In the coming months European Athletics will be publishing a series of profiles of prominent women’s athletics leaders on the continent, women who have made a significant contribution to the management and development of our sport.
We start with Katrin Heyers, from Germany, a psychologist by profession and academic background who is working with the European Athletics Development Department as a consultant having previously had various roles in Germany, as an athlete, coach and volunteer official.
What is your current role with European Athletics?
I have been asked to explore and examine Women Leadership activities that are being launched on a national level with European Athletics’ Member Federations. In this context, I am reaching out to all former participants of European Athletics’ Women’s Leadership activities as a continuation of the ongoing support being provided for female leaders in our sport. Additionally, I am examining the careers of our former seminar participants to see how they have developed, what are their own current roles and how they have achieved their current status; and if they are no longer involved in athletics why not.
What are your goals with this work?
I hope that as a result of this project, there is going to be a growing network within Europe of female leaders who not only share national projects, ideas or experiences, but support one another as mentors and mentees; but I think it is important for men to be included in this project as well.
I think it is also the right time to create an ‘alumni network’ of participants in the Women’s Leadership activities. It would become an important resource by gathering information, ideas, knowledge which female athletics leaders can draw upon and provide a support network.
What is your own personal background in athletics?
I started athletics when I was six. My kindergarten teacher kept telling my parents to send me to an athletics club because I was faster than all the other kids! When I started, I immediately fell in love with athletics and have not stopped loving it since. I also did gymnastics until I was nine but since then my passion has been athletics.
Why were you motivated to take an active role in off-track activities?
I was a huge fan of Lance Armstrong when I was a kid. When his entire doping background came out, I was devastated and actively wanted to do something against doping in sports. As soon as I turned 18, I started working as a Doping Control Officer (DCO). After a year of being involved in testing, I realised that I could see myself much more within educational and preventative work rather than as a DCO.
At that time, the German athletics federation (DLV) offered a programme called ‘Youth Ambassadors for Doping Prevention’. I applied and was able to join the team and since March 2013, after I completed my training, I delivered anti-doping workshops within Germany and have been doing this work ever since.
What was your previous involvement with European Athletics before recently taking up your current role?
In 2014, the DLV asked me to represent them at the European Athletics Young Leaders’ Forum which ran in conjunction with the European Athletics Championships in Zurich. Participating at this event gave me an immense push to become more active as a volunteer official in athletics.
After the Forum, European Athletics reached out to me asked me whether I wanted to be more involved on a broader level. I was honoured to be asked to be a facilitator at the next Young Leaders’ Forum at the Amsterdam 2016 European Athletics Championships and was also involved in promoting the European Athletics anti-doping programme at youth events.
You have mentioned your involvement in the Young Leaders’ Forums but how did you graduate to being involved in Women’s Leadership activities?
I participated in the European Athletics Women's Leadership Seminar that was held in Brussels two years ago. The DLV once again asked me whether I wanted to be the German representative there. I was 24 at that time and the youngest participant. I had no formal position within my national federation at that time, but I was mentoring two of their youth projects.
Participating at the seminar gave me a huge push to keep in contact with European Athletics.
Additionally, I met Dagmar Freitag who was speaking at the seminar. She is a former DLV vice-president as well as a member of the German parliament. Dagmar was very influential, and I was also able to do an internship with her in the spring of 2019.
After the seminar, I promised to myself that I wanted to be more active and involved in promoting women within our sport.