHF is fully behind each and every one of them to make their leadership journeys happen.

Phrases like inspirational, honest, integrity, authentic, dare to jump, ‘accidents’, be in the room to make the decisions, mentors, mentees, passion, ‘believe what’s in your heart,’ finding solutions, empathy reverberated about the room.

EHF President summed up the weekend saying “It looked as if we have opened a hidden window by organising this forum. It was amazing and also emotional to notice how ready 27 women, from 22 Member Associations are to take the step up, all in their own way. The different speakers felt their energy and eagerness and reacted passionately. What energy! I am very confident to meet the future with this social capital behind us.”

The keynote speaker on day one was Carole Ponchon CEO of BeInnovActiv’ a company leading change across Europe. It is the main stakeholder in the Erasumus+ SWing project which will see up to 30 women leaders being mentored in their leadership journey over the coming 3 years, (along with partners like the EHF and the French Hockey Federation). Carole’s personal an honest approach to her journey and how she took opportunities that maybe she didn’t always feel ready for, struck a chord with many of the women in the room. Her journey of continuing to be comfortable in her own skin, in her own mind and to use her knowledge to ensure more women are enabled to ‘step up’ and not just dare to dream left the delegates with much to think about and a huge opportunity to think about being a part of the SWing project, with the opportunity to be mentored by some of the best business and sports leaders in Europe. For more information on the SWing project click here. Her life journey is from a Goalkeeper to a Dreamkeeper. She challenged the delegates to take the chance.

The delegates then undertook an interactive session to learn more about their fellow delegates and their ambitions.

David Voskamp, EHF Competitions Manager outlined the volume of EHF events, the bidding process and how he works with the clubs and federations to deliver fantastic EuroHockey events. He spoke with great pride about his experiences with many federations, but in particular about working with Slovenia to get them a second-hand waterbased pitch. This had enabled them to offer to host events, which they have successfully done and continue to do. David, an advocate of He4She spoke about working with many women leaders in Europe and said “It has not only been my profession since joining the EHF but passion all my life. I always look forward to supporting all people who make European Hockey competitions and events work so well.” He invited the women in the room to consider putting themselves forward for the EHF Competitions Committees. The EHF will be looking for Committee Members towards the end of 2019 for 2-year terms.

Inez Cooper, EHF Board Member and IT Business Strategist then took to the floor, sharing her personal journey, a parallel one of her hockey ‘career’ combined with her IT expertise. Her message to the women in the room was to take their learnings from hockey into their business career. It’s not always the case that hockey/sport should look to business when often it is a fact that being involved as a volunteer with many roles and responsibilities can, in fact, empower your career! Inez, a strategist thinker, went into detail about how she works through solutions when she sees ‘problems’. She is Chair of Hockey Ireland’s national league (EYHL), and explained how, in spite of some serious opposition was able to bring the clubs in Ireland along with her working group to deliver a national league, which is what the players wanted. She is currently studying for Institute of Directors (UK) Corporate Director Program and was delighted that her experience in hockey on the EHF Board is recognised as the experience needed for these exams. She added, “Sport Administration is a meritocracy – if you are good enough, passionate, willing to work – you can make a difference and advance quickly.”

Siobhán Madeley, EHF Communications Manager and volunteer ParaHockey coach delivered a piece on Communications Matters. She outlined her personal journey in her life and hockey career (some 29 years working for hockey) and back to a time when there was no internet, much to the horror of the young women in the room. She gave some tips on social media and talked about her volunteer role as a ParaHockey coach. She encouraged all delegates, if they had the chance, to get involved in ParaHockey. Finally, she recommended, “If women want change, then they have to be in the decision-making room to kickstart this change, there is little point in moaning about decisions that are made when you didn’t try to be in the room.”

The delegates, buzzing with information, knowledge and a real sense of comradery had dinner together to allow for networking and sharing knowledge and reconvened at 9.00 on Sunday morning. Marijke reminded them to start thinking about their leadership pledges and what direction they want to take with their hockey leadership careers.

Day two started with Marijke Fleuren delivering her address on Governance Structures and their relevance. Prior to her deep dive, she spoke about the huge support that her family has given her to achieve all that she had done in her life, even if sometimes they are her biggest critics! She spoke about the pillars of governance: A Framework, A Mission Statement, Values and General Principles. She was delighted when, in 2016 the EHF took an open view, under her and Angus Kirkland’s leadership of the values of the EHF and with lots of consultation, including the board and staff, the following was agreed upon: Inclusive: For Everybody; Positive: Celebrating Success;  Accountable: Integrity; Dynamic: Pro-active & Innovative. She outlined in detail the principles of governance of the EHF and how it had been decided to publish the minutes of every Board meeting onto the EHF website. She spoke earnestly to the delegates to encourage them to now take the leap, to think about the EHF Board elections where 3 women will be elected and indeed roles on the many EHF Committees. She assured the women in the room that they would have her and the EHF’s support in their journeys.

The keynote speaker for day 2 was Sally Munday, CEO of England Hockey. “The reality of Leadership” and what a journey Sally has had from her role as Regional Officer in the now-defunct Hockey Association to CEO of England Hockey with a staff of 85, 3000 volunteers and an annual turnover of £15million. Her honest, fun and very frank presentation was very well received by the delegates. She was extremely clear on what drives her every day “Passion, Integrity and Vision”. She is still as passionate as she was when she started working for hockey, she was clear that she makes decisions based on what she believed to be right. She was supported in her decisions by the CEO and Chair of England Hockey, Philip Kimberly who was her mentor. She was allowed to make some mistakes but never to fall ‘flat on her face’. She had a huge decision to make when Philip decided to retire, her concern was that she would have a ‘new boss’ who maybe wouldn’t believe in all that she, Philip and the staff had grown. It was Philip who encouraged her to step up and apply for the role of CEO, something she had not really considered. Did she really want to be the boss (even if it was what the 4-year-old, youngest of 4 sisters thought she wanted)? Her biggest concern that she would somehow lose the judgement and decision making that were her biggest assets! It was her mentor that saw that she could be ‘the boss’ and without that mentorship, she would not have quite believed in herself. She has now pledged herself as a mentor to one of the women in the room to enable them to reach for the stars, even if they land on the moon!

Sally challenged the delegates to consider what Integrity means to them; “Doing the right thing when no one is looking. Doing what you believe in and what feels right in your heart. To be brave enough to do the right thing, even when you know that it might lose you a position in an organisation,” were some of the responses.

The final speaker, Vaida Masalskytė Director of International Relations NOC, Lithuania, described herself as a “woman, a smiling woman and a former athlete from Lithuania” A short description of a woman who has achieved much more than being a smiler! She was an elite shooter for Lithuania, something that overtook her studies in her earlier life. But in 2000 she went back and finished her Batchelor and Shooting Sport qualifications, she went on to finish her Masters and in 2007 a PhD in Education Sciences. From a shooting coach, she went on to be the Secretary General of the Lithuanian Shooting Union, propelled by the need to be a decision maker, rather than be outside the room. She admitted that some days she wondered “What am I doing, I am happily married, a mother with a career, why am I pushing myself so hard”, but with the unequal gender balance in Lithuania, she knew that she could not step away. Between 2013 and 2016, along with Daina Gudzineviciute, they established a Women in Sport Commission, this was all women. In 2017 two men were elected to this Commission and it is fantastic to have their collaboration. The Lithuanian National Olympic Committee now runs and participates in many Global conferences to share best practise, culminating last year in the IOC conference that was held in Vilnius: “Advancing Women in Leadership Roles’ Forum for Europe”. She is now the assistant to IOC member Daina Gudzineviciute, her friend and colleague and together they have faced many challenges to overcome gender bias (against women). And so she is a smiling woman, proud of what she has achieved, but always mindful of the many (male and female) mentors that have helped her on her journey.

The EHF President closed the Forum, challenging the women in the room, that what happens next is in their hands. She reminded the women that they are now invited to think about becoming EHF Committee and Board Members.

Remarks from the delegates:

Lisa, Ireland. Ex-international player, junior age group coaching:

“I didn’t know what to expect. I came with an open mind. The entire weekend stoked a fire within me. Everyone who presented reflected a piece of me and characteristics that I may have. It was really impactful, grabbed at the core of me and said ‘what are you gonna do with it’. There are so many ways to get involved. I’ll think about where I can contribute. The first thing I’ll do is present to Hockey Ireland what I learned here. And then I’ll challenge myself to act”

Sabina, Zampetti, EHF Committee Member, Italy:

“It was amazing, I really enjoyed it a lot. I hope that we can do it again”.

When asked what she would take away “Using all skills as a means to reach our objectives and Leadership at all levels. Emphasizing the importance of people who are very good at jobs at all levels. Not everyone needs to participate at the highest level but if you have exceptional people who want to step forward then that’s great.”

Ivett Stojanovic, Serbia, club player and serves the federation in a number of ways (unofficially), continuing to build female clubs in Serbia with the great support of the federation:

“I came to learn and get to know people and learn about other federations. I got really amazing feedback. I’m starting to believe that I can really make a change. No matter your background, big or small country, you can still be a leader and make amazing things happen”

Scotland, Jayne Cafferty, PE teacher, Perth, Vice President Perthshire hockey club – former youth convenor- player, coach and umpire:

“It’s re-energized me in my role. One main takeaway that I’ll bring home with me is the equally amazing bit, not just with gender but of diversity of background. It’s also made me think about reconsiding my career, particularly from Sally’s presentation as if I have skills that can be used in other roles” 



Ilse Haest


Marina Zaharieva

Czech Republic

Dominika Buchtova


Emilie Blankschøn


Kirsty Goldie-Brammer


Heather Williams


Minna Mäkelä


Cathelijne Rockall


Wibke Weisel


Diana Soussi Avellano


Lisa Jacob


Anna Grazia Puglia


Sabina Zampetti


Monika Ivanauskaitė


Bernice Calleja


Ms Sarah Grech


Catrien Zijlstra


Magdalena Nazaret


Katie Brown;


Jayne Cafferty


Ivett Stojanovic


Sonsoles Monfort


Ella Torstensson


Irina Harchenko


Yana Vorushylo


Hannah Bevan

Guest of EHF

Silvija Mitevska

EHF President

Marijke Fleuren

EHF Vice President

Carola Meyer

EHF Executive Board & Guest Speaker

Inez Cooper

EHF Director General

Angus Kirkland

EHF Development Manager

Tom Pedersen-Smith

EHF Communications Manager & Guest Speaker

Siobhán Madeley

EHF Competitions Manager & Guest Speaker

David Voskamp

EHF chair of Youth Panel

Leen Ryckx

Keynote Speaker

Sally Munday

Keynote Speaker

Carole Ponchon

Keynote Speaker

Vaida Masalskytė

Galvanised Media

Tom Herring

For more information contact Tom Pedersen-Smith:

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