The rest is history – and so is the name “Hartlepool Catholic Boys’ Boxing Club”, forced to drop the word “boys” because of Coulson blazing a trail for other girls.
The medal-winning boxer is now an athlete mentor for Sky Sports Living for Sport, a free initiative delivered in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust that uses sport stars and sport skills to improve the lives of thousands of young people in secondary schools across the UK. Schools design their own sport-related programme to run over a minimum of six weeks, and sportspeople go in to run their own sessions and inspire the students they’re working with.
“I wanted to put something back into the sport,” she says. “I’ll present a bit about my story, my journey, and provide a bit of reality by relating to them. Then I’ll show them a few boxing moves, play a few games, try out other sports – I’ve been climbing walls and tried out seated basketball – lots of different sports. I’m meant to inspire them, but I think all the athlete mentors will say the efforts and dedication of the young people inspire them as well.”
There are still a lot of girls, she says, who find themselves a little wary of trying out sports that have always been deemed “for boys”. Coulson is quick to tell them otherwise.
“You can do whatever you want to do,” she says. “Girls need to know that there’s an opportunity there – doors have opened now.”
And that’s thanks to women like Coulson who fought hard in and out of the ring for the same chances as their male counterparts.
“It’s a great honour to have been one of the first to come through, and to know that girls now will have an easier route to the top of the sport. They won’t be told, ‘No, we don’t take girls,’ or have to deal with any of that negativity. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s a pleasure for me to know the next generation won’t face these barriers.”
She’s also hoping that this Olympics – the first where women boxers are competing – will be a springboard to future national media coverage. Unfortunately, she missed out on the team herself.
“I was devastated. I was watching the opening ceremony and just thinking I was so close to being there. It’s heartbreaking to train so long and overcome so many obstacles. But I know that the girls have a really great chance for some good medals – and I’m doing some television commentary, which I’m really looking forward to.”
Coulson will be competing in some tournaments towards the end of the year, but she has another long-term goal. “My next target is the Commonwealth Games in 2014 – that’s my main focus right now. That’ll be something really special.”