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Published 25 October 2021 6 min read
England Para Teams

Catherine Gilby hired as The FA's new Head of Para Performance

Written by:

Andy Walker

Gilby  'inspired and driven by the level of ambition' at the FA and is excited by the plans for the coming years

The FA has appointed Catherine Gilby as its new Head of Para Performance.

Gilby will join in January 2022 after more than a decade with British Para-Swimming where she led performance support for all athletes on their world-class pathway. 

At St. George’s Park, she will oversee a team delivering and implementing the high-performance strategy for Para Football, maximising the potential of players, coaches and support teams.

In particular, Gilby will be responsible for delivering the vision and culture for our national Para teams with the aim of every team challenging for success by 2024. This target is set out in The FA’s new three-year plan to help develop, improve and raise awareness of disability football. 

She said: “I am thrilled to take on this role. Para Football is at a really exciting point and it will be a privilege to be part of the team that will drive change, but I also love the ambition and the mission of The FA itself.

“I am committed to developing and sustaining high performance Para football teams of players and staff to be to be the best they can be, both as players and people, ultimately supporting The FA to achieve their mission for 2024.

“I have a heavy heart leaving my team of staff, athletes and coaches at Para-Swimming, however, this is a fantastic opportunity that I relish being able to take on.”

Gilby, who previously worked for the English Institute of Sport, added: “It adds richness to be able to work in a varied sporting environment like St. George’s Park.

Having a diversity of backgrounds is a massive strength, it allows for positive challenge and to take learnings from others. The excitement is working with the athletes already in the system but also being ready to nurture and support the ones we don’t yet know about.”

The new FA strategy entitled Football Your Way also commits to establishing two new blind and cerebral palsy women’s teams by 2024 - in addition to teams in these formats/genders: blind (men), cerebral palsy (men), deaf (men), deaf (women), partially-sighted (men) and powerchair (mixed gender), and the two men’s U21 sides for cerebral palsy and deaf.

Gilby said: “The new strategy was a massive draw as well as the role itself. I am inspired and driven by the level of ambition and I want to be part of attaining that and achieving winning teams.

“We have to tailor our work to the individual in front of us, helping them to be the very best they can be. We can seize on the momentum from the Tokyo Games.

“The public have an appetite for para sport and there is an opportunity for us to raise the profile and importance of Para Football – not just to attract those who already love the sport but also to reach out to new people from all corners of society.

”Para Football can be more than winning teams, it can also have a massive inspirational impact, be it through positive role modelling or giving kids confidence to join a local club. It is about ensuring children that have a disability can have the same level of opportunity as anyone else, whether that is just about getting more active or developing players of the Para Football pathway to be part of our winning teams at the elite end.”

Baroness Sue Campbell said: “Catherine will bring a new dimension to our work across Para Football and I am very pleased she has agreed to join us. She has a wealth of elite sporting experience and wants to help our players and coaches to be the very best they can be, while also recognising the inspirational impact that winning teams can have on driving participation.

"I know she is also committed to establishing a strong and supportive culture for our players and coaches, ensuring that all those involved in Para sport feel a respected and valued part of the football family.” 

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