“If we can’t see her…. we can’t be her” : Beáta Jung – Team Ireland Female Coach

How it started….

I’ve been coaching for almost thirteen years now at this stage. I started with kids gymnastics when I was seventeen years old. In my twenties, I started to coach CrossFit & Weightlifting while I also competed in both sports. When I moved to Ireland, five years ago now, I started to coach more & more. Coaching regularly in our club and then at domestic competitions in Ireland.

After several years of coaching domestically, I got the opportunity to coach at a higher level event. The first high level international competition I coached at was the 2021 World Senior Championships in Uzbekistan. At this competition, I only coached one athlete, my partner Seán Brown. Weightlifting Ireland had no other team members who qualified for this event. Since then, the sport has developed and grown a lot in Ireland. Since, we had six athletes competing at the 2023 World Senior Championships last year. Just recently, we had eight athletes competing at the 2024 European Senior Championships.

Female coaches internationally…

It hadn’t occurred to me, how few female coaches we have in the sport of weightlifting – even fewer coaching internationally. Most countries have male coaches, male physios and if we look at the media crew – they are also mostly male.

Initially, coaching internationally was difficult as I had no international coaching experience. But, event by event, I started to feel more comfortable with the coaching role. Being a female coach definitely meant I was more insecure at the beginning, especially that I was coaching a high level male athlete. Coaching a male athlete, as a female coach, in a strength sport – isn’t easy. What I found that helped me through those times was the experience I had gained in the sport as a high level athlete prior. I used to be a really hard working athlete, I sacrificed a lot of my time throughout my career. All my sacrifices did pay off as I medalled twice at the U23 European Championships and once at the University World Championships. This gave me a sense of peace, so whenever I felt insecure or worried, I just reminded myself that I have been there & done it and I have the first hand experience to help these athletes today as a result.

We won a senior medal & coaching dynamic…

The 2023 European Senior Championships was the first event when Weightlifting Ireland sent a bigger team with one male and one female coach. This was probably the best experience I’ve had to date coaching internationally. When you have a team of athletes to coach, you find yourself with a group of different personalities to mix with. In order to coach the athletes to the best of their abilities, you need to get to know them better on a personal level. You also need to make sure the team bonds well with each other.

At this competition, Thammy medalled for the first time ever, making history for Weightlifting Ireland. My role during her competition was to stay with Thammy and keep her in the zone. We ended up having a very successful day and I thought it was interesting to see how we had three coaches (2 male & 1 female) on the day and we all had a different job/role.

Coaching at European or World Championships can bring huge pressure & stress. The athletes put so much time & effort into these big events with their preparation & expectations can be very high. It’s the team coach’s job on the day to make the right decisions, to watch the board, to keep an eye on the other opponents in the warm up area, to handle any stress or niggles the athlete may have on the day. To say the right things at the right times so the athlete can go up onto the stage with full confidence that they will succeed. 

Coach/athlete relationships…

I have competed at several big events as mentioned before, in the sport of weightlifting. Sometimes with coaches who I really liked, they could get me into a position where I was able to medal. But sometimes I had coaches who I didn’t like and I couldn’t perform well with them. While in some ways I think the athletes should be independent enough to perform well no matter who the coach is or the circumstances, I also think that a good coach, who truly cares about the athletes will have a positive impact on the athletes performance every time.

I think having a male and female coach with the team is a huge benefit, not just for the athletes but also the coaches and team dynamic. Female and male coaches have different strengths & weaknesses so having both helps build a stronger connection with the athletes on the team. Although there are still a lot more male coaches on the international stage, we are slowly seeing the number of female coaches increasing. It was never my intention to become a high level female coach, coaching at international events. But with encouragement from my partner along with the opportunities given to me by Weightlifting Ireland, I’ve now become, by default the first high level female coach in the country – this is something I am very proud of.

The future…

I really enjoy being on the international stage as a coach but long term I see myself focusing on the younger generation. I like the idea of finding young talents and helping them reach their full potential in weightlifting. But I also want to help children to find joy in sport. Weightlifting is a great sport for all, no matter what your body shape or background – you’ll be able to do weightlifting and enjoy it!