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Female coaching in sport: How can we increase confidence in women?


What you need to know:

There have always been more male than female coaches at all levels of sport.  Men tend to dominate the coaching space, and more so now than ever before.  In New Zealand in 2018, of their top teams sports for both men and women, there were only 2 female coaches.  (Caldwell)  Hadiee Tiffen was the coach of the White Ferns, the national women’s cricket team, and Janine Southby was the coach of the Silver Ferns, the national women’s netball team.   Now, in 2020, Southby has been replaced by Noeline Taurua, and Tiffen has been replaced by Robert Carter.  When you look up ‘New Zealand coaches’, the first result is a list of 52 people, 5 of whom are women.  This is all to show a clear lack of female coaches in the professional level, and this is not just in New Zealand.  When Title IX was passed in the US in 1972, while the number of female athletes rose, the number of female coaches of women’s university sport teams dropped from 90% to 43% by 2014.  (Flanagan)

This is not just professional sport either, this trend is visible in school-age sport as well.  A coach for school kids in basketball, baseball, softball and soccer from between 2006 to 2011, has only had 3 women coach along side him.  He also says that there were very few women coaches on the opposite bench, stating ‘it may well have been less than three’. (Cook)

This lack of female coaches for both female and male teams causes further, deeper, ingrained issues.  When girls grow up without female coaches, they don’t see coaching as a viable career option for their future, (Caldwell) creating an unhealthy cycle.  For many kids, some of their first role models are their coaches.  When girls don’t have female coaches, girls tend to grow up without female role models.  It has also been proven that girls benefit from having same-sex role models more than boys do.  (Flanagan) Girls often internalize the idea that ‘leadership is for men’ after never having women coaching them.  It also leads to girls drop out of sport, as they connect to female coaches better, and good coaches keep kids in sport.  

When girls grow up without having female coaches, they tend to lack confidence with leadership in the future.  It leads to women not wanting, or believing themselves capable of leadership in other aspects of life.

My Changemaker Interview:

Nicole Geeves, photo taken by me.

I interviewed Nicole Geeves, the first female coach of a men’s premier league hockey team in Tasmania.  She talks about the stigma around girls coaching, and how she got into coaching.  

A: What got you started coaching hockey?

N: It was just an opportunity during my younger state years, it was always a component that we had to be involved in some sort of development of the younger age groups.  I was heavily involved in coaching club underage teams, then it just sort of naturally progressed into coaching more senior teams, more school based teams, and then it lead into the actual men’s team.

A: What led you to doing this (coaching men’s league)?

N: It was just an opportunity that got presented to me, our club didn’t have an actual men’s coach in that role, I had taken a couple of sessions the year prior, and the team enjoyed those sessions I conducted, and because there wasn’t a coach in the role for the following year, the club approached me and asked if that was something I would be interested in doing, which after some consideration I decided to take on the role.  

A:  What makes you want to continue to coach?

N:  I think the game is always evolving, and it’s something that I really enjoy seeing, the different styles of play and how different teams and countries are playing, and adopting different strategies, and I guess from my point of view that means that my coaching has to continuously keep changing and evolving and I think that’s something that I enjoy doing is changing or pushing the boundaries and barriers of things and seeing where it can take teams.

A: Were there any challenges in the process, and if there were, how did you get past them?

N:  I guess, obviously, one of the biggest ones was the gender difference.  So, I think there’s a perceived expectation that females were going to be easier on the male athletes.  Maybe expectations weren’t going to be that great. To start with, just trying to get the men on that level, that I am here, and I am going to be hard, I am going to be hard and challenge you.  I guess, again, just getting rid of that female-male balance where I was just their coach, and I think to begin with just getting community perceptions to identify that a female can do the same role as a male in a male sport.  

My Response: What can we do?

Creating confidence in women and girls is extremely important, and one of the easiest ways of doing this is to have female coaches from a young age from sport.  But, in order to have female coaches, we need to get girls into coaching.  

We can do this by encouraging girls to take coaching opportunities within school or club sport, and having coaches teach girls how to coach as well as play.  

This can be done by teaching girls about female coaches of high level team sports and by encouraging each of the girls and women’s teams to have either a female coach or assistant coach.  

This will be accomplished by telling girls that they can coach, and it is not just a job for men.  

 

How will you help?

I’m eager to find out what this issue is like in your community.  In the comments, please respond with how many female coaches you know of in your favourite sport, either at your level, or at a professional level.  I would also like to encourage any girls in sport reading this to think about starting to coach, and to break the cycle.  

References:

Caldwell, Oliva. Lack of women in coaching detrimental to sport, says professer. 6 June 2018. Document. 11 April 2020.

Cook, Bob. Lack of Presence For Female Coaches Extend to Kids’ Games. 28 November 2018. Document. 9 April 2020.

Flanagan, Linda. The Field Where Men Still Call the Shots. 28 July 2017. Document. 10 April 2020.

 

Share this project
COMMENTS: 7
  1. April 24, 2020 by Yifei Qin

    Hi Abby,
    I think you are presenting a great topic here! The gender inequality in the sports field had always been an issue since sports is always portrayed as a male-dominated activity. I love the background information you brought in and your interview with Coach Geeves. Like you said, encouraging girls to become a part of coaching activities is a possible solution to the problem. However, I am still wondering how can we make sure that they are going to respond to the issue and take part in the challenge?

  2. April 24, 2020 by Olivia

    Hey Abby! This is an awesome project. I did a similar project focused on female athletes and the underrepresentation in high school sports. I think this topic goes hand in hand, and how we need more female coaches to inspire and lead. My favorite coach was my softball coach and she played college softball. She was super knowledgable, inspiring, and passionate about her sport, and helping the girls get better. I definitely plan to coach softball when I get older, and inspire younger girls the way my coach inspires me!

  3. April 24, 2020 by Maya

    Wonderful presentation! This is such an interesting topic to me because my high school field hockey coaches are all female. I’ve had a built in female role model the whole time I’ve been playing. At my school, however, I think people would be shocked if a male coached field hockey because it isn’t “manly” enough, so we almost have the opposite problem. I wonder if anyone else has experienced something like this. I totally agree with you that we need to teach everyone that they can coach whatever they want. The statistics you shared were so fascinating to me, especially because of my own experience. The one male coach we did have didn’t take the sport seriously, so we never took him seriously, and everyone looks at our head coach as our mom and a crucial leader. This was such a great presentation!

  4. April 24, 2020 by Emma Meyer

    Hi! This was so interesting! So at my level, I know 3-4 female coaches that coach volleyball and softball. At a professional level, there is an NFL female coach named Katie Sowers who is an assistant coach for the 49ers and I hope that lots of girls will look up to her.

  5. April 24, 2020 by Melina

    Hi Abby,
    I think you are addressing a really important topic that seems to be too often put aside. Although at my school many of the coaches are female, at least personally, there is definitely a masculine connotation when the word coach is spoken.My lacrosse team is actually only coached by females and they definitely inspire confidence. I think as you said it’s really important to have much more of a female representation in sport coaching not only to encourage more athletic alumni to teach younger generations, but to encourage women to feel they can be successful and engage in the future of their sport. I loved how you connected this to a bigger issue of gender leadership. Overall this was a great presentation on a really important topic!

  6. April 24, 2020 by Panna Szabó

    Hey Abby! I thought your project is so cool mostly because I have never realized that this is a problem before reading your project. At my school, I play volleyball, and ever since middle school, I have always had female coaches. This for me was very inspiring because they were always the head coaches and all the assistants were male. Their guidance and leadership have always been something I looked up to and it made playing so much more comfortable for me. While I personally do not play football, one of my favorite teachers is also the football coach at my school, and I have watched her coach several times. Her work has inspired me several times and from my friends, I have heard that she is one of the best coaches they have ever had. Because of my own experiences, I have never noticed the issue of the lack of female coaches, however, your project has really made me realize how important and great of an issue it is. Do you have any suggestions on how I could try and encourage girls around me, and younger girls to go into coaching?

  7. April 24, 2020 by Mutin

    Hello Abby! This topic really resonates with me as I am the only girl on the Ultimate Frisbee team at my school and have two male coaches and one female assistant coach. Having a female coach helps me throughout the season. Maybe it also is a reason I stay in the team. Aside from having a female coach though I’m very lucky to have welcoming boys that are my teammates. I think something you should also consider that would be interesting to elaborate on this presentation is the culture of different types of sports. For example, Ultimate Frisbee has spirit circles where opposing teams talk after a game and point hand out spirit awards. Spirit awards are given to a person who cheered on the team on and off-field, respectful of ultimate rules, and being honest as Ultimate is refereed by only the players on the field. The coaches are just there to guide the players. If the culture in sports can still be competitive, but spirited like Ultimate maybe it could also help rid of the stigma that sports is only for boys.

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