Taunton School Main Building at Dusk

Taunton School appoints female Director of Hockey to complete quartet of top women sports leaders 

Posted: 1st November 2023

Four women now hold key sports management roles at Taunton School for the first time in the school’s history. Laura Bennett, the new Director of Hockey joins Beth Mottram, Head of Swimming, Lisa Manley, Head of Netball and Rachel Lewis, Head of Basketball.

“All of these women are at the top of their game,” said Dan Pettifer, Director of Sport. “We are thrilled that Taunton is leading the way in levelling the playing field for women in sport.

“We are very proud that these extremely talented women now make up four out of nine of the sports leaders who give overall direction to how we deliver sport at Taunton School.”

Laura Bennett, who has a wealth of experience in coaching for England Hockey, at Performance Centre, Futures Cup and HiPac, will lead both the Taunton girls’ and boys’ hockey programmes. It is the first time the Director of Hockey role has been held by a woman at Taunton School and there are very few female Directors of Hockey in the country.

“I am delighted to be stepping up to this role,” said Laura. “I have been so lucky during my career because I have been championed by other females who created opportunities for me to coach at the highest level.  But clearly, on a national scale, we still have some way to go.”

Within the last five to ten years, when attending high-performance assessment camps she has often found herself to be the only female coach there.

Similarly, earlier this year, Laura attended the National Hockey Finals with the Year 9 Taunton School boys team and was the only female coach out of the eight competing teams – each with three or four members of staff.

Laura has been a Somerset Hockey coach for 15 years. For the last 12, she has also managed 500 players each year who are on the England hockey player talent pathway. Additionally, she has been part of Taunton Vale Hockey Club for over ten years and has been involved more recently with the junior section. She is currently the joint lead of the junior section, overseeing groups from under 8 up to under 18, boys and girls.

Laura said initially her aim was to develop and push the top-level athletes at Taunton. “However, I also want to make sure we help everyone improve and enjoy the game, regardless of their current ability. It’s about helping children develop as a person, not just as a hockey player.”

Last year, three Taunton School hockey players were selected to play for England and female hockey players celebrated their best year ever with a string of county and national successes across a number of age groups.

Rachel Lewis is the only female Head of Basketball in the South West Basketball Schools League. She coaches the first team, made up of mainly boys, but which is open to girls too as well as leading all basketball sessions for 13 to 18-year-olds.

“Taunton School is really great at inspiring students of whichever gender to play whatever sport it is that they want to play,” said Rachel, who plays for Taunton in the Exeter and district league.

Head of Netball Lisa Manley is a former England Open Team Manager and a former Under 21 West of England Captain. She is currently Team Bath Under 18 Assistant Coach. Beth Mottram, Head of Swimming, is a British National Swimmer who also coaches the regional and national level Under 14 squad at Taunton Deane Swimming Club. They were both appointed in the past year.

Taunton School is ranked seventh in School Sport Magazine’s latest list of the Top 200 Sporting Schools. The list is based on an analysis of the achievements of both state and independent schools across 20 different sports and more than 120 national events.

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