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Second on the Field, Second on the Sidelines: The Lack of Female Coaches in Sports

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For most athletes, your coach is the most pivotal influence in your athletic career; they encourage you, teach you, push you and inspire you. From sport to sport, year to year, coaches are a source of guidance, leadership and comfort. Yet, for the young girls and women who step into the world of sports, the shocking lack of female coaching is inescapable. This scant presence of female coaches, starting from organized youth sports to the highest calibre of athletic performance, have a drastic and damaging effect of young female athletes.

While Canada still reels from its impressive Olympic performance in Pyeongchang in February, the winter games provided a view of the painfully obvious lack of female coaching staff. As per the Coaching Association of Canada, only 10 per cent of the Canadian coaches who travelled to South Korea for the Olympics were female. That’s only nine female coaches out of a coaching staff of 87. What’s worse? That’s only nine female coaches present to influence the 225 Olympic athletes and only nine female coaches seen by the hundreds of thousands of viewers across our country and all over the world.  ​

“As per the Coaching Association of Canada, only 10 per cent of the Canadian coaches who travelled to South Korea for the Olympics were female. That’s only nine female coaches out of a coaching staff of 87.”

 

The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity has also released statistics highlighting the “dearth of female coaches [as a] national problem”. From a federal study published in 2015, the statistics show that only 25 per cent of all coaching staff across the country were female – let that sink in; only a quarter (one in four!) of all coaches across all of Canada are women. And a few years on? Still only 16 per cent of head coaches were women.

 

The inherent acclimatization to male figures in positions of leadership and power can discourage and dissuade young girls from continuing in sports.

 

Don’t get me wrong, we all know there are some incredible male coaching role models but the massive discrepancy between male and female coaches offer few inspirational and motivational female models for girls to see.

 

Not only does it increase the risk of female athletes becoming doubtful of their place in sports, but it also promotes and perpetuates the dangerous idea that positions of power and authority are reserved solely for their male counterparts. A statistic from the Women’s Sports Foundation proves that, at 14, girls drop out of sports at double the rate of 14-year-old boys. Further, young women looking into sports for career options will find female success stories few and far between, creating this idea that coaching and athletics cannot be a career option for them. ​

 

“Don’t get me wrong, we all know there are some incredible male coaching role models but the massive discrepancy between male and female coaches offer few inspirational and motivational female models for girls to see.”

 

A recent study conducted at the University of Toronto on same-sex role models found that young girls are more acutely aware of same-sex role models and have a more positive response to seeing other women as role models. The image of a successful, accomplished female coach encourages them, giving them something to strive for and an image of their own potential, as the study states.

 

While young boys didn’t respond in the same way to same-sex role models, gender equality in coaching will have a massive impact on their views of women in positions of leadership, strength and power – especially beginning at a young age.

 

​Positive examples of women in sports and coaching can lead to more positive, well-rounded views of women in positions of authority and success throughout life. ​

 

But what causes this stark exclusion of women in coaching? The historical perpetuation of stereotypical gender roles that hinders the idea of women in positions of power and leadership; the continuously unbalanced division of domestic responsibilities between men and women which minimize the free time women have; the sexist views of “soccer moms” or “football moms” who stand at the sidelines cheering and waiting with juice boxes and snacks for the game to end; the even more sexist view of women who “pretend” to like sports (we all know, the one where we only do it to impress the boys). There is no one answer to this question, but it is clear the negative connotations for women in sports in overwhelmingly biased. ​

 

Yet, we need more women in sports and, even more, we need women in coaching positions. We need young girls to see female faces and hear female faces on the sideline, giving them advice, helping them improve, guiding them to success. We need boys to see women equally represented in sports, in positions of leadership and in positions of authority. Most importantly, we need young girls and athletes to see strong, empowered, successful female role models at every level of the sports industry. ​
 

Photo courtesy of MWFA.com

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