Propeller Spotlight: Kardia Sports

Why we need more sports opportunities for girls and young women

Olivia Hooper, founder of Kardia Sports, has been on one football team or another since she was 10 years old. Until she was scouted for an FA Centre of Excellence, she hadn’t thought much about playing on a mixed team. It was at that point she started playing in all-girls teams and saw the disparity between female and male training facilities.

“We were on a school field whereas the boys had a whole academy. Over time, all sorts of negligence regarding female sport became noticeable. As a Sports Coaching and Development student I decided I wanted to do something about it.”

Olivia started university, as many do, with only a vague idea of what she wanted to do. She knew she wanted to remain in Sports, but it took a while for her passion for gender equality in sports to turn into a plan. On her coaching degree she was still in the minority and what’s more, she was often the only female coach for all-girls’ teams in the area. In her current capacity as coach for Preston North End, she’s still only one of four female coaches.

“It was always commented on that I, a girl, was playing football. People would say it was ‘not right’ because it wasn’t seen very often. Football is a lot worse than other sports like tennis or hockey, so that’s where I want to start making changes.”

Drawing from her own experience, Olivia set out to create a space where young girls can practice the sport, develop their confidence and find role models. With the recent surge of popularity following the first ever broadcast of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019, there are certainly plenty of aspiring sportswomen to support.

Creating a Community Interest Company

At first, Olivia wanted to offer the opportunity for girls to play. This meant renting out space, buying equipment and running the sessions herself. This was the foundation of Kardia Sports, but the goal has become more well defined since then. Olivia registered Kardia Sports as a community interest company (CIC) in November 2020 with Co-Director Claire Ludlam.

The company now has three aims:

    1. To break down barriers that females face in sport
    2. Provide female-only sporting networks to increase confidence and employment opportunities for women. This includes allocating same-sex mentors to young female coaches
    3. Inspire future generations of girls to seek opportunities in both playing and coaching professions; to gradually move the imbalance of gender in sport.
Young female football player - Kardia Sports

A community interest company is similar to a social enterprise or charity, in that any money made is funnelled back into the company for the benefit of others. Having originally considered setting up a charity, Olivia chose the CIC route as the registration requires less paperwork. It also includes an asset lock that protects any profits from misuse.

For Olivia and Claire, any profit made will be funnelled into activities to support the three aims above. This includes the Kardia Coaches initiative, to inspire future generations.

Although the initiative is still in its infancy, Kardia Coaches gives unqualified young women the chance to gain experience alongside FA qualified coaches. In addition to this, Kardia Sports then funds their level 1 coaching qualification. The intention is to offer this initiative at both level 1 and 2.

“It’s really important not only to get experience, but to be around role models and feel part of the community. It’s important to see where sport could lead you and know that there are others like you doing the same thing.”

Since the company was registered in November 2020, Olivia has only been able to offer private coaching sessions, but once team sports can run again the initiative will be able to go ahead.

Setting up at the start of second lockdown

For many businesses, the coronavirus has been a mixed blessing and curse. On the one hand, business owners are able to review existing processes and plan for the future. On the other, the lack of activity creates financial concern and further lockdowns lead to uncertainty.

For Olivia, it’s been impossible to start group sessions.

Young female football player in action - Kardia Sports

“It has been impossible to get a reliable timetable for when the laws change. That means it was impossible to advertise without concrete dates. We’ve also had problems with finding pitch space; there are a lot of indoor sports are now also competing for outdoor space. This then has a roll-on effect for facilities, as overplay can damage the pitch too.”

Thankfully, Olivia has reserved a space in Lytham St. Anne’s for two groups starting next month. Kardia Sports will be running two groups (ages 8-12) at Park View Playing Fields from May, with the intention of finding a permanent space by September.

For community groups like this, word-of-mouth is a strong tactic for recruiting team members, alongside collaborations with local schools. With social distancing rules, this sort of exchange has been happening less and less; however, it is possible that schools will allow visits from externals from the new academic year. In the meantime, Olivia has done a good job of gathering some publicity by herself. With various press releases across the past year and recruitment through her current network, Olivia has steadily worked on building the reputation of Kardia Sports.

Getting business ready during final year

Not only has Olivia spent this year building the foundations of her business, but she has also been completing her Sports Coaching and Development degree. We asked Olivia if she had any tips for anyone trying to do the same and her top tip was to look at constant self-development.

“I’m always trying to learn more about my area, or about business. There’s lots of opportunities to meet people that can help. Even if you don’t think it seems relevant, attend small events and webinars as that’s how you meet people outside of your area.

Without the help of Propeller there’s no chance I would have set up this business at all. Their support and guidance make it really easy to understand business and if they don’t know about your sector they go and learn about it. It’s just fantastic really that this service is available, so make the most of that, too.”

How to join a team

If you are interested in the girls’ 7-12 sessions, you can ask for more information through the Kardia Sports website, via email ( or message on social media. You can also put forward an expression of interest for expansion into other areas of Lancashire. If there is enough interest for a team in your area, you can be kept up to date with progress.

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